Friday, January 24, 2020
A contrarian. . .
The liturgical movement of which I have been a very, very, very small part, is not essentially about smells and bells or about high culture or low culture or about ambiance. It is a pastoral movement. Indeed, the evangelical catholic movement of reform that is known as Lutheranism is not primarily a theological movement but a pastoral one. And the connection between what we confess and how we worship is not an aesthetic one but a pastoral one. Whatever Lutheranism is, it is essentially defined not by Luther or any individual Lutherans but by her confession and her liturgy. In this respect, it is a pastoral identity and not a theoretical one. Lutheranism, and in particular evangelical catholicism, is not a cerebral identity but a piety both of witness and of worship born of and living within the framework of what the Church has always believed and taught. So Lutheranism, or as our confessions put it, evangelical catholicism, is a liturgical movement whose primary theological emphasis is pastoral. Unlike other aspects of the liturgical movement, its origins in Lutheranism were among parish pastors who had the daily and weekly task of speaking God's Word to God's people, catechizing young or new to the faith, visiting the sick, burying the dead, absolving the penitent, teaching the Scriptures, praying, leading the Divine Service, and nourishing God's people in the rich sacramental green pastures He has provided. So, in this respect, most Lutherans involved in the movement are just that, parish pastors who are not only concerned about but actively involved in such things as good biblical preaching, the weekly Eucharist, vital catechesis, and the richest sacramental, liturgical life possible within the framework of what is good, right, beautiful and possible.
If it appears that I am often angry or impatient or dour, it is because I find myself constantly having to defend this proposition against those who see Lutheranism as a reflection of the individualistic character of society, largely cerebral, and without much need to assemble together around the Word and Table of the Lord. I grow weary of those who think constantly in minimums or who would downsize both ceremony and theology in pursuit of the simple faith of Jesus without the messiness of creed, confession, and liturgy. I am tired of those who think that the best Lutheran pastors are those who do what the people want on Sunday morning while maintaining in theory the substance of the faith. I am cranky mostly because there are those who presume that Lutherans are an evolution toward a purer form and away from their earlier years of richer liturgical life. I am frustrated when Lutherans who have no seminary training recall how it was when they grew up and then hold that yardstick up as that which should judge and define who we are for all time. I am soured more by the squandered opportunity of the evangelical catholic identity than by those who fail Lutheranism in other ways. I cannot for the life of me figure out how Lutheranism became a democracy in which we vote on how often Christ will come to us in His Holy Sacrament or whether we will conveniently ignore who we are as the evangelical catholics of our confession in favor of a more comfortable Protestant set of clothing. Other than this, I am a pretty happy go lucky fellow. I love being a pastor and work hard on behalf of the people in my care and the pursuit of an authentic evangelical community of faith whose creed and confession is in sync with our liturgy. I do not want less from Lutheranism but always more -- sometimes much more than we are content to give and be. That is what is behind me, my ministry, and my meager offerings on this blog.