Saturday, August 18, 2018

Rubric Nazis. . .

Every now and then I read something on a traditionalist Roman Catholic website and inevitably there will be a post somewhere complaining about a Latin Mass or even Novus Ordo Mass in which someone has failed to observe this rubric or that.  Even in the cases when the priests doing the liturgy are notable proponents of the Extraordinary Form, their momentary lapses do not pass unnoticed by the Rubric Nazis who enforce the red letter of the law.  But enough about them.

There are those who presume that the worship wars among Lutherans are akin to the skirmishes between the Rubric Nazis who expect perfection and those who exercise some discretion with respect to the rules.  Of course, if you advocate for the Divine Service, if you wear Eucharistic vestments, if you care about ceremonies, well, then you must be a card carrying member of the rubric police.  At least that is how many of us are characterized.  In reality it is probably the opposite.  Those who advocate for a wide variety on Sunday morning and who basically think just about anything goes (except, of course, following the red letters) are more likely policing what happens on Sunday morning -- if only to preserve the freedom to ignore the rubrics!

In general, nearly all the folks I know who value the liturgy, ceremony, vestments, chanting, etc., are more interested in preserving reverence and dignity among Lutherans than enforcing an ideal of what must be done.  In general, the rubrics do not advocate for a high church service at all.  They are pretty middle of the road and mostly routine, common sense guidelines toward the path of reverence, dignity, and integrity.  But some among us seem to take a rather adolescent joy out of flaunting the rules for the sake of being bad, being a rebel, and being independent of the book.  I am not sure whether there is anything more to this than the secret sinful joy of breaking a commandment and then acting like its nothing all that bad because everyone does it in one form or another.  I suspect that there are those who have some sort of theological principle involved in their disdain for the red letters but I fear it is less a theological problem than a personality one.

Let me say it clearly.  The Missouri Synod in particular and Lutheranism in general is NOT in danger of being captive to the red letter rules in every hymnal.  We as Lutherans have too many convenient justifications to give authority to our independence -- especially adiaphora!  We are not likely soon to be forced into compliance by anyone or any kind of authority.  I am not saying this because it is a good thing but because that is our nature.   Furthermore, I do not believe that I or anyone I know is actually trying to make people do the liturgy exactly the same.  What we are interested in is following the form, what some describe as the ordo and what others refer to as page numbers in our official worship books.  What we are interested in is taking the rubrics seriously for the sake of the faith -- even if you choose to depart from them.  What we are most interested in is to see is furthering the cause of reverence, mystery, awe, and the acknowledgement that God's presence is a place of holiness to be approached with humility and respect.

I do not know of anyone who wants rubric police or to actually be a member of such a force.  So lets just leave that one off the table.  This is not about that.  It is about something far more important.  It is about reverence and awe and about worship which reflects the same integrity of our Confessions. 


Nick said...

Thank you Pastor. I wonder whether those regularly advocating for services that do not follow the ordo really understand the meaning of each part of our different services and why the services are arranged as they are. I ask this because many of the non-standard services I've been to do not contain the basic elements.

The service creates the environment that we worship within. Regularly using non-standard services changes our worship and has an impact on who we are.

Anonymous said...

Chanting by the pastor in the Divine Service is adiaphoria.
Thankfully, most pastors admit they do not have the talent to
chant and do not become an audible hindrance to the people in
the church pews.

Anonymous said...

Andreas Karlstadt held the first Lutheran communion service in 1521 on Christmas Eve in Wittenberg. He did not elevate the elements, wore secular clothing during the service, and purged all references to sacrifice from the traditional Mass. He shouted rather than whispered the words of institution ("This is my body....", etc.) in German instead of Latin, rejected confession as a prerequisite for communion, and insisted the communicants take both bread and wine in their hands during the Communion.

We all know that Luther returned to preach against the offence that followed. What is less known is that Luther restored all of the abrogated ceremonies for the weak in faith, that is, those scandalized Wittenbergers. Latin was reintroduced. Vestments. Elevation. Communion in one kind. The whispered verba. Not Luther!

So there were Lutheran theological reasons for changing these things. Luther didn't disagree with them, but he did disagree with changes resulting in spiritual chaos for the weak in faith.

