Sunday, July 29, 2018

How do we look?

How do we look to those outside of Lutheranism?  I am thinking here primarily of Sunday morning.  Do we look like a gussied up version of typical American Protestantism or do we look like the casual, laid back evangelical style of non-denominational America or do we look pretty Catholic on Sunday morning?  The answer, I am afraid, is, It depends.

It just depends.  Some Lutherans look like a typical version of upper class Protestantism.  They have a hymnal and follow it -- not so much because they want to but because that is just who they are. They have an altar but the attention given to it is more functional -- a table for the meal.  They have a pulpit and it often stands above the altar both in height and in the eyes of the people -- they are Word people.  They have an educated clergy who is apt to preach and teach.  They wear vestments but more as a nod to tradition and sometimes are a little embarrassed by them (except for the academic gown, of course, since he is a seminary graduate!).

It just depends.  Some Lutherans are not so laid back but are plenty casual.  They could not be bothered by hymnals.  They are excited and may throw hands in the air or clap them to the beat of a catchy tune but they wear tees and jeans or polos and khakis all around.  They don't have much furniture but are up on the technology and have a great sound system and good projectors and screens as well.  In their liturgy they sing and talk and that about covers it.  Their preachers tend to preach relevant sermons on the issues people are encountering in their own lives and in their search for answers and help.

It just depends.  Some Lutherans have altars, statues, crucifixes, and all the accoutrements.  They have hymnals and other things printed up that add to the rubrics and even to the liturgy of the book. They are reverent in style even when children and infants make it hard to be rigidly formal.  They look and act just like what you would find in an Anglo-Catholic Episcopal parish or in the Roman Catholic Church down the street.  They have definitely beefed up the sermon but not at the expense of the ceremonies or structure of the liturgy.  They bow and kneel and genuflect and make the sign of the cross seemingly all the time. 

And the weird thing about it all is that they all claim to be Lutheran!  Though there are clearly some whispers behind each other's back, the wars are not all that bloody and they are fought mostly on blogs and the internet rather than in formal word to word conflict.  Their people are passionate advocates of their particular style of worship but when they come together, the nod seems to predominate to hymnals and the more ritualistic side.  So what is up with those Lutherans?

Especially when this is what they said nearly 500 years ago:  “Moreover, no noticeable changes have been made in the public celebration of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung alongside the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.” (AC XXIV.3)


Carl Vehse said...

A number of practices mention here have been described with terms that imply a specific motivation, or an arbitrary motivation has been associated with them.

Those descriptions should not be used unless such assigned motivations have been publicly asserted by all who do such practices, or the motivations of such practioners are determined by a certified mindreader.

Anonymous said...

Since the confessions clearly state that ceremonies need not be uniform everywhere, I'm interested in the psychology behind preferring a type of worship style. I wonder how many of our liturgically sensitive evangelical catholic Lutherans attended Roman Catholic high schools and were impressed at an early age by the wealth of their classmates and finery of their ceremonies. Or if they visited an Episcopal church and were impressed by the wealth, power, and attractiveness of their members, church buildings, and ceremonies. In contrast, the Lutheran church most of us grew up in was modest, plain, and nobody was rich or all that attractive. Why can't we be more like them, we thought. Less poor and marginal, less outside the American mainstream (always having to awkwardly explain what a Lutheran is, like you're from another planet). Less German. Why can't we sing less dirge-like German hymns and sing more stately Watts/Vaughn Williams or happy Wesleyan or gospel or contemporary hymns? When do I get to be accepted into the mainstream just like everybody else?

Anonymous said...

"They are Word people."

"In one of his Advent sermons Luther said, “Therefore the church is a mouth house, not a pen house.” The Christian Church is a place for preaching the Word, teaching the Word, baptizing with the Word, announcing forgiveness by the Word, distributing forgiveness from pastor’s lips to parishioner’s ears. Here we set God’s table and by invitation of Christ, we eat God’s meal. Here we proclaim to young and old alike: “Repent.” “Take and eat.” “For you.” “I forgive you, for Jesus’ sake.”'s-mouth-house

"What was unusual, however, was his [Luther's] singular focus on the Word as the source and goal of the Christian life. While the medieval church tended to focus its faith and piety on devotional and liturgical ritual — both priestly and lay — Luther believed that the Church was born and sustained solely by the Word — preached, heard, read, sung and believed. As we remember Luther and the Reformation 500 years later, we do well to remember clearly that the religious core of his work was his deep love and reverence for the Word of God."

