Friday, October 31, 2008

Reformation and Restoration

On this Reformation Day I though it would be fitting to meditate on an article that sought to begin a Reformation in the WELS..
http://www.a rag journal/

The Mass is the Heart and Life of the Church

A dedication by Peter M. Berg

+ In the Name of Jesus +

The Mass is the heart and life of the Church, and the Holy Supper is the heart and life of the Evangelical Mass. For centuries the Mass, and its apex, the Supper, have been the center of Christian life, for the Supper is Jesus and he is the Life of the Church. All of God's graces are poured out in the preaching and in the Supper, because Jesus, who is Grace, is Word and Meal. All Christian verity and all heresy are revealed in one's understanding of the Supper. All ecclesiastical structures, church programs, and cutting-edge ideas may cease to be, but as long as the Church has the Mass with its Supper it has Jesus, and Jesus is the heart and life of the Church. Jesus, the Incarnate God, is truly and really present with His Church in the Mass. Preaching and the Sacrament are the new "signs and wonders" of the New Testament, and how wondrous they are! The incarnation of the Son of God was so stunning to the ancient world, and the Real Presence so mystical, that the pagan Romans accused the early Christians of secretly devouring their deity. There is often a bit of truth in every calumny. The Mass is the heart and life of the church because here the incarnate Son of God comes to his mortal - flesh and blood - people, giving them his immortal flesh and blood to eat and to drink, saving them, body and soul. We know of no other Son of God than the incarnate Jesus, and apart from him, God is an unknown horror. No flesh and blood Jesus, no God. In the Mass this God comes in all his humanity and sinful human beings can approach him without fear. "The glory and mystery of the incarnation combine there (in the Supper) as they combine nowhere else."¹ Therefore the Mass is finally all that matters. Indeed, all other sacred things, whether Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, preaching, catechesis, the daily office, the occasional services, etc. only have their full relevance in their relation to the Mass. This is the conviction of those who publish this modest journal, and this is what we teach. However, before this conviction is brushed aside as the ramblings of some fussy high-church types well on their way to crossing the Tiber, we would ask you, dear reader, to give us a hearing. Before you write off what is written in these pages, please read what is written.

The Manner of our Lord's Coming

The Mass is not important because it happens to be a part of our Lutheran culture, just one culture among many other equally valid Christian cultures. The Mass is important because it is the way in which God comes to his people. How does he come? It goes in the way of incarnation and it follows the pattern of speak and eat. It is the visible Lord visiting and eating with Abraham as he reaffirmed the Promise of the Savior and announced his intentions for the Sodomites. It is the Passover meal with its annual rehearsal of God's saving presence and act. It is the Lord speaking and eating with the elders of Israel on the mountaintop. It is Jesus teaching and miraculously feeding the multitudes. It is the Savior eating at table in fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. It is the institution and celebration of the Supper on the night of the Lord's betrayal. It is the revelation of the Lord as he opened the scriptures and broke bread at Emmaus. It is the early Christians devoting themselves to the apostles' didache and the breaking of bread (the koinwniva). The Mass is speak and eat, the only two things that matter - the words of the Word Incarnate poured into our ears and the pouring of the Incarnate Word into our mouths. As the Son of God was conceived in the hearing of the Virgin Mary, and the finite contained the infinite, so through their hearing and their eating the Incarnate One dwells within the entire being of his people in a way beyond comprehension. Christ's Christians become His body, and they are nourished by his body.

These two things - speaking and eating - are bound together in the Mass and one without the other leaves something missing. The Supper without preaching can lead to mindless mysticism. The preaching without the Supper can lead to pedantic moralism. Without the Supper, Herman Sasse once observed, "the proclamation of the Gospel could be understood as just one of the many religious messages in the world." And all we preachers can claim a mea culpa when it comes to short-changing our listeners. The Supper must, at times, save the preacher's neck, just as it saves the communicant in body and soul. Yet, astonishingly, the "dry mass" is still the common practice in all too many churches of the Augsburg Confession, in spite of the confessors' steadfast assertion that the Mass was retained for the consolation of troubled souls (AC XXIV.7). "We have preaching, that's the Gospel, that's enough. We'll have the Supper another time." But isn't that our very own version of concomitance - If you have one thing (e.g. preaching) you pretty much have the rest. Yet the Lord did not come only in word, but in word and deed. He came not only in water, but in water and blood (1 Jn. 5:6). Word and deed. Promise and Body and Blood. The mysteries of God - preaching, Absolution, Baptism, the Eucharist - share things in common, but they also have things unique to each. To omit one is to omit what is unique to it.

The Mass is Heaven on Earth

Preaching is many things, and some of these things are what the Supper is and some are what it is not. Unlike the Supper, preaching is Law, it must be. The sinner is to be convicted. Like the Supper preaching is Gospel, it must be. The sinner is to be consoled with the forgiveness of sins. Preaching is didactic, it must be. Christians are to be instructed in true doctrine, warned about heresy, and urged to be helpful to their neighbors in every need. But most of all, the preacher preaches his people to Heaven; therefore, he preaches to the Supper, he preaches sacramentally (not just about the sacraments, but sacramentally), for the Supper is Heaven on earth. The Supper is the parousia of our Lord now - just as it shall be - only then with the scales fallen from our eyes. Therefore, the Supper is the apex of the Mass, for Heaven is the consummation of the believer's life. We confess this, not because the Holy Communion conveys a better Gospel than preaching, but because preaching is not only about the things to come, but also about the things that are passing. "And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Co. 13:13). Preaching, and the faith and hope which it instills, will one day pass away, but Jesus (who is Love) and His feast of love will never pass away.

There is something more. Consider how wonderfully the Holy Liturgy on each Lord's Day tells the story of how our Lord came to us in Word and deed. Whether by Divine providence or happy coincidence, the western rite tells the story of Jesus. In the Gloria in Excelsis we have the song of the Christmas angels, "God incarnate! Peace on earth!" Through the reading and preaching of the scriptures, the Liturgy of the Catechumens tells us about Jesus' ministry of spoken word and miraculous deed as he journeyed to his destiny in Jerusalem. To this we say, Credo. As the gospels are Passion narratives with long prologues (thus, Martin Koehler), so the Liturgy of the Faithful takes us to Holy Week. In the Sanctus/Benedictus we join the Palm Sunday throng and sing, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."² As He came upon a lowly donkey, so He also comes now in the lowly species of bread and wine. The Words of Institution take us to Maundy Thursday, and the Agnus Dei to Good Friday. In the elevation, the Son of Man is lifted up as Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness and all who behold him in faith are healed. In the consumption, doubting Thomases and weeping Marys actually get to touch their risen, flesh and blood Lord, for the Mass is the continuation of our Lord's post-resurrection appearances. And then, together with aged Simeon, the faithful are ready to "depart in peace." Listen to old Simeon, he's got it right. In the Mass, we achieve the hope of all Christians: We go to heaven. For the Mass is heaven on earth - and not just a foretaste of the Feast to come - but the Feast itself right here on earth! Here, the whole Christian Church on earth and the saints of Heaven are joined together spiritually, sacramentally, Christologically, and mystically. In the Lamb's high feast, the grateful dead, your grateful dead (!), are in communion with those yet on earth. Indeed, we become the "one bread" of which the Apostle Paul speaks (1 Co 10.17). If you don't have the Supper, you can't attend the Feast, for the Body and the Blood of our Lord are the Feast. He is host and meal.

The glory of the Supper is that it is purest Gospel, the very forgiveness of sins. Here, as noted above, preaching and the Supper differ. Preaching must be Law and Gospel. Yet, how many times haven't we preachers slighted our people with one or the other, or even both. It must be noted that Law and Gospel are not on even footing. Both are the Word of God and are to be believed as such, but the Law is God's alien work, the Gospel is His proprium. Even in the best-crafted sermon, with the proper distinction between Law and Gospel observed, there is no guarantee that our hearers will hear it that way. No matter how clearly we preach the Gospel, some weary saints will hear only the Law on any given Sunday. The Supper is the safety net, which catches them before they leave church, and before they fall into despair. The Supper (like the liturgy and pericope) is the layman's protection against his own poor hearing and against the preacher, in spite of the preacher's best intentions.

"We must never regard the sacrament as a harmful thing from which we should flee, but as pure, wholesome, soothing medicine that aids you and gives life in both soul and body."³ Here is our "daily food and sustenance,"4 our "Tree of Life," our "divine Armory,"5 and "the medicine of immortality, the remedy against having to die." (Ignatius of Antioch) Until we end our earthly trek and join in the Feast of the Lamb in heaven (Rev 19), this Supper is our viaticum, our provision along the way. With St. Ambrose we say, "Because I always sin, I ought always to take the medicine."6 Here also is our guarantee of "the resurrection of our entire frame."7 In the Supper, the Savior comes to his own in the manner in which He came to earth: Incarnate, in flesh and blood. And now he gives that divine flesh and blood to His own to eat and to drink, vivifying them in body and soul. Whatever role we give John 6 in the discussion of the Eucharist, it still remains true that Christ's "flesh is food indeed, and (Christ's) blood is drink indeed." (v 55) No Supper, no holy flesh and blood to eat and to drink. Then with Zwingli, we must by faith fly up into the "fiery heavens" and somehow apprehend Jesus, seated on his throne. "No!" the earth-bound, sin-laden, flesh and blood Christian cries out, "Come from on high to me; I cannot rise to Thee" (CW 34).

The Current State of Affairs

In view of this great gift, how do we account for the current state of affairs? The truncated service continues to claim half of the Sundays during the year in a majority of our churches; also serving to truncate the Holy Ministry. One can give a historical explanation for the situation. The list of suspects is well known: Melancthonianism, Pietism, Rationalism, Prussianism, the frontier experience of North America, etc. However, permit this author to propose another idea. There seems to be a concern within our clerical ranks that preaching in our midst is not what it could be. The publication Preach seems to be directed to this need. There have been murmurs for some time now, that there is too much emphasis on sanctification in WELS preaching, on the pages of Forward in Christ, and in our educational materials. The editors of this journal believe that this is definitely the case, and they also believe that the heart of the problem is the status given the so-called Third Use of the Law, or to state it in a slightly different way, the problem lies in the goal which we have established for preaching. It seems to us that our shared goal has become growth: growth in Bible knowledge, growth in holiness of living, growth in stewardship, and quantifiable, numerical growth of new members. The means to attain this goal? Is it an over-simplification to say that the way to attain this goal is revealed in this paradigm: Law/Gospel/Law. The Third Use of the Law in the minds of some, in one way or another, seems to be key to this growth, and the final step in the process of preaching.8 Many will cry foul, but listen carefully to our preaching and to what we publish. The result of all this is that an almost imperceptible transformation takes place, with up-beat exhortations to busyness around the church and the affirmation of everybody's ministries to the church are now seen as the proclamation of the Gospel, when in reality, it is the Law. However, this goal and these means to attain the goal are wrong. We must never forget that the "Law always accuses." The preacher may think that he is using only the Third Use of the Law, but lex semper accusat, and some, even many, may be crushed, and without the Supper, may remain so. We must also remember that the Christian's goal is not the well-ordered life, but to go to heaven, period. The forgiveness of sins, distributed in Gospel and Sacrament, assure him of his salvation, and they are powerful pardons which move him to help his neighbor in every bodily need. Indeed, the believer consumes the Supper that he might be consumed in service to his fellow man. Good deeds follow as a matter of course, for faith is a living and active thing, and the Christ, who lives within, continues to carry out his ministry of compassion here on earth through His believers.

Still, the Savior suffered just as much for our righteousnesses as He did for our sins. When the true goal of the Christian faith and the means to attain the goal are not properly understood, then the life of the church is fundamentally affected, and this is especially true of the Mass. When the goal is wrong, the Sunday service easily becomes a quasi Bible class, a casual, warm, friendly time for sharing, caring, and dealing with "managerial and therapeutic concerns" which become the new sacraments by default. In this environment, preaching and imparting information will be seen as the most "effective" tools and the Supper will continue to be a bi-monthly addendum and incongruities will abound. When the sacred Body and Blood are not on the altar and in the minister's hands, because it is a "non-communion Sunday", and when the goal is information for godly living, then, I suppose, some won't see it as an incongruity when the power point screen scrolls down from the ceiling at the end of the service (or in the middle!) and strains of "Come to the WELS" begin to meddle into Divinum Mysterium (CW 35) or Herzlich Lieb Hab' Ich Dich, O Herr (CW 434). If the sermon is seen as an inspirational talk, then there is no incongruity between it and the upbeat "WELS Connection" piece on the success stories of other franchises of McChurch. However, there are those who see the incongruity and they cry out, Kyrie elieson!

It is the Real Presence which sets the stage on Sunday morning. When Christ is upon the Lord's Table, which incidentally assures that bread will be on our tables at home, then the entire atmosphere is changed. This is sensed even by those who never seem to tire of creating new "liturgies," which bring their people something new (and mediocre) every Sunday. Yet, even these folks have never been known to insert the "children's application" or the WELS Connection between the Sanctus and Verba. At least here they demonstrate a measure of propriety. Why they can't demonstrate it elsewhere is a mystery. The Real Presence carries the freight. It is the Gospel. It is the manner in which the Savior came and comes to His own.

Reformation and Restoration

With this in mind, one is compelled to ask is there an appreciable difference on a "non-communion Sunday" between the average WELS church (or any Lutheran church for that matter) and the conservative Presbyterian church down the block when it comes to what is heard in the way of preaching and hymnody and what is seen with the eye? If they are not appreciably different (granted, that's an "if"), then why should visitors "come to the WELS", especially when the minister down the block probably does the children's sermon and the power point presentation better? There is much hand-wringing in our circles today about growth; a kind of Arminian angst fills our hearts when it comes to assessing how we're doing in "sharing the Gospel." If evangelism techniques are all the rage, then let us consider the winsome force of the Holy Liturgy and the Real Presence of Christ in the Supper. When the conduct of the Holy Liturgy transcends the mundane of everyday life and the pallid commonness of Protestantism, when Sunday morning is an encounter with the divine, then those we seek to reach will say, "I've never witnessed anything like this before, I've truly entered the House of God." Unless we reconsider the Real Presence of the Incarnate Son of God in the Mass and see the Mass as the heart and life of the Church, I'm afraid that we will continue to morph into a general kind of Protestantism. We have noted and eschewed our Pietist roots, or at least we think we have. Could it be that we've taken more with us from the past into the present than we would care to admit? Could it be that we are the way that we are, because we were the way that we were? From the time of the Lutheranism's betrayal by Philippism, to this day, the drift of the Lutheran Church has not been toward Rome, but to Geneva, with side trips to Herrnhut and Gettysburg. The solution to our problem has been under our noses since the night our Lord was betrayed: Gospel, Mass, Real Presence, Jesus.

What is the point of all this? This: The Mass is the heart and life of the Church, for Jesus is the Mass and He is the Church's Breath and Life-Blood. This is the reformation of the Church. The reformation of our little bit of Holy Church will not come about by a top-down edict, but with a bottom-up reformation of Sunday morning. The restoration of the Supper to the weekly life of the Church, and the appropriate ceremonia which support it, will not be accomplished by legalistic dictates, or appeals to historic Apostolic and Lutheran practice, or to matters pertaining to liturgical aesthetics, but rather to what the Lord Himself has said about His Supper and what He has said about His people. When we see our great need, and the Savior's great aid in preaching and the Supper, then the unfortunate discussions which have attended this issue will be moot. There will be no more talk about our "glorious gospel freedom" to withhold the Supper, which is purest Gospel, from our people. Every Sunday there will be those in attendance who are "weak and heavy laden" (which is everyone) and who are in need of preaching and Jesus' true Body and Blood. These people do not schedule their guilt, woes, fears, and hopes for heaven to align with the off-and-on again schedule of "communion Sundays" and "non-communion Sundays." As the old rule goes: Where there are communicants, there is the Mass, there is the Supper, and there is the Heart and Life of the Church. And there will be communicants if our preachers preach about the Blessed Supper and preach their people to the Supper. Then the dream of Doctor Luther will come true for the people of God: ".they would come on their own, rushing and running to it; they would compel themselves to come and would insist that you give them the sacrament."9 §

The Reverend Peter M. Berg is senior pastor of Saint Peter Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Plymouth, Michigan. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Lutheran Liturgical Renewal, Inc. which publishes The Bride of Christ: The Journal of Lutheran Liturgical Renewal. He has also contributed to the journals Gottesdienst and Logia.


1 Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1871, p. 655.

2 This nuance is lost in the treatment of the Sanctus in the "Service of Word and Sacrament" (Christian Worship, p. 34) where the Benedictus has been replaced with the work of the communicants. This, together with the loss of the Gloria in Excelsis and the misplacement of the Kyrie and the Lord's Prayer, lessens the appeal of this liturgy.

3 Large Catechism, V 68, The Book of Concord, Kolb-Wengert, Augsburg Press, 2000, p. 474.

4 Ibid, V.24, p. 469.

5 C.F.W. Walther, Gnadenjahr Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1890, pp. 209f; quoted in Marquart, "The Word As Life," pp. 51-52.

6 Augsburg Confession XXIV.33, The Book of Concord, Kolb-Wengert, Augsburg Press, 2000, p. 71.

7 Coxe, Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries, p. 566.

8 We would be better served if we remained with Luther's two-fold use of the Law.

9 Small Catechism, Introduction, The Book of Concord, Kolb-Wengert, Augsburg Press, 2000, p. 351.

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some nice ideas, but in printing this article without criticism, you have removed the veil and we now see what you're all about.

Anonymous said...

To summarize: A WELS church on a "non-communion Sunday" is just as confessional as a conservative Presbyterian church. Churches that do not celebrate communion every Sunday are in sin.

Here's a couple times this has been discussed already :S

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/07/communion-not-as-warm-up-or-pre-service.html?showComment=1216056840000

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2007_10_28_archive.html

http://www.bailingwater.com/lord-s-supper-f2/lord-s-supper-frequency-t3.htm

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2007/12/confessional-wels-churches-web-sites.html

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/07/communion-not-as-warm-up-or-pre-service.html

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/07/communion-not-as-warm-up-or-pre-service.html

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2007/12/confessional-wels-churches-web-sites.html?showComment=1196890080000

Freddy said...

A Reformation Prayer

O Eternal and Most Merciful God, we bless and praise Thee for all Thy benefits, and especially for those mercies which we commemorate this day. Praise be to Thee that Thou didst send forth Thine only-begotten Son into the world to be the Propitiation for our sins, and didst institute the ministry of the Word to make known Thy saving health among all nations. Praise be to Thee especially this day that, when the gross darkness of popery covered the earth, Thou didst kindle afresh the light of Thy holy Word, and through Thy chosen vessel Martin Luther didst teach our fathers once more the everlasting Gospel of salvation. Praise be to Thee that Thou hast to this day preserved the goodly heritage, saved us from persecution and confusing creeds, defended churches and schools from the assaults of Satan, given strength and success to Thy Word, and at all times provided faithful shepherds to feed Thy flock in the pleasant pastures of Thy Word.

We acknowledge and confess, in sincere repentance, that by our manifold sins, ingratitude, indifference, and unbelief we have, indeed, deserved that Thou mightest justly hide Thy face from us and visit us with a famine of Thy Word. But we beseech Thee, O Lord, deal with us, not after our sins, but according to Thine infinite compassion.

Let not the gates of hell prevail against Thy Church. Preserve us from human traditions and doctrines of men, from strong delusions to subvert the foundation of truth and to mislead men upon false ways.

Grant unto us peace and good government; and let truth, justice, and liberty dwell in our land and throughout the world that, without restraint or hindrance, we may continually enjoy the blessings of Thy pure Word.

Preserve unto us and our children the pure and saving Gospel and the right use of the holy Sacraments till the end of days. Send us to this end at all times blameless teachers, able ministers of the New Testament, faithful stewards of Thy mysteries, and give them wisdom and boldness to proclaim Thy salvation to many unto life.

Let us not misuse the Gospel unto false peace in dead faith. Being kept by the light of truth, let us walk as the children of light. Let us be a city that is set on a hill to shine afar until the day of Christ's coming. Give us increase of faith and of numbers. Restore all that are deceived by error, and give free course and strength to Thy Word, that it may become known among the nations of the earth. Do good in Thy good pleasure to Zion, build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.

Gird us with Thy power, that we may fight a good fight and keep the faith, until we shall obtain the crown of righteousness laid up for us in heaven, for Thy Son's sake.

(Amen, Lord Jesus, Amen.)

taken from The Lutheran Liturgy, 1941
...near the closing hours of the Synodical Conference
Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

I agree "you have removed the veil.." how sad that the pietistic, evangelical veil has been brought down upon the WELS.

The reformer, Martin Luther, would be dismayed at how our churches have tossed aside the holy mass to find instead "worship gatherings" and "dry" services.

This article does lift the veil (or cloak) off of Lutheranism. What an excellent read on All saints eve!

Why don't we see more discussion about these things?

Barney

Anonymous said...

One must wonder if it isn't too late for the WELS to return to confessional Lutheranism. Why are WELS churches trying so hard to push away from the name Lutheran? Why not celebrate the holy supper in a public manner? Why haven't a group of WELS pastors gotten together to hold Liturgical conferences? The Changers are far ahead of the game. They would rather explore what the Baptists are doing than what Lutheran have and are doing. Sad.. sad..

Anonymous said...

A toast of pumpkin ale to Brother Berg. It is sad that this esteemed Lutheran theologian was tossed aside by WELSian leaders.

This makes it easay to see why there aren't any WELS pastors brave enough to speak forth when you look at how Brother Berg was and is treated by the Wisconsin Synod.

If a few are taught a lesson others won't speak out. Where are the soldiers of the Cross?

Anonymous said...

Mr. "Some nice ideas" what in the world does that mean. These aren't new innovative approaches. These are the very means of grace.
I, too, think you need to remove your veil.

Anonymous said...

As a WELS pastor, I heartily agree with what Pastor Berg wrote in this article. I think that the Motley Magpie guys had a wonderful opportunity to teach and admonish and encourage the WELS toward greater sacramental piety.

Unfortunately they squandered this opportunity by writing in such a strident and sarcastic way. Their worthwhile message was obfuscated by their tone and people reacted badly to the Magpie. Instead of listening to what they were saying, people went into defensive mode.

If only they had filled their "rag" with brotherly encouragement and a hint of patience. I think they could have awakened a new Confessional awareness in the WELS.

(Look, I'm not saying their tone was sinful per se. I know Luther was extremely strident and sarcastic. I'm just saying that their tone wasn't wise. They could have accomplished much more by tempering their tone with a bit of gentleness.)

Anonymous said...

"Why haven't a group of WELS pastors gotten together to hold Liturgical conferences?"

Umm, they have and they do. It's called the National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts. It consists of three days of nothing but use and study of liturgical worship. It's sponsored by the WELS itself--it's not a fringe group formed independently like C&C. And it's far more popular and well-attended than anything C&C does.

When we focus on the bad stuff in the WELS, it's easy to miss the good stuff that's happening.

Anonymous said...

Actually I think the Motley Magpie writers used the right amount of irony, sarcasm and wit in lampooning the pompous and the ridiculous as they were evangelical and wise in their encouragements and sermons. For some the sacred cow of the WELS is, of course, beyond all of that.

Anonymous said...

"Actually I think the Motley Magpie writers used the right amount of irony, sarcasm and wit in lampooning the pompous and the ridiculous"

Well, that depends on what their ultimate goal was.

If their goal was, as you said, to lampoon the pompous, then their tone was perfect.

But, if their goal was to educate and convince and win over the ignorant, then their tone was dead wrong.

I wish their goal had been the latter. Sadly it seems like it was the former.

Like I said before, I'm not saying what they did was sinful or wrong, I'm just saying that what they did could have been more constructive and useful if they had approached it from a different direction.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why we have dry Sundays at all. I know the argument is made that it is our freedom not to have it (I find that ridiculous, it's not freedom for those who want it, those who don't could skip it); that it doesn't mean as much when you do it every Sunday (ridiculous and could be avoided by proper catechesis); it elevates it equal to or above the Word (also ridiculous because it is nothing without the Word, it is the Word in flesh); it is too Roman Catholic (also ridiculous, eating the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith is too Roman?); you're legalistic if you try to force people to have it every week, it's not commanded to have every week, yada yada, blah blah. Why couldn't we try it for a year and see what happens?

I have yet to hear a good argument for why we shouldn't have it every week when there are those who are requesting.

Rob

Anonymous said...

WELS anonymous pastor,

As a fellow wels clergy-member, I hope you realize that the MM contributors did write and speak at other WELS venues before they began publishing the MM. They were presenters at conferences, including the worship conference. The tone there was not sarcastic, nor is the article "John" chose to reprint above. Had you read the issues of the MM, you would know that they were not comprised entirely of sarcastic, biting articles. The sarcasm was directed primarily at what is ridiculous and worthy of such shots in our circles. Their sermons and other articles were presented in an evangelical and respectful manner and did teach many of us. There is nothing wrong with lampooning the pompous; in fact in the WELS, it does us some good to encourage us to examine ourselves and our doctrine and practice.

If you are so concerned with what you suppose their motives were, why not contact them to find out? They seem to reply to questions that are sent in.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I realize that the Magpie guys wrote and spoke prior to publishing the Magpie. Yes, I realize that everything in the Magpie wasn't harsh or sarcastic. (And yes, I read every word of every issue.)

But my point is this: When you are putting out a publication to promote things that (unfortunately) are controversial, why not go out of your way to demonstrate patience and gentleness? Any display of sarcasm or harshness will only give opponents an excuse to reject the substance of what you are writing. I realize that it probably feels good to lampoon the pompous, but why not demonstrate self-control?

I have members who are ignorant of the beauty of the Supper and the Confessions (among other things). Is it tempting for me to be sarcastic with them or make fun of them or lampoon them? Sure, sometimes it is. But what good would that do? It is far more constructive to teach with diligence and patience, without even a hint of sarcasm. It doesn't get quick results and it can be frustrating, but that's what shepherds are called to do.

I teach faithfully and I eagerly await the day when we will celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly. But until then, I resent someone (even if I agree with their basic premise) who tells me that I am "withholding" something or "starving" someone simply because I am demonstrating pastoral patience.

Anonymous said...

And we eagerly await the day when we can celebrate it weekly with you. Until then, every other Sunday, we'll go a way less than full. I understand "pastoral patience" but I don't know if that is the reason behind the resistance to offering it weekly in most situations. I don't think it is the case in ours. But is that something that is being encouraged within the Synod?

Also, no way to prove it, but I'd be surprised if most WELS pastors read all of MM.

But there is hope if pastors are patiently pursuing weekly communion. That's the first piece of good news I've heard in a while. Come quickly, Lord.

Rob

Anonymous said...

By not offering, you are withholding.

There is a difference between faithful pastors catechizing their own flock and publicly pointing out the errors and absurdities of one's wider church body and its theologians.

Anonymous said...

"By not offering, you are withholding."

Thanks for the encouragement, brother!

It's frustrating enough to deal with an associate (from an older generation) who just doesn't get why we would want to offer more frequent communion and a congregation that worries about communion taking too long. I don't need a publication or an anonymous commenter telling me I'm a bad pastor for not offering weekly communion. What would you have me do? Go against my associate and my congregation and force communion into the service without their knowledge? That's not a pastoral spirit. I'll keep teaching and encouraging, and if you'd like to make any more accusations, I guess that's just one more cross to bear.

John said...

WELS pastor,

I appreciate that you have shared insight into the process you are going through as you share the blessings of weekly communion. Continue to education and encourage your congregation and your associate and the pastors in your district.

We need more pastors that have the courage and patience to stand-up for this blessing. I would love to see an article in FIC about weekly the blessings of weekly communion.

Anonymous said...

WELS pastor,

Calm down! If the Sacrament is not being offered, then it is being withheld. That's not an accusation against you; it's a fact. As you are one of the stewards of the mysteries for your congregation, it is good that your conscience is pricked by this fact.

Your cross to bear may not be in anonymous supposed accusations on a blog, but it is definitely going to be found in dealing with a resistant fellow pastor and congregation. This is the Church Militant. Expect persecution for doing what is right and in fulfilling your ordination vows to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments. Rejoice in your suffering! This is what Jesus promised us.

As for bad pastors, we have a whole bunch of them, as has every generation of the Church (and if you have a senior refusing to offer Christ's Body and Blood, then you are under one). No one is telling you to "force" the Gospel on your people. Follow the advice of Brother Berg as reprinted here: preach your people to the Sacrament (look in the LC to read Luther saying the same). Tell your people the truth: where has Christ promised to be? In the Mass.

I realize this is not the folksy, low-church preaching taught at the sem; it is far better and theologically deeper and will benefit your people more. Be faithful. You are not promised to be liked as a pastor or to be able to get everyone on board (Jesus' words about not bringing peace but a sword come to mind). Remember your responsibility: you are responsible to every member of your parish to serve them, not force, but offer.

The resistance to the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar shows that there are far deeper problems in this church body than what is usually discussed here. (Nobody go off the deep end and start ranting. Think about it.)

Anon54321 said...

I understand what is being said here and agree that the ideal arrangement would be every-Sunday communion. But I can't quite grasp how one can say that a church not offering every-Sunday communion is clearly wrong. The Bible says, "Do this." without a frequency attached -- not do this every Lord's Day, do this weekly, do this every time you meet together -- he just says "do this." Can someone explain this part of your position?

Anonymous said...

"It's frustrating enough to deal with an associate (from an older generation) who just doesn't get why we would want to offer more frequent communion."

Or a synod. Here's some advice, have him read the Small Catechism.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 5:29:

Thank you for the encouragement! I greatly appreciate it.

I wish that the Motley Magpie had been filled with such encouragements! It would have made a world of difference.

Anonymous said...

"we eagerly await the day when we can celebrate it weekly with you. Until then, every other Sunday, we'll go a way less than full."

Rob, I think I understand what you want to say, but I don't believe these are the words you want to use to say it. Don't leave the impression that the Word is insufficient without the Sacrament.
When we speak of tone, and language that the devil uses to get people to plug their ears and scream "I'm not listening to you", this is the kind of statement I think of.

Just encouraging.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:49, I've thought about what you've written. I didn't want to respond rashly. I reread the article of this post. Please don't take offense, but I personally find the words of this article much more encouraging.

I apologize if my language is offensive and not politically correct, but I see your comments as a fair representation of the Wisconsin view of the sacrament (from what I've experienced) and opposed to the verbiage of this article. But I could be wrong.

Rob

Anonymous said...

Anon said: "Don't leave the impression that the Word is insufficient without the Sacrament."

Rob said: "but I see your comments as a fair representation of the Wisconsin view of the sacrament"

So then you believe that the Word is insufficient without the Sacrament?

Anonymous said...

For some reason, you seem bent on driving a wedge between the two and wanting me to agree with you. I can't. We know Holy Communion wouldn't be a sacrament without the word. Holy Communion is the Word made flesh. It is pure Gospel. So it's like asking if I feel the Word is insufficient without the Word? I think the Divine Service is insufficient without the Word.

Can I commune myself? Can I receive Christ's body and blood in a Reformed church? No, but I can read the Word, or maybe even hear the Word, in either. So the only place I can partake of the Sacrament is in the church through someone who is called to administer it. And I can't get that whenever I ask for it, because it is only available every other week.

I see the Sacrament as an integral part of the Divine Service (DS being all word of God - sung, preached, prayed and consumed). When a part is missing, especially the Eucharist, I feel like I missed out on something great. And you seem to think I should say that is OK. "Hey, you had a sermon, that should be sufficient." What if it was poorly preached? What if it was mostly Law and generic Gospel? What if the lectionary readings were deleted? What if the Confession and Absolution were omitted? Am I wrong for wanting for wanting the "full meal deal"?

I'm sorry if that is offensive or is phrased offensively. I don't mean it to be so. You obviously disagree and that is your prerogative. But I don't see, even now, that what I've said uses the "tone, and language that the devil uses to get people to plug their ears and scream "I'm not listening to you." I desire comfort for my soul and for my faith to be fed. I think there are others who concur.

Rob

Anonymous said...

Amen, Rob!

Anonymous said...

"And I can't get that whenever I ask for it, because it is only available every other week."

That's not true.

Even in churches that don't offer the Sacrament weekly, all you have to do is ask your pastor and he will be happy to give it to you any day of the week. So don't say that you can't have it whenever you ask for it as if your pastor is directly denying it to you when you directly ask him for it.

(Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of weekly communion. But you only hurt that cause when you make such baseless and emotionally-charged claims.)

Anonymous said...

"all you have to do is ask your pastor and he will be happy to give it to you any day of the week"

'cept Sunday during the Service, you know, because offering the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and receiving it with other burdened saints might offend the senior pastor.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to "hurt the cause" believe me. I'm sorry for any ideas that are carelessly constructed or worded (and for the typos). But isn't there just something to the inclusion of Holy Communion in the Divine Service? When the Confession and Absolution are omitted, I feel I missed out on something. I really like that part. When Scriptures aren't read or a portion is omitted like a Gospel reading, I feel like I'm missing something there too. It all seems to go together so fluidly at times. I didn't grow up Lutheran, but there are some great parts to the Divine Service - especially the Lord's Supper - which I've been without for 95 percent of my life. I hate to miss out. I don't see Communion as anything but the Gospel preached. I like the reference of it being medicine. I don't just feel sin-sick every other week. And I enjoy the banquet with all believers, past and present. The Divine Service is a complete package of Christ.

Apologies for hurting the cause. The Sacraments are something so wonderful, I don't understand why people would be opposed to their inclusion as often as possible. They're Word in action, something tangible, the means of grace. Thanks for your time.

Rob

Anonymous said...

Although I don't disagree with the article, there is a real danger in attitude that is not unlike the very church we 'reformed' from. Attitudes about the mass that it should be required on a weekly basis is not only legalistic but is works righteousness. Nowhere in the Bible is this order of worship in this much detail laid out. The very idea of imposing such an attitude puts the emphasis on Law instead of Gospel. The Bible says that if I am baptized by water and the Spirit, I am going to heaven. Period. These are the only requirements and are the invisible means of Grace. Do I want to partake of Lord's Supper? Absolutely every opportunity I get. Is it a requirement for eternal life? Absolutely NOT! From what I have observed in some churches, there may be more of an opportunity if offered weekly of sending more people to damnation because they go on living in sin that they are unwilling to acknowledge. (ie extramarital affairs) Even the ancient Jews only celebrated the Passover once a year.

This talk of 'Mass' smacks of so much Roman Catholicism I would think we would want to distance ourselves from this form of ceremonial worship instead of mimicking the very 'church' we have singled out as the antichrist. You guys single out groups like C & C as bodies that are hiding their Lutheranism and yet you want to instill a form of worship that looks like the antichrist! Luther got alot of things right, but he was still a Roman Catholic. Don't get me wrong. I cherish my Lutheran heritage. But it is wrong to hold to a book written by men as the end all on how to worship. We must always go back to the Word. The Living Water of the Word. Jesus is the Word. This is what saves. This is what being Lutheran is all about. Grace by faith alone. Maybe we need a new reformation and we will be called the Neo-Lutherans.

Anonymous said...

"'cept Sunday during the Service, you know, because offering the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and receiving it with other burdened saints might offend the senior pastor."

This is exactly the sort of biting sarcasm (popularized by the MM) that doesn't do anyone any good.

A pastor openly and honestly posts here and explains his struggle to begin weekly communion and the obstacles and frustrations he is facing, and then he gets torn down with one sarcastic remark about "offend[ing] the senior pastor", as if that's some worthless excuse that's easily dealt with.

It would be much easier to be a supporter of weekly communion if it didn't seem like all of the weekly communion supporters were such pricks.

Anonymous said...

"as if that's some worthless excuse that's easily dealt with."

If a "Lutheran" pastor can't understand why someone would want the Sacrament every Lord's day he is a pretty worthless pastor, and his associate who defends him is likewise.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anon 2:22, as a weekly supporter of communion.

Rob

Anonymous said...

