By Larry Beane
The 2011 calendar from Concordia Theological Seminary has just arrived.
Above is the picture for March. The caption reads: "Rev. Steve Ahlersmeyer shares a children's message at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana."
Well, let me get this disclaimer out of the way up front: 1) I do not know Pr. Ahlersmeyer, and I have no reason to doubt his orthodoxy, integrity, and faithfulness as a pastor, 2) I have the utmost respect and affection for CTS, from which I graduated in 2004. CTS - Fort Wayne openly promotes liturgical worship, the use of the hymnals, eucharistic vestments, processions, bowing and the sign of the cross, the chalice, and even on occasion, incense - both in chapel services and classroom instruction. CTS is blessed with an extraordinary faculty of world class scholars and a campus that is the envy of theological schools the world over, and is doing an exemplary job in its mission of training pastors, both from America and from abroad.
I don't understand why CTS would advocate for such a practice as a "children's message" - a ritual lacking not only in our hymnal and its resources, but also in the Lutheran liturgical tradition. This is precisely the kind of liturgical innovation that our Symbols decry. While many faithful pastors are stuck with such local customs and have to roll back such things gradually and with a lot of teaching - why would CTS even consider depicting a pastor sitting with his back turned to the altar which is only a few feet away, buttocks planted square in the chancel area, with a paper bag and what seems to be a puppet with which to entertain a child who has become the center of a kind of stage show?
Our professors painstakingly explained why the liturgy is not entertainment, why choirs are best located in the loft, why vestments hide the man, why liturgical innovation is a bad idea, why preaching is a sacred act, and why the altar ought to be treated with reverence - but for 31 days of the current year, CTS is asking its alumni, supporters, and members of LCMS congregations to put this picture up in a prominent location, at least partially, for the purpose of promoting the seminary. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.
I just don't get it.