Cliff said...

The "WORD" is mentioned as being a staple of Lutheranism, but how do Lutherans treat the Word? Is it something to quickly read at 60 miles an hour and 10 seconds later forget every word they just read.? Meditation seems to be lost on Lutherans. Even in our rich theological hymns, do we actually let the words penetrate our inner being?

Reading and singing do not a Christian make. Forms or worship styles do not a Christian make. A repentant and changed heart should be the visible evidence. We Lutherans have a lot to learn. (In all our churches)

Lutheran Lurker said...

The anonymous who wrote: Since the confessions clearly state that ceremonies need not be uniform everywhere... is presuming that no ceremonial is the same as not uniform ceremonial and that is just plain goofy.

And the goofiness continues as he presumes the motives behind those who suggest a fuller ceremonial is more the norm than less -- really? Roman Catholic High School? Episcopal poison? Could it be that they simply read the Confessions or were familiar with the 16th century church orders? Really!!!

Anonymous said...

No reading of Luther or the confessions comes away with the idea that Lutherans require any set form of worship ceremonies. There is even an entire article in the FC that deals with this issue. This blog is dedicated to overthrowing that Christian liberty. The motivation is simple: dislike of Lutheran contemporary worship. So let's cherry pick a few random quotes from the AC that remark that the Lutherans aren't heretics and we haven't changed the mass all that much. Let's denigrate American Lutherans for worshiping with the Christian freedom they enjoy as American Lutherans.

In the Sermon at the Dedication of the Castle Church in Torgau (1544) Luther declares that nothing else should happen in worship “except that our dear Lord himself may speak to us through his holy Word and we respond to him through prayer and praise.” LW 51:333

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

"No reading of Luther or the confessions comes away with the idea that Lutherans require any set form of worship ceremonies. There is even an entire article in the FC that deals with this issue."

In fact, just the opposite is true. There is no historical context, or example, of how the Lutheran service was conducted one can use to justify the "do it yourself" and "anything goes" liturgical muddle in The LCMS today.

Only a woefully ignorant reading of the Lutheran Confessions would ever lead one to assume that the Confessions would know anything of a single congregation in a given location throwing out the historical order of liturgy, while three miles away the church body's adopted and approved rites and ceremonies is being used.

Cherry picking quotes from Martin Luther can be used to excuse any kind of sloppy thinking and practice.

Luther himself advocated liturgical uniformity to the greatest possible extent for the sake of consistent teaching and preaching of the Gospel and public witness to the same.

Anonymous said...

"Above all things, I most affectionately and for God's sake beseech all, who see or desire to observe this our Order of Divine Service, on no account to make of it a compulsory law, or to ensnare or make captive thereby any man's conscience; but to use it agreeably to Christian liberty at their good pleasure as, where, when and so long as circumstances favour and demand it. Moreover, we would not have our meaning taken to be that we desire to rule, or by law to compel, any one.

I do not wish hereby to demand that those who already have a good Order or, by God's grace, can make a better, should let it go, and yield to us. Nor is it my meaning that the whole of Germany should have to adopt forthwith our Wittenberg Order.

Whether in other lordships they should do the same or something different, should be left free and without penalty. In fine, we institute this Order not for the sake of those who are Christians already. For they have need of none of these things (for which things' sake man does not live: but they live for the sake of us who are not yet Christians, that they may make us Christians); they have their Divine Service in their spirits.

Now since in all Divine Service the chief and foremost part is to preach and teach the Word of God, let us begin with the preaching and teaching.

The Mass vestments, altars, and lights may be retained till such time as they shall all change of themselves, or it shall please us to change them.

Luther, Preface to the German Mass, 1526

BTW, it's called summarizing, not cherry picking. You should try reading Luther occasionally!

Anonymous said...

BTW, it's called "cherry picking" ... not "summarizing" .... you should try reading Luther more thoroughly.

Cf. Luther’s 1544 observation (AE 38:317): “... where it can be done without sinning and endangering the conscience or without giving offense, it is indeed fine for the churches to agree in external matters, which are in any case voluntary, even as they agree with one another in the Spirit, in the faith, in the word, and in the sacrament; for such agreement makes a fine impression and pleases everyone. Agreement is also good because such dissimilarity, since it is unnecessary, looks very much like a schism or disunion and discord. For from the time the church first began, ceremonies have caused much offense in the churches; so, for example, the dispute about the Easter festival caused such a commotion that few churches were in agreement with one another about the matter.”

