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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

More Questions About Ceremony

by Larry Beane

Rev. George Borghardt posed several outstanding questions as a comment on the post "How A New Pastor Should Add Ceremonies".

I think they deserve a separate post, as they are an opportunity to dispel some false information and clarify things a bit (of course, I'm speaking only for myself here, and I fully expect to have lively discussion and disagreement - which can indeed be a good and healthy thing).

So, thank you, George, and let me have a shot at your questions...

1. Why did it seem necessary to add without teaching genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles? I have no problems theologically with these four, so no 4094-character posts about how wonderful genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles are. We get it. Some of us have never found a ceremony that we didn't like. But, of all the ceremonies, why would we be tempted to add these four right away?

There is a very simple answer that I thought had been made clear: these are among those ceremonies that the pastor does himself at the altar.

Hence, they are the easiest to implement. It is much easier for a pastor to cross himself as part of his personal piety than to convince (or God forbid, try to compel) others to do so. Genuflecting, chanting, and elevation (as well as any other acts of piety, such as crossing himself or kissing the altar) are things he does unilaterally as the celebrant. A chasuble is something he wears as the celebrant.

Wearing a chasuble is far easier to implement than, say, trying to get women in the congregation to dress modestly. That requires much more hard work and tact. But again, a chasuble is part of the pastor's vesture. Everyone expects him to wear a different "uniform" than the men in the pews. It is not necessarily that big a deal - especially when the (first) chasuble is very plain.

This is not to say that restoring these ceremonies will always be easy in every time and place. Not at all. But, on the whole, I believe it is easier to implement something that is strictly within the pastor's domain (such as the celebrant genuflecting during "and was made man" versus trying to get everyone else to do it).

The pastor, as the leader of the celebration, as the shepherd and overseer, is in a position to set the tone of piety in the service. I think it would be a grave mistake, for example, to go hat in hand and ask permission to make the sign of the cross. I would say almost without exception, the Nike's Rule ("Just do it!") applies when it comes to the sign of the cross.

And as far as chanting goes, it's even in the hymnal that way. The people in the pews can see the musical notation (at least in DS3 in LSB).

It also bears repeating that refraining from all of these things is also a form of ceremony. Not chanting, not genuflecting, not elevating, and not wearing a chasuble is equally a form of ceremony - which incidentally is much more in line with the liturgy of the Lord's Supper as celebrated by Baptists, Pentecostals, and non-denominational churches. One could just as easily ask a pastor who refrains from these things why he is implementing Baptist rubrics of ceremony in a Lutheran church. For what do Baptist ceremonies "teach the people"?

2. Are those parishes and pastors who have the big four ceremonies more faithful than pastors and parishes who don't?

I think you already know the answer to this question. It is a red herring. No, no, and no. This has already been emphatically stated, and the question is itself a form of the "have you quit beating your wife" trick of rhetoric. This isn't about comparing whether my dad can beat up your dad, it is about trying to restore a sacramental piety in a church body whose practice often does not match what it confesses on paper. These particular four ceremonies (being the pastor's particular ceremonial) may well be easier to implement than others, as covered in question 1.

3. There seemed to be a bit of a tone of disdain toward the thought of teaching before doing. I know there was a bit of mocking done by Father Larry in one of his posts when it came to adding a chasuble. Did I read this wrongly? Can we be honest with ourselves that we would rather do than teach?

It would help if you were more specific about this "mocking." Since I don't know what you're talking about, I don't know if you read it wrongly. Teaching and doing go hand in hand. The Lord told us to make disciples by baptizing and teaching. And in that case, we typically*do* first (baptize) and *teach* (catechize) later. We have children memorize prayers long before they know what they actually mean. Most children have chanted "ellemenopee" before being taught that these are actually five different pictographical representations of sounds used lingusitically for the purpose of representing vocables graphically. Imagine if we taught that first, and then and only then had the kids actually sing the ABC song.

Sometimes, the teaching and the action are wrapped up together - as our confessions say, ceremonies are "to teach the people." Ceremonies *are* teaching. Our confessions don't argue that we need to separate catechesis from practice, that we need to teach and only then then implement ceremonies. Now sometimes that's the best way - indeed, it may be most often the best way. But I disagree that it is *always* the best way.

