Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The key. . .

It might surprise the folks who delight in separating style from substance but I think a good case can be made when the liturgy is lost or degraded, doctrinal fidelity is either in danger or itself lost.  It may come as a surprise to many Lutherans, who love to talk about things indifferent (adiaphora), but one of the keys to the Reformation was liturgical.  It was in the mass and its sacrificial language that Luther saw clearly the connection between what was prayed and what was believed.  In his conservative reform of the mass, there was no wholesale reinvention of the liturgy but a liturgy carefully excised of those offending parts -- so careful, in fact, that the folks in the nave saw little distinct change in the mass except for the tenor and tone of the sermon.

If a case can be made that the liturgy is key to understanding error in the church -- especially the loss of the liturgy and the use of worship forms that either conflict with or distract form the confession of the faith -- then it will be the restoration of the liturgy which will be key to the rebirth of the faith as a whole.  Let me say that again.  Far from being something indifferent, it was in liturgical loss that the decline of the faith began, then and now, and it will be in the recovery of the liturgy that the renewal of the faith will begin (as it did then, so now). 

I have made the case before that liturgical change must be incremental and deliberate.  Certainly, the changes that were the fruit of the liturgical movement now 50 years ago or more may not have been intended to engender a breach but they did.  Even when the changes were less radical than Rome, say in the liturgical changes that affected Lutherans, a distinct change was soon followed by radical change.  Among some Lutherans, the words of the liturgy (including the creed) became tradition unconnected to what is believed and among others the liturgy itself was seen as an impediment to outreach to the dechurched or unchurched who had no preference for it.  In both cases, the distance from the liturgy and the faith believed, taught, and confessed has been a disaster for every church body. 

Just as liturgical change accompanied, even if it did not cause, the rupture between the two lexi of credendi and orandi, the recovery of the liturgy will be the key to the restoration of the integral connection and its life lived out among the faithful on Sunday morning.  It is not simply a matter or recovering doctrinal integrity but of recovering how it is that this doctrine is confessed and lived out within the life of the church for the faithful -- the liturgy.  The liturgy is not and can never be itself a thing indifferent.  The elaborate or simple ceremonial that accompanies it can rightly be called adiaphora -- not something indifferent but simply that which cannot bind the conscience -- but not the liturgy itself.  We certainly do confess the faith but we also pray it on Sunday morning -- as a people who believe that God's Word and Sacraments deliver to us more than symbolism but efficaciously deliver what they sign and say to the people.

The liturgy is not a matter of personal taste but of the integrity of doctrine and life.  Without such a deep and profound connection, the faith becomes cerebral and worship merely a matter of the heart.  This is disaster.  So, if I may, let me suggest that any renewal of the faith is inherently a renewal of worship, of the liturgy.  If we got into our mess, at least in part, by introducing forms or an absence of forms in order to appeal to preference, then we will get out of this mess by restoring the form, the liturgy, and learning again to pray its words as well as believe and confess them.  If the faith is the coffee, the liturgy is the cup from which we drink it.  When the cup leaks, the faith will be lost.


Anonymous said...

So which liturgy and what ceremonies will save us? The common service? Luther's rite? Eastern divine liturgy? Roman mass sans sacrifice? Please tell us!

Carl Vehse said...

For a Lutheran understanding of liturgy, Lutherans look to the Lutheran Confessions, particularly to Ap.XXIV.78-83, and specifically:

"But let us speak of the word liturgy. 80] This word does not properly signify a sacrifice, but rather the public ministry, and agrees aptly with our belief, namely, that one minister who consecrates tenders the body and blood of the Lord to the rest of the people, just as one minister who preaches tenders the Gospel to the people, as Paul says, 1 Cor. 4:1: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, i.e., of the Gospel and the Sacraments. And 2 Cor. 5:20: We are ambassadors for Christ, as 81] though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God. Thus the term leitourgia agrees aptly with the ministry... And on account of the diphthong, grammarians do not derive it from lite, which signifies prayers, but from public goods, which they call leita, so that leitourgeo means, I attend to, I administer public goods."

"It was in the mass and its sacrificial language that Luther saw clearly the connection between what was prayed and what was believed."