Pastor Peters said...

Quote: This blog is dedicated to overthrowing that Christian liberty.

As the writer of this blog, I tell you baloney. That is a complete falsehood and an insult. You have not read what I have written. Far from attempting to legislate rules, my appeal has always been to use our best tradition, to the fullest. Liberty to disregard our Confessional and liturgical tradition of worship is not liberty at all but disdain for our own history and for the Divine Service with its twin poles of Word and Sacrament, framed in the historic shape and cleansed from the accretions of medieval sacrificial distortions. Plus, you obviously do not know what is going on among Lutherans on Sunday morning. The numbers of Lutherans who assemble for non-liturgical worship is greater than the numbers of those who do. There may be more congregations using the hymnal but there are fewer people in those congregations than in those moving toward contemporary Christian music and its evangelical form of worship. Far from trying to force people into a mold, this blog is, in part, dedicated to preserving the faithful tradition our Lutheran fathers bequeathed to us and the liturgical identity that is the complement to our Confessional integrity.

Padre Dave Poedel said...

Someone above commented that perhaps one attended a Roman Catholic high school to learn about liturgy, which provoked a question for me: where do Lutherans, especially clergy, learn about liturgy?

I did grow up Roman Catholic and have always loved the Liturgy of the Mass, but paradoxically I found more affinity for the Novus Ordo of Vatican II. Watching the recently produced videos of the use of Setting 3 I see a Liturgy that is unfamiliar to me as an Evangelical Catholic. It looks like a pre-Vatican II Roman Mass in English. The reverence’s, bowing, cross making seem often without “purpose” and the whole affair looks very detached from the congregation.

I know this will get me kicked out of the club I was never really part of in the first place, but I am Emertius now, so it really doesn’t matter. Back to my original point: Was it Piepkorn? Who has set the liturgical standards for today’s “insider’s guide for the Mass”? I would really like to know.....

Anonymous said...

So you're insulted after insulting the majority of the LCMS yourself. Ok. We look like "typical Protestants" who "use a hymnal not because we want to but because it's who we are" (what does this even mean?), and have an altar "that's functional" (is it supposed to be supernatural?), and place the "pulpit above the altar" because we are "Word people" (I dunno, because Luther placed the Word of God above everything else?). We only like the black robes? Has anyone even worn one for the last 40 years? Next is the contemporary crowd, who surely preach only Joel Osteen self-help type sermons. What a shallow bunch they are.

I second Padre Poedel's estimation of the strangeness of the liturgical video. This is no liturgical performance that anyone knows, an almost Reinhard Krause-like moment for the evangelical catholics. The liturgical renewal movement of the mid-20th century in Europe and America as a whole, of which Piepkorn was an influential part, set the standard for liturgical correctness.

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that LCMS pastors should fear retribution for speaking out. Below is an article by one courageous LCMS pastor:

Rev Fisk's reflections on the First Things article:

Pastor Peters said...

So you're insulted after insulting the majority of the LCMS yourself. Ok. We look like "typical Protestants" who "use a hymnal not because we want to but because it's who we are" (what does this even mean?),

Okay it means that we miss the Word in the Liturgy (99% direct quote or paraphrase of Scripture) largely because we have not been taught and catechized to see it, rejoice in it, and value the liturgy because it IS the Word of God. So we use it without realizing why or what it is.

and have an altar "that's functional" (is it supposed to be supernatural?), and place the "pulpit above the altar" because we are "Word people" (I dunno, because Luther placed the Word of God above everything else?).

Luther did NOT place the Word over the Sacrament -- because the Sacrament IS the VISIBLE WORD. They are not different things but one Word in water, bread, wine, voice, preaching, lection, book. We miss this because we have not been well catechized and so we view the Sacrament as an optional add on, less important than preaching, and so betray our very Lutheran identity. It is not the fault of the people that they have been taught so poorly but it is still poor teaching and catechesis.

We only like the black robes? Has anyone even worn one for the last 40 years? Next is the contemporary crowd, who surely preach only Joel Osteen self-help type sermons. What a shallow bunch they are.