4. The plastic individual cups here are described as an "abomination." (like homosexuality?). Understood! I'm not a big fan of individual cups (even the little silver chalices at my parish), but is such inflammatory language helpful? Should we use such inflammatory words in a thread attempting to teach candidates and pastors who might be called to parishes with such things? Would it better to teach first? It is still the blood of Christ when it is in a plastic cup, correct? That's the abomination, right?

Some would argue that we should tone down our teaching on homosexuality for the very same reason (even though the practice is indeed called abominable - at least in the KJV).

I think the shotties are rightly called abonimable. Because of the shot glasses, the blood of Jesus is profaned. The practice in my congregation used to be to pitch the used cups, blood and all, in the garbage. This did not happen when we exclusively used the chalice. Furthermore, the little glasses spill on the communion rail and on the floor. It happens all the time. My wife made a horrifying discovery that there is a gummy residue, covered in crud, under our communion rail from years of our Lord's blood dripping over the communion rail - all thanks to the individualist jiggers. How can one *not* find this an abomination?

Of course it *is* the blood of Christ in the jigger. That's the whole problem! If it were only symbolic wine or a shot of tequila, who cares? You could put it in a dixie cup or a test tube. But this *is* the blood of Christ. That's why it is so horrifying. It is yet another practice we adopted from other church bodies: those who deny the Lord's presence. That's another reason why it is an abomination. Sometimes the apologists for the shooters argue "It's still the blood of Christ!" as though anyone has ever said otherwise. That's not just a red herring, but perhaps even a scarlet mackarel.

The shooters are a poor confession. If you bought your wife a diamond and set it in a plastic ring from a crackerjack box, it would confuse people (remember, ceremonies "teach the people"). Folks would, no doubt, look at it and start to wonder whether it is a real diamond or not. They might even think it is a joke rather than something of great meaning.

Furthermore, Jesus is the one who made the sudden change to the ceremony. He is the one who abolished individual cups and opted instead for the chalice. The Passover was originally celebrated with each person having his own cup of wine. But on Maundy Thursday, our Lord took *one* cup, saing "Take this (singular) all of you (plural) and drink (plural) from it (singular)." He did not leave us an explanation for the sudden change in rubrics. He only said: "Do this in memory of me." We have no evidence to suggest Pastor Jesus ran a year's worth of articles in the congregational newsletter, cleared it with His circuit counselor, or ran it by the voters assembly. He did not get CPH to publish it in the hymnal first, or vet it by the doctrinal review committee or the CTCR. Worst of all, He did not take into account the weaker brethren. He just barged in like a Gottesdienst editor in a china shop.

Nobody claims that our use of many cups nullifies the substance of the sacrament, but it is odd that we took the Lord's change in ceremony and undid it - for the reason that we just like it better our way. Think about how silly it is grammatically to consecrate using our Lord's words meant specifically for a singular chalice, and applying those words to a tray full of knock-em-backs.

So, yes, I hate the cups. I believe they are an abomination. They are a tool of Satan to mock our blessed Lord and to effect desecration of His holy blood. Screwtape cannot get rid of the Lord's blood, but he sure can do things to desecrate it all with the cooperation of the church's pastors. Under the circs, that's quite a coup for the devil.

But you will be pleased to know that my congregaton uses them. I consecrated a tray of them this evening. I do it because of the obvious reason: they have become so entrenched that it would "offend the weaker brother" to change that quickly. There needs to be an exit strategy. Whereas I never had a peep about the above-mentioned ceremonies, I know there would be a riot if I got rid of the cups. But this is not to say there aren't ways to move things in a good direction. I have gotten some individuals weaned off of the individualist cups.

But, for churches that have no chalice at all, a pastor might, say, introduce it by simply using it at the altar and only drinking out of it himself. Every pastor has to use his own judgment, but to say "never intriduce anything without a long period of teaching" is just something I'm not prepared to say. In fact, the long period of acceptance of some practices might even be interpreted as approval, and only serve to calcify a sense of irreverence. Sometimes the right thing to do is to move with haste. It is a judgment call. It worked out well for me regarding the ceremonial of the celebrant. It can be done.