But the cat was out of the bag. Everyone now knew what "Lutheran" worship looked like. Lutheran congregations revised their ceremonies to be radically simple to not revising them much at all. We know some Lutherans had no vestments, as a letter (written during the Smalcald War) to Flacius from pastors in Meissen asking whether it was better to abandon their congregations rather than reintroduce vestments shows. We also know that other Lutherans, for example those at Leipzig, changed almost nothing of their ceremonies, as Melanchthon points out in a letter defending the ceremonial changes of the Interim. "Changes? What changes? The churches in Leipzig already worship like this..."

The point is that Lutheran worship was varied from the get go. Luther and Melanchthon both speak to this and both remark that a certain uniformity is indeed a good thing, but not on theological grounds. There is a myth that all Reformation Lutheran worship looked just like what was going on in Brandenburg, whereas just as many Lutherans were worshiping in the style of Karlstadt. In German. Communion in both kinds. No individual confession required. Simple vestments, if at all. No elevation. A freestanding altar. Emphasis on the preached word of God. The words of institution spoken loudly in a language people could understand. This was a Lutheran middle ground between the pomp of Rome and the dreadful austerity of Calvin.

I understand that the liturgical crowd views the enemy as CoWo, not bronzies. And the 1950s aren't coming back. But perhaps we have lost sight of the Lutheran liturgical distinctives and variety in our rush to model our ceremonial practices after the Vatican and an imagined uniform past.

Anonymous said...

Just follow the directions, pastors. It's really simple and for good reasons. No big deal. Keep good order in our churches, as we have enough liturgical chaos and confusion. Stick to the orders and don't improvise.

Anonymous said...

As much as I agree with them on many issues, the pastors among us who emphasize the precisely correct way to hold one's fingers and what-not are not doing us any favors.

It is liturgical foppery at its finest.

Anonymous said...

I'd be happy enough if the congregations of our Synod:

Used the Lutheran Service Book.
Said the black.
Do the red.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous at August 18, 2018 at 11:57 AM

Wow, you have a really totally screwed grasp of historical reality.

Cite your sources for your assertions.

Anonymous said...

On Karlstadt: Bente, Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions
On Luther's return to Wittenberg: Martin Luther and the Reformation: Essays
On Elevation: Any church order composed by Bugenhagen or Chemnitz
On Flacius: Letter cited in Bente
On Melanchthon and the Interim: Sources and Contexts of the Book of Concord. Author: James A. Nestingen ( Editor) Robert Kolb (Editor)
On variety among regional Lutheran congregations: Luther's Preface to the German Mass (1526), O. Olson, Matthias Flacius and the survival of Luther's Reform, W. Richard, “The Liturgical Question,” The Lutheran Quarterly 20 (1890), D.H. Steffens, The Lutheran Witness, July 3, 1902, and this:

Happy reading!

Anonymous said...

For me, the "worship wars" debate in the LCMS is a red herring. I can tolerate a few shallow, corny praise band songs as long as the sermon is still good and is law/gospel. I also treasure the LCMS sermons that I hear in my car and on my iphone during my daily work commute. I experience a bible study almost every weekday in my car.

The real poison is not the promotion of CoWo to replace hymnals and organs in an LCMS congregation, but this:

Garbage Evangelical theology is promoted in LCMS small groups and in Sunday morning bible study classes. It is also prominently featured in church libraries. I came to realize that such study materials were harmful spiritually, as the Evangelical authors we would study in my LCMS congregation were the very same charlatans that Chris Rosebrough would critique on his "Fighting for the Faith" podcasts. For that reason, I have quit my small group and have stopped going to Sunday bible study. Sadly, not enough many LCMS laymen are interested in following confessional LCMS podcasts. If not for the podcasts, I would have left the LCMS years ago.....

"Missional" LCMS pastors know deep down inside they are leading the flock astray, but they don't care as long as the congregation grows numerically. Forget Walther, Pieper, and all those other theologians from seminary. Forget teaching the flock Lutheran doctrine. "Missional" pastors have decided that Rick Warren, Willow Creek, and Fuller approved books are what laymen should study. My (young) former LCMS pastor once told me: "Hymnals are for old people."