Yes, there are still black robes being used (especially in WELS). It is not the vestments but the disconnect with our own rich past, choosing to base who we are on recent vintage, say 1930s-1950s, instead of seeing what our Lutheran fathers practiced as well as preached. It is the condemnation of a minimalism that insists less is more when everyone knows it is not what we practice at our favorite restaurant or for our favorite sports team or how we voice our political opinions. We somehow learned that restraint in worship is more pious than fullness but it is as much a foolish lie as it is more pious to have more ceremonies than less. The point is not either or but both on. We are a ceremonial people (watch sports or patriotic events) yet when it comes to church we have been taught that this is offensive (to the Lord as well as to us and our presumed humility). Does God like our hymn singing better if it is restrained instead of jubilant? Is a whispered Amen more glorious to God than one spoken as if we meant it (like we would cheer on some earthly cause or sport)? Think about what you are saying.

Pastor Peters said...

I second Padre Poedel's estimation of the strangeness of the liturgical video. Padre Poedel did not grow up with TLH. I did. On the plains of Nebraska my pastor was solemn and reverent even though his leadership of that Divine Service did not have all the ceremonies of Pr. Petersen's congregation. The point is use all of them or few of them but the ceremonies are an extension of the faith that believes what is happening is real, deserving of our reverence and awe. If you watched the video, Pr. Petersen did not tell you to do what he did but explained why they did what they do there. You can dismiss the ceremonies but you dare not dismiss the call to reverence and awe before the presence of God who comes to us in His house, through His Word, and at His font and table. Furthermore, Padre Poedel was affirming his own preference for the Novus Order (post Vatican II Mass) in which, as the debate rages on in Rome, reverence was at the bottom of the list of things they were looking for in this reform of the liturgy. His was a statement not of the foreignness of Pr. Petersen's practices to Lutheranism but to his own history and experience growing up Roman in the Novus Order and using primarily the Lutheran versions of this in LBW. I respect his opinion in this way but if you were to compare the 16th Century Lutheran Church Orders and their history until they decline of Lutheran worship (post Bach era and in the wake of pietism and rationalism), you would find that what Pr. Petersen does is not less Lutheran at all.

Finally you stated that I am insulting the majority of LCMSers today. So do you think that our practices should be based on polling and majority usage? Do you believe that might makes right? Do you believe that we are now at the apex of our liturgical tradition? I believe semper reformanda applies also to liturgy. There is not one liturgical movement or one period of renewal but it is a constant work to keep the heritage bequeathed to us, add to it the best of today, and pass it on faithfully to those to come.

Anonymous said...

Good points, pastor, and I grant you the final say.

Two words stand out when reading Luther's major works: "pomp" and "reverence."
High ceremonialists believe the bronzie/CoWo crowd has insufficient reverence.
The traditional/CoWo crowd believes the ceremonialists have too much pomp.

Note that superstitious pomp is not some illusory or knee-jerk Protestantism, since Chemnitz and Bugehagen absolutely forbade elevation in Lutheran worship.

It is a Lutheran paradox that finds expression in each congregation deciding on how high or low it wishes to be, "as long as it pleases us."

What does the Luther quote "True Christians have no need of Church Orders, because they have their Divine Service in spirit" mean to you?

Sounds almost Quakerish.

Lutheran minimalism is real, and is rooted in Luther. The LCMS worshiped in a reverent, minimal way for 100 years. I believe one of your commenters awhile back related an outsider's account of LCMS worship in East Tennessee in the late 1800s that was shocked at the black robes and sign of the cross by the pastor at the beginning and end of the service. This was not Pietism (since the LCMS was never a pietist body) nor was it American Protestantism. More elaborate vestments came in the 1920s, with the Americanization of the Synod, and by the 1950s you had Frye and Piepkorn as the standard bearers of a richer ceremony. The Novus Ordum is an attractive rite, but it's not really Lutheran. Trying to recreate a pre-Vatican 2 service of continuous detached from the word bowing and crossing oneself seems ahistorical and a dead end as well. Add to this the trend of alarmingly steep decline in denominational affiliation and church attendance across the board and you have a recipe for LCMS identity crisis.

And we in the pews are left to wonder with Walther, "...what would happen if we really would make the saving of souls the ultimate purpose, the end and aim of our joint work?"

Anonymous said...

You can't lump "bronzie/CoWo" together as if it's some sort of common ideology. This is the same thing that gets you "traditional and contemporary" services. There is liturgical worship, and non-liturgical "worship". "Bronzie" is still liturgical and follows the common service of the Western catholic church. The amount of ceremony vary in time and place, but the content is the same.