In fact, some things *must* be done right away. As soon as I become sole pastor, the throwing of the Lord's blood in the garbage ceased - immediately. I did not let the altar guild continue to desecrate the Lord's blood until I could arrange a seminar about it. Rather, I implemented the change and explained it later. They were not only fine with it, but appreciated it.

Reverence is important, and pastors can indeed use ceremonies "to teach the people" - especially when those ceremonies are things that don't require the people themselves to do anything different. The pastor sets the tone. If he wants reverence, it starts with how he conducts himself at the altar.

5. Do we realize that we trouble the weaker brethren with stuff like this? Again, I'm pointing to the brother who apologized for not genuflecting. Did he sin by not genuflecting? What would you brothers have said to him? And what of our weaker brothers who are concerned that their parishes don't measure up to well... genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles?

I would tell him he's not sinning by not genuflecting. Don't we have to tell people such things from time to time: "You did nothing wrong, you are not to blame for this"? I don't think we should all say Mass like Baptists out of fear that some pastor might think he is sinning if we genuflect. And I would also tell him that if he wants to elevate the level of reverence in his celebration, I would encourage him to do that. We need to stop worrying about whether we "measure up." The focus needs to be on our Lord. And when that truly happens, the reverence will follow. Again, nobody has ever, ever, ever said that a pastor sins by not genuflecting. We will soon have enough herring to have a fish fry - and we're still quite a ways to Friday. ;-)

6. Finally, did anyone else have the desire that the people would just follow our lead as pastors rather than test us with the Word? Again, I saw evidence of this in a few of the posts (I’d rather not look over the whole thread) and so I’m going to ask in order that a proper “no” answer can be confessed. Doesn’t our authority flow from the external Word?

This sounds like more fish. It's hard to address "evidence" that isn't even sited. Again, I don't really know what you mean here. But as for our authority as pastors, of course, our authority flows from the Word (who has said otherwise?) - which He extends to us through our ordination and vocation. It flows from our Lord breathing on the disciples and granting them the Holy Spirit, giving them authority to forgive sins, to serve as overseers and elders, to be shepherds. So, we should use that authority - not in an overbearing way, but neither should we be handwringing ninnies so consumed with the fear of offending someone that we drag out bad practice (or even mediocre practice that gives the impression that we're basically Baptists) for years when it could be fixed sooner.

There is a difference between "testing us by the Word" and refusing to "obey your leaders and submit to them" (Heb 13:17). The polity in the LCMS does encourage anticlericalism. I once heard a layman bragging about how he greeted a newly elected president of the LCMS by walking up to him at the convention and saying: "You better stay in line or I will kick your butt." This kind of topsy-turvy negation of Hebrews 13:17 has resulted in faithful pastors being run off by laypeople who have been taught for generations that they hold the keys and the pastor is the guy they "hire" to do the "job" as they tell him to do it. And the pastor, the outsider, better just keep everything the same or we'll yank his health insurance, or worse.

If a pastor is not doing his work, if he is leading a manifestly immoral life, or if he is teaching demonstrably false doctrine, he can, and should be, deposed. But if he is chanting and the chairman of the board of elders doesn't like it, or if the head of the LWML doesn't like his chasuble, or if the youth leader doesn't like the traditional liturgy, or if the principal thinks the sign of the cross is "too catholic" - none of these are reasons to remove him. For crossing onself and refraining from doing so are both ceremonies. The pastor has to decide which ceremony he will do at the altar. The reality is that he may well have to submit to the Baptist rubrics if he is to stay there. But nevertheless, the fact that pastors can be forced to "bend the knee" (as it were) by being compelled to not "bend the knee" at the altar as he is celebrating is to mock the very definition of what the word "pastor" means. We opened Pandora's Box by mixing democracy into our polity. Sometimes, the term "weaker brother" is just a euphemism for "bully."

But that's certainly another discussion for another day.

I hope this clarifies at least where I stand on your questions, George (and thanks for posing these questions - again, I find them very helpful and constructive for the most part). And maybe this will spur further threads of discussion.