How easy is it for the "missional" LCMS pastors in the affluent suburbs to look at dying inner city and remote rural congregations and blame their decline on the liturgy? Such "missional" pastors deliberately overlook the role of demographics and the inability of the LCMS to promote African-American and Hispanic congregations in changed neighborhoods.

Pastor Peters: How can we get the "missional" pastors to wake up and repent before they destroy the LCMS and make it indistinguishable from a heretical non-denominational church?

Carl Vehse said...

In his archived June 19, 2008 Cyberbrethren article "The Dangers of Hyper-Ritualizing Lutheran Worship Or: Why ‘Say the black, do the red’ is the wisest course," Paul McCain noted:

"I think some are getting too concerned about Medieval-era Roman Catholic rubrics calling, for example, for a pastor to hold his fingers in a certain position, in a certain way, 'just so' when performing the liturgy. It is this kind of hyper-ritualization of all things having to do with worship and liturgy that is about the best formula I can imagine for turning people away from the liturgy. The better way is to 'say the black, do the red' as contained in the hymnals and its companion volumes, not trying to 'one up' the church’s accepted worship resources."

The following archived Cyberbrethren articles also discuss more about rituals:

"Is Referring to the Lutheran Divine Service as a 'Mass' a Wise Thing to Do?," June 25, 2008;
"Historic Lutheran Worship v. Medieval Roman Masses," June 20, 2008;
"Reservation of Consecrated Communion Elements as If They Remain the Body and Blood of Christ is Not a Lutheran Practice," June 20, 2008;
"You Are Not Free to Use This Liberty – Martin Luther," June 14, 2007.

Anonymous said...

Who is Paul McCain? Is he a parish pastor?

Anonymous said...

Karltadt!!!? Really? He is a radical, not Lutheran, ended up Reform, rejected by Luther. The 1521 Service was not Lutheran nor did it claim to be!

If clegy and laity simply hold to the worship admonitions they are bound to follow in the BOC, true Lutherans would be pleased; instead you have chaos. Even every congregation is bound to doctrinal approved resources and we all see how that goes....

Anonymous said...

Andreas Karlstadt held the first Lutheran communion service in 1521

Like he was LUTHERAN???? Ridiculous!!!!! The liturgy and the ceremonies were not preserved as a crutch to be ditched later on. Read the Confessions. They are honored, Gospel driven, and teach the faith and are kept but without the rigid lock step observance Pastor Peters wrote against -- yes, liturgy; yes, ceremony; yes reverence -- but no rubric Nazis. Read the words and stop commenting from your obvious ignorance.

Anonymous said...

"Karlstadt received his doctor of theology at Wittenberg in 1510 and was ordained as priest the same year. In 1511, he was named archdeacon of the collegiate church of All Saints in Wittenberg, which was connected to the castle of Prince Frederick the Wise and his family, and professor of theology at the university. A year later, he became dean of the theology faculty. From November 1515 to May 1516, Karlstadt pursued and was granted a doctorate in canon and civil law from the Sapienza University in Rome.

"Over the next two years, he would lecture on Augustine’s On the Spirit and the Letter, also influential for Luther. By April 1517, he had published a set of Augstinian-influenced theses supporting Luther’s early criticisms of scholastic views on grace and merit. In 1518, he drafted a set of theses on justification also drawn from Augustine. Over the course of the next year, Karlstadt began defending Luther in print.

"Karlstadt’s extensive list of 380 theses defending Luther against Eck precipitated the disputation at Leipzig, for which Karlstadt himself was to be opponent. After an arrangement was made to include Luther in the debate, Eck easily dispatched the less intellectually nimble and persuasive Karlstadt, leading to the fateful conflict with Luther.

"In 1521, he went to Denmark to aid Christian II in reforming his churches, but the efforts failed and he returned to a Wittenberg without spiritual leadership due to Luther’s seclusion at the Wartburg Castle. Karlstadt attempted to the fill void, along with Gabrial Zwilling, Philipp Melanchthon, Nicolas von Amsdorf, and Justus Jonas. He urged them to implement Luther’s reforms in Wittenberg, specifically reforms of the mass, religious life and social life. On Christmas Day 1521, Karlstadt celebrated the first evangelical mass against the objections of Frederick the Wise."