What does the elevation confess? What did it confess at the time of Chemnitz? That is the question. Is it superstitious pomp to adore the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior? Are there a lot of LCMSers today who believe in the sacrifice of the mass? Or a lot who go up to get their little cup and wafer after the sermon before their coffee and donuts?

Lutheran minimalism? Why would we want to be minimally Lutheran (Christian)? 100 years is a blip on the timescale of the church, old and new testaments. It's pretty easy to find how early Lutheran churches worshipped. Worshipping more like our orthodox fathers in the faith is not some kind of discontinuity, just as going back to infant baptism was not wrong because it fell out at some point in church history or King Josiah returning to the Word when he realized his recent fathers had strayed from true Worship.

In the pew, I'm left to wonder if Walther is taken out of context here. None of the elect will be snatched from His hand, and the church will continue to gather around His Word and Sacrament through the liturgy at Divine Service.

Lutheran Lurker said...

Chemnitz and Bugehagen absolutely forbade elevation in Lutheran worship.

Reading and watching as a lurker but I believe you are wrong here. I think it is well proven that the elevation continued among Lutherans for centuries after Luther and ended only when Reformed secular rulers forbade it.

Anonymous said...

A Lutheran Pastor and proponent of revitalization and all that attaches to that term once told a small gathered group of us that the so-called “worship wars” being waged in the LCMS is sin. In other words, Confessional Lutherans should rather suffer in silence if they don’t approve of what he and others are doing to bring worship up to speed with the new forms making inroads into the Synod. It is interesting how many times proponents of contemporary worship read Romans 14 and never make the connection to what they are doing in the local church, causing their siblings in Christ to stumble. Worse, they don’t seem to care. “Get on the bus or be run over by the bus” seems to be the attitude of those pulling hard for their own way of cutting through the clutter of liturgy and other off-putting trappings of the ancient church. They assume a direct correlation between the decline in church popularity and the old ways of worship not hesitating to pronounce fault with the “institutional” church. “We must be doing something wrong or people wouldn’t be leaving the church in the droves” they say.

Isn’t that how it works? Confessional Lutherans balk at radical change, stumble and yet are blamed for the discord in the Synod. Also, I detect a pattern here and elsewhere. Proponents of church revitalization, i.e. contemporary worship that ostensibly attracts seekers and outsiders tend to troll conservative, confessional blogs so they can put on display their extensive learning, quoting the Fathers and especially Luther and Walther to make their point: game, set, match. They love to appear seminal in their thinking and perspective. They are on to something no one else has seen until they came along and discovered what Luther really meant when he said among other things:

“Hence ceremonies in the Christian life are not to be viewed in any other way than builders and workmen view those temporary structures [shoring] that are set in place for building or working [on the real job]. Such provisions are not furnished so that they may actually be anything or endure, but because without them nothing could be built or done. For when the structure is completed, the temporary provisions are laid aside. Here you see that the things themselves are not to be despised, but are especially to be sought, though we do despise a [falsely high] esteem for them.”

The implication is that Pastor Peters views rites and ceremonies as salvific ex opere operato and that he is seeking justification through works. Nothing could be further from the truth notwithstanding the CoWo agenda.

As for me, a pew sitter, and a hearer of the Word of grace by vocation, in my Christian liberty I vote with my feet. I have recently left an LCMS church because my conscience could not reconcile the practice of contemporary worship, open communion, women elders, and being barraged at every turn by non-Lutheran writers and teachers, as if Lutheran scholars could not rise to their level of profundity. If the LCMS continues to trend heterodox I am prepared to worship in spirit and truth in the catacombs if that becomes necessary.

Anonymous said...

A frustrating aspect of these conversation is that those who purport to criticize "high church practices" or make pronouncements about what "adiaphora" and "freedom in liturgics" is all about reveal that have minimal to absolutely no real knowledge of how these issues were actually all worked out during the formative time of the 16th century. It does not take much work at all to understand how the concept of adiaphora, freedom to make changes and what-not was worked out across confessional territories in Germany, but it does take a willingness to stop repeating the factual errors about these matters, spend a bid of time with easily available resources, and simply inform yourself about these issues.

For example, read this book on Eucharistic practice at the time of the formation of the Formula of Concord, etc.

And there is much more available online about how one can understand assertions about freedom and uniformity in liturgical matters, and here is one of the very finest resources providing primary documentation: