Home > By the Rivers of Babylon...ie, Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, etc., Liturgy, Pure Doctrine > The Liturgical Gag Reflex: It may not be good manners, but it’s better than swallowing poison

The Liturgical Gag Reflex: It may not be good manners, but it’s better than swallowing poison


The quote from C.F.W. Walther below got me thinking…

Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw at the Lord’s Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafers?

Pastoral experience teaches (me anyway) that people HATE changes in ceremonies as a general rule.  Imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday is not a historically Lutheran practice; however, it’s been done at my congregation for around 15, 20 years–maybe longer.  Some of the same people who are skittish about ceremonial that strikes them as “catholic” have no problem with getting ashes smeared on their foreheads.  But overall, I really think their skittishness is a good thing.

Is there a certain narrow-mindedness involved in rejecting a church based on its ceremonies?  Sure.  But it’s not just laypeople that feel this way.  I feel this way too.  When I see an LCMS congregation where the pastor imitates non denominational church ceremonies, I immediately am suspicious.  When on the other hand an LCMS congregation reserves the body and blood in a tabernacle and genuflects or otherwise adores it outside of the celebration of the Sacrament, I also am suspicious.  Or when they start doing Taize.

Is it narrowminded?  Somewhat.  But the reality is most laypeople, and most pastors, for that matter, are not equipped for nuanced theological analysis of what is really being taught at that congregation, nor does anyone have time for it.  Walther noted that a lot of Germans in America managed to avoid the German Methodists and Reformed, even though they didn’t know much theology, because these other churches broke the bread at communion instead of using hosts.

Obviously, you are not automatically a Baptist if you use bread with yeast at Holy Communion, and you’re not automatically a Papist because you think it is appropriate to reserve the body of Christ to take to the sick.  BUT:

do you want to be recognizable as a Lutheran Church to people who want to be Lutherans?  Then you need to consider that when everything you do looks like a non-denominational church, you might offend those who want to be Lutheran and they may have a hard time trusting you.

At the same time, those who want to return to the liturgical richness of an earlier period in Lutheranism should recognize that those folks who understand themselves as “Lutheran” and want to be “Lutheran” are often unaware that making the sign of the cross, incense, etc. is “Lutheran.”  Even if we succeed in teaching these things in our own congregations, shouldn’t we be concerned about the guy from North Dakota who is so freaked out by an LCMS pastor swinging a censer that he leaves and joins an ELCA congregation that conducts a “Lutheran” liturgy–at least one he recognizes as Lutheran?

If people in the US are ever going to become familiar with the Lutheran church, in addition to teaching clearly, it would be beneficial if we had a distinctly Lutheran rite and ceremonial, so that we neither look like we’re aping the nondenom churches nor Rome.

I vote for the historic lectionary and the common service, DS II, and the German Mass.  I think it would be really good too if we were distinguished by singing hymns, which is essentially dying out elsewhere.

By the way, this reminds me: the Northern Illinois District convention is coming up.  At nearly every LCMS convention there’s always some resolution talking about how great it is that we’re all orthodox and we all agree on doctrine so much that we’re the envy of every denomination in the US.  This makes me want to puke, but there’s nothing you can do about it, since they always pass.  Then there’s nearly always a resolution about how “we should trust each other.”

Now because we think that righteousness is pretty much always synonymous with niceness, pretty much everyone agrees that we should “trust one another.”  But much like the resolution that says we all agree on doctrine, resolutions calling for us to “trust one another” are godless resolutions posing as pious ones.

I would agree that the LCMS is often polemical, dysfunctional, etc., and that concern with pure doctrine easily can turn into self-righteousness.  But it’s godless to try to silence complaints by saying, “We’re united, we’re united, do not look at the man behind the curtain.”

  Jesus says, “How can you believe, when you seek the glory that comes from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”  (John 5:44)

Which is exactly what we’re doing–patting ourselves on the back while we tolerate all kinds of things that should not be tolerated.  And for the same reason, I am not supposed to simply “trust you.”  I shouldn’t trust you.  I shouldn’t even trust myself!  Jesus said: “Why do you call me good?  No one is good–except God alone (Mark 10:18).”  Scripture says that human beings “are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit…they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent…foolish, faithless…” (Romans 1:29-31)  “No one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God…there is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 1:10-11, 18).  “All mankind are liars.”  (Psalm 116:11)

So I agree that I should deal with you in love, whoever you are.  But trust you?  I trust you even less for putting this resolution forward!  The fact that so many in the Missouri Synod keep talking about how we should trust one another betrays that many do not believe Article II of the Augsburg Confession about original sin.  Should I love you?  Yes.  Should I assume that another pastor means well until I know for certain that he is unrepentant?  Yes.  Should I then “trust” other pastors so that I do not speak out when their practice contradicts God’s Word?

No.  Instead we should pass a resolution that we stop “trusting” one another so much and learn to tell one another the truth in love.

Below is the rest of the quote from Walther and the link to Weedon’s blog.

“The objection: “What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies?” was answered with the counter question, “What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: “It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments.””

“We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians-neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he. Nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are merely addressed or instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.
“Uniformity of ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon Church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable because of its usefulness. A poor slave of the pope finds one and same form of service, no matter where he goes, by which he at once recognizes his church.
“With us it is different. Whoever comes from Germany without a true understanding of the doctrine often has to look for his church for a long time, and many have already been lost to our church because of this search. How different it would be if the entire Lutheran church had a uniform form of worship! This would, of course, first of all yield only an external advantage, however, one which is by no means unimportant. Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw at the Lord’s Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafers?
“The objection: “What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies?” was answered with the counter question, “What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: “It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments.””

http://weedon.blogspot.com/2012/02/thoughts-on-failed-resolution.html

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