The term "mass," although used in the AC as a word for the Lord's Supper was later rejected by Martin Luther, who castigated the term "mass" in Part II, Article II (Later the SA refers to the Lord's Supper as the "Sacrament of the Altar"). This was thoroughly discussed in a paper, "Luther and the Mass" by Rev. Daniel Preus:

"Luther was convinced that the use of the terms 'mass' and 'sacrament' interchangeably has resulted in great confusion, and that the only way to provide a clear understanding of the nature of the Lord’s Supper is to stop calling it the mass. "Indeed, I wish and would very much like to see and hear that the two words 'mass' and 'sacrament' would be understood as being as different as darkness and light, yes, as different as devil and God." [AE 38:226] Again Luther prayed, "May God grant to all devout Christians such hearts that when they hear the word 'mass,' they might be frightened and make the sign of the cross as though it were the devil's abomination; on the other hand, when they hear the word "sacrament" or "Lord's Supper" they might dance for pure joy…." [AE 38:227]

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:02,
Objectively speaking in an honest review of worship forms, with the Historical Liturgy there is no other worship form known to man that is so filled with the very words of Scripture, places Jesus at the center, so filled with the songs of heaven. Every moment and turn points to Jesus and with that, the doctrine of justification by which we are saved by grace alone (obviously not in a liturgy). Children and people who can't read can participate, elderly with declining faculties, the blind, the mentally challenged, everyone! especially the weakest among us can use the timeless Liturgy, unlike other worship forms. Likewise over 90% of Christian contemporary music could be sung by Mormons, Unitarians, Muslims. It confesses little, the song focused on the person doing the 'verbs' and proliferation of the 'I, me, my.' Praise according to Scripture is foremost not that. The Historical Liturgy and Creeds are the highest of praise known to man according to Scriptural definition of praise; following a pattern of worship God set forth in the Old Testament. Yes, CoWo people should call their "Praise Bands" the "Lesser Praise Bands."

Your question suggest you have a certain view. What does it matter? It would be like suggesting, what food I give my children doesn't matter, as long as they eat. They can have candy for supper or meat/vegetables and its still food, who is to judge my choices and tastes as long as they eat.

Anonymous said...

Carl, do you make the sign of the cross every time you hear the word "mass"?

Carl Vehse said...

Anony @10:16 AM,

Just like I dance for pure joy when I hear the word "sacrament" or "Lord's Supper."

How about you?

Anonymous said...

Nope. I use "Mass" fairly frequently.
Hey Carl, Maaaass.

Carl Vehse said...

Anony @11:15 AM, instead of "Mass," try using "The Lord's Supper." As Martin Luther noted, they can be understood to be "as different as darkness and light, yes, as different as devil and God."

Lutheran Lurker said...

Just as mass was a term that confused some in Luther's day, the Lord's Supper is just as confusing today because that is the term of choice for those who believe God gives nothing and you receive nothing in a symbolic meal that is not about what is eaten and drunk but a nice thought that warms the heart.

Anonymous said...

As long as we restore that practice of calling our pastors, "father." As Luther was called.

Carl Vehse said...

"... the Lord's Supper is just as confusing today..."

Consider this an opportunity for those so confused to attend a Lutheran catechism class on the Sacrament of the Altar.

Anony @ 5:00 PM, the practice of giving our Lutheran pastors the title of "father" (or even "Rabbi") is still contrary to our Lord Jesus Christ's proscription. But, hey, if your religious beliefs consider human tradition or feelings more applicable than Scripture, you probably won't see any problem.

Anonymous said...

Surely this is a pointless exercise, but I hope someone else who is against the title of Father will read it.

Our Lord says, "Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven."

St. Paul says, "I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel."

Was St. Paul, speaking through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, blasphemously calling himself father?

Or, was our Lord was using a rhetorical device, and that he was also using it when he said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."?

The Blessed Reformer says in the Large Catechism, "Besides these there are still spiritual fathers..... Now, since they are fathers, they are entitled to their honor, even above all others."

"Since they are fathers". Does this contradict our Lord saying we have one Father?

