Friday, March 20, 2020

The red thread. . .

Recently there was a Facebook conversation about the pastor's self-communion and it was, well, animated.  I have already spoken on the subject so I will not repeat myself.  What I will say is that so often, even among those who identify as confessionals or conservatives, personal preference is still the go to rule for things that should not have anything to do with personal preference.  Now there are legitimately things for which a pastor's personal preference may apply but in this case, as in so many others, we have red letter words to guide us.  Rubrics tell us what the practice of the Church was and is and we should be hard pressed to justify a deviation from that practice.  No, they are not the Law handed down from Sinai but these may be even more compelling (since Christ kept that Law fully) since these represent our covenant of love and our concordia and walk together as a Synod.

Luther is our example.  In this particular debate, Luther's words and practice are in the form of rubrics for the Formula Missae.  Luther’s rubric from the Formula Missae, 1523. He writes, “Then, while the Agnus Dei is sung, let him [the pastor] communicate, first himself and then the people.” (AE 53.29) Luther’s Deutche Messe, 1526, makes no change in this order at all.” 

Lutheran Service Book is also clear.  The Pastor and those who assist him receive the body and blood of Christ first, the presiding minister communing himself and his assistants.  Then they distribute the body and blood to those who come to receive.  (Altar Book, p. 168)

My complaint is not simply about this particular issue but about the way too many pastors live in ignorant bliss about the rubrics and teach their parishioners that it is really about personal preference and since they are pastors, their personal preference rules.  It makes the people into ping pong balls bounced from practice to practice as pastors come and go until finally the ordinary becomes the exceptional and the exceptional is not to be tolerated.  Come on, pastors.  Do you duty.  Know the rubrics.  Follow them.  If you must deviate from them, you had better have a good reason.

This is not simply about one issue but about so many.  We live by the rules we have set for ourselves so that our people are protected (Luther's chief concern that worked against any radical deviation from the ordinary liturgical practice the people had known).  Rubrics are not Mosaic Law and they did not roll down from the mighty mountain on tablets of stone but these are the rules we have agreed to follow (like the use of only doctrinally pure hymnals and agendas!).  If they need to be changed, let us all change them together but let us not become islands in which pastors rule as chiefs and impose personal preference upon people as if this was the way it should be.

Congregations are shocked by chanting because they don't know the rubrics and their pastors have explained their practice as "what works for them."  Congregations do not know what to do with the reliquae because they have not been taught the rubrics and and pastors each have their own practices.  Congregations do not know the Church Year because they have not been taught the rubrics and their pastors preach on free texts and ignore the lectionary.  I could go on and on.  It does not have to be this way.  The people deserve better from us as pastors.  We are duty bound by our ordination to give it to them.  Personal preference is not the rule.  Follow the red thread.


Anonymous said...

Several months ago, my husband and I were looking for a new Lutheran church. We visited a church which practices the way you describe. I have to admit, we left that service confused. They had many practices that as a life long Lutheran I had never seen. We weren’t sure how we felt about all these things, the chanting, the kneeling, and the incense. We decided to go back. We thought that maybe it wasn’t them, maybe it was us? We felt awkward, but maybe that was ok. We went back a third time. Every service was the same. Except for the beautiful sermon we got every week and the hymns we sang. We never knew that this was what we craved. We never would have believed you if you would have told us that this order is good for us. Yes, it was shocking that first time. It would have been very easy to use our awkwardness and those uncomfortable feelings as excuses never to go back. I am glad that we did not. We met with the pastor who explained it all to us. We are now members there.

I only comment so that maybe other readers will think to try again. The first time is awkward. It is ok to be uncomfortable for a little while. It won’t last forever, and there is great comfort knowing what to expect at worship. We also had to ask ourselves if we really believed what we confessed. Yes, yes we do. And these practices confess that. Thanks for giving me a place to tell my story.

Pat Morgan said...

I entered the Lutheran Church after having read the Book of Concord. As a non-Lutheran Christian I was shocked by how different the local Lutheran Church was from what I had read. Lay folks, both men and women, reading the Holy Scriptures during the Divine Service, contemporary Christian music ditties competing with the hymns, the youth group leading mid-week Lenten and Advent services, Holy Communion set aside so that the VBS kids can sing to the congregation, etc., etc. Either I was missing something or something was terribly wrong. It irked me to no end. Shame on those pastors who fell asleep on their watch.

Thankfully, after ten years, I was able to find a tiny faithful Lutheran church that follows the rubrics! Have to drive 3 times as far but it is worth everything.

Archimandrite Gregory said...

Ou sound like some traditioalist RC folks that I. admire. Keep up the fight.

Archimandrite Gregory said...

Ou sound like some traditioalist RC folks that I. admire. Keep up the fight.

Paulus said...

Thankfully, these comments assure me that I am not alone in my craving for historical, classical worship as prescribed through Lutheran Service Book. This has become my personal anfechtungen. My pastor is indifferent with respect to Divine worship settings as set forth in LSB. Our worship is likely to omit the distinctives such as the Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Sanctus, etc. I must go online to avail myself of real Lutheran worship.