Indifference is not characteristic of the liturgy
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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

A First Step

We answer that it is lawful for bishops, or pastors, to make ordinances so that things will be done orderly in the church, but not to make satisfaction for sin. . . . It is proper that the churches keep such ordinances for the sake of love and tranquility, to avoid giving offense to another, so that all things be done in the churches in order, and without confusion. Augusburg Confession XXVIII.53-55

All things being done today in the Lutheran congregations of North America are not being done in order. Things are in a state of confusion.

To wit. If I am on vacation and I see a sign on a church bearing my jurisdiction's name – I may walk in and find that I have absolutely no idea what is going on. The service may be a serious of words never before strung together in Lutheran liturgical history, made up by the local pastor or his worship director sometime in the week previous. This gives offense. I, or my parishioners, will be completely out of sorts in such a parish. It will not be home. It says LCMS on the sign, but the service bears no connection to our worship.

It will do no good to insist that such a parish subscribes to the same doctrine as we do and therein lies our brotherhood. I am more than a mind that gives assent to doctrine. I live out that doctrine in my worship with my voice and actions. If there is a disconnection between the worship of two different congregations such that a man from one place simply recognizes nothing familiar in the other, how can we actually go through the act of sharing our common doctrine? To share common doctrine means to confess with one voice in the one body of the church. If I feel out of place, lost, confused, and befuddled when I encounter what goes on in Sunday morning, how can we rejoice together in our supposed doctrinal unity?

The state of our church body today in matters of worship is one of this sort of confusion, disorder, and giving of offense. Fortunately, our Confessions address such a situation and propose a solution: the bishops and pastors should make ordinances in the church so that, for the sake of love and tranquility, things might go along in peace.

But where to begin? How about this. When you get in this discussion with a brother pastor, district official, etc., and he insists on his Christian freedom to write his own liturgy every week and model the style thereof based on whatever is currently popular at this or that megachurch, read this section of the AC to him, point out the confusion and disorder he is causing and then ask him this much: when you have the Divine Service, will you just use one of the settings of the Divine Service from any one of our three hymnals for the actual words of the service? Use whatever hymns you like, whatever instrumentation, whatever ceremonies, sing it or speak it or make up your own musical setting: but for the actual words, will you just please pick from this list of 7 or so options? Will you do this for the sake of peace and unity and love and tranquility? Will you do this so that when my parishioners are on vacation and they visit your church they will not feel completely left out?

That would be a nice first step toward tranquility and order in the church. It would be a good ordinance for the bishops to put forward and for the pastors to accept.

If he says no. . . well, I wonder then if the reason isn't pride. It must be quite an ego trip to write up your own liturgy each week and then hear all the people speak those words you so lovingly crafted. I think this is the real appeal of creating liturgies – even when those who do the composing don't realize that this is the appeal.

Pr. H. R.12 Comments