Moreover, one could not call his own father Father or Dad (means the same), teachers or instructors by their titles, nor should we even say Mister (meaning Master), as we have only one Master.

This is really not difficult.

Anonymous said...

One of the realities that our liturgical social engineers fail to grasp is that the LCMS has a living heritage and traditions that make "restoration" of an imagined laundry list of liturgical fantasies ridiculous. You do not have carte blanche to make up your own version of LCMS Lutheranism. LCMS pastors are called "pastor." Sorry for the intrusion of reality. This is the ultimate tragedy of this blog. It revels in liturgical neverland.

Anonymous said...

Liturgical neverland. It does describe he liturgical landscape of the LCMS.

As to the "living heritage and traditions", it's called the Book of Concord. I've never seen the author of this blog advocate anything inconsonant with our Confessions. If our synod has traditioned itself away from historic Lutheran practice by following the lead of Papists, Zwinglians, etc., then we are cut off from our true tradition (which connects us to the Apostolic church).

I'm sure glad our Fathers (yes, they are spiritual fathers, see the Large Catechism) who brought back weekly celebration of the Holy Sacrament and reinstated the priceless gift of Confession and Absolution after they had fallen into disuse among us, did not worry about being accused of breaking our "living heritage and traditions" or "reveling in liturgical neverland".

Joseph Bragg said...

What a tangled web is woven when separation from the Church is chosen.

Anonymous said...

There is always the danger that the church will worship the
liturgy instead of the Lord. The 1941 Lutheran Hymnal of the
LCMS is a case in point. Page 5 and Page 15 were the way that
real Lutherans did their liturgy for the worship service. It
became so mechanical that people lost their focus on the Lord

Anonymous said...

Is this a joke? The liturgy is almost entirely from the Sacred Word of God. Is there a danger of worshipping the Bible by reading or praying from it?

Much greater the danger of Enthusiasm, by drumming up emotion, so that we "feel" what we think we should feel.

Anonymous said...

Hey Carl,

Carl Vehse said...

Anony @ 10:03 AM: "Moreover, one could not call his own father Father or Dad"

This silly eisegetic spin on Mt. 23:9 is refuted by the context of vs. 8-10 in Mt. 23, in which Jesus is commanding his disciples and his followers not to use three specific titles of address for themselves or their religious leaders. Jesus is not forbidding Christian children calling their dad, "Father."

Anony @ 10:03 AM: "...nor should we even say Mister (meaning Master), as we have only one Master"

In the similar proscription by Jesus, Mt. 23:10 uses the Greek word, kathegetes (it’s used nowhere else in the NT except here in vs. 8 and 10), whereas NT writers used some form of the Greek word, didaskalos, to refer to a learned teacher or instructor. Jesus even addressed the Pharisee Nicodemus with that title, “didaskalos,” in John 3:10. The English word "mister" is a variant of "master" which comes from the Latin word, "magister."

Paul does use “father” in 1 Cor. 4:15, but not as a title, and in v. 16 he exhorts them, “I exhort you therefore become imitators of me” (parakalō oun hymas mimētai mou ginesthe). Paul does not state, “I exhort you therefore to address me with the title of “Father.” In v. 17, Paul informs the Corinthians that he is sending Timothy to them to preach the Gospel. Yet Paul does not inform the Corinthians they are to address Timothy, or any subsequent pastors, as “Father."

And Luther, in the LC section on the 4th commandment, does not command that apostles or pastors, even those who organize a mission into a Lutheran congregation, be addressed with the title of “Father.” Instead, Luther notes that, like the fathers in blood, or fathers of our country, “they are entitled to their honor”. That honor is described in various passages in the NT, but nowhere, contrary to our Lord’s proscription, does that honor include the formal addressing of pastors with the title of “Rabbi, “Father,” or “Kathegetes” (perhaps best understood in English as “my Master,” as spoken by Darth Vader to Emperor Palpatine).

To claim otherwise is as ridiculous as claiming on the basis of 1 Thess. 2:7, that St. Paul, speaking in the Spirit, directed the Thessalonians to address him with the honorific title of “Mother” or “Nurse” (trophos).