PS

It wasn't sacrasm by the way (offending the senior pastor) that is what YOU reported. What a pathetic bunch.

Anonymous said...

"...weekly communion supporters were such pricks."

Yea, pricks like the Confessors (Read AC, AP XXIV).

Anonymous said...

I have been told by several pastors that it is not proper to have private communion on an ongoing basis when I ask for it. The exception, I am told, is if I am a shut-in and cannot get to church.
This was explained to me by my pastors that communion is both vertical ahd horizontal. When we commune in church we are in vertical communion with God and horizontal communion with the believers we commune with at the rail.
In private communion the horizontal communion is absent. I have asked for private communion from pastors and have been told that I need to wait until it is offered. The alternative (which the pastors approved) is to search our other WELS congregations in the area and commune at those congregations on 2nd and 4th Sundays and at my own congregation on the 1st and 3rd Sundays.
I really want to receive that weekly personal assurance of my forgiveness and salvation.
I don't know how many have to ask in order for it to be offered.
I, too, have not always been Lutheran. I wonder how and why the pastors can instruct about this wonderful gift from God and then tell us we cannot have it each Sunday. Like Rob, I just don't understand at all.
Some say it is Christian Freedom to not celebrate Lord's Supper each Sunday. I believe the Christian Freedom is that the believer can choose to not commune on any given Sunday or Sundays. It is not right to deprive those that hunger and thirst for the Sacrament.

Anonymous said...

Anons at 12:55 and 2:22 remind us of how difficult it will be for pastors to implement weekly communion. It might never happen.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that part of the beauty. It is worth supporting it IN SPITE OF the fact that they are such pricks

Anonymous said...

RE: "If a "Lutheran" pastor can't understand why someone would want the Sacrament every Lord's day he is a pretty worthless pastor, and his associate who defends him is likewise."

Are you literate?

The associate wasn't defending his senior pastor at all! He was talking about how frustrating it is to deal with him.

It's more than a little ironic that those who best hear the gentle invitation of the Lord to sit at his supper table are the ones who are anything but gentle in rebuking others who can't hear quite so well. Why is that?

RE: "It wasn't sacrasm [sic] by the way (offending the senior pastor) that is what YOU reported. What a pathetic bunch."

No, he didn't say he was afraid of offending the senior pastor (that was your unloving assumption). He merely stated that the senior pastor was not open to his desire to offer the Sacrament weekly. How sad that you would call a faithful pastor who desires to feed his flock "pathetic".

RE: "Isn't that part of the beauty. It is worth supporting it IN SPITE OF the fact that they are such pricks"

Yes, that's true, but it would be a whole lot easier to convince more people about the value of weekly communion if they wouldn't be such pricks. Just broaching the topic of weekly communion in many circles draws automatic resistance, not because the people are necessarily opposed, but simply because they figure you must be one of those Magpie jerks.

Anonymous said...

What does the blog-personality judgment of anonymous posters as "pricks" have to do with whether or not we should pursue weekly communion? I preferred confessional crusader or confessional elite, personally. But prick is probably regrettably accurate as well, though it would be difficult to judge someone as such just because they write sarcastically or it is interpreted in that manner. But regardless of the lack of PC-personableness, shouldn't it be assessed by what is best practice and doctrinally correct?

The frustration for those endorsing and those rejecting weekly communion inevitably results in personal accusations at the expense of the discussion.

And yes, I've discussed this with my pastor and we went from once a month to twice a month. The idea of weekly communion seemed to be received somewhat incredulously - too Roman and elevating the sacrament to the level of the Word - it would be abused or taken for granted at the least.

Prick Rob

Anon54321 said...

No one really replied to my question yet... it is about halfway down the discussion now. I understand the argument of every Sunday communion and it sounds pretty good to me and ideal. What I am wondering is how you can say that those not practicing every-Sunday communion are definitively in the wrong when Scripture doesn't attach a frequency to the words "do this" ?

Anonymous said...

"No one really replied to my question yet... it is about halfway down the discussion now. I understand the argument of every Sunday communion and it sounds pretty good to me and ideal. What I am wondering is how you can say that those not practicing every-Sunday communion are definitively in the wrong when Scripture doesn't attach a frequency to the words "do this" ?"

Because they can't. OMG they are wrapped up because someone used a vulgar word. None have responded to what I thought were some thought provoking observances either...

"Although I don't disagree with the article, there is a real danger in attitude that is not unlike the very church we 'reformed' from. Attitudes about the mass that it should be required on a weekly basis is not only legalistic but is works righteousness. Nowhere in the Bible is this order of worship in this much detail laid out. The very idea of imposing such an attitude puts the emphasis on Law instead of Gospel. The Bible says that if I am baptized by water and the Spirit, I am going to heaven. Period. These are the only requirements and are the invisible means of Grace. Do I want to partake of Lord's Supper? Absolutely every opportunity I get. Is it a requirement for eternal life? Absolutely NOT! From what I have observed in some churches, there may be more of an opportunity if offered weekly of sending more people to damnation because they go on living in sin that they are unwilling to acknowledge. (ie extramarital affairs) Even the ancient Jews only celebrated the Passover once a year.

This talk of 'Mass' smacks of so much Roman Catholicism I would think we would want to distance ourselves from this form of ceremonial worship instead of mimicking the very 'church' we have singled out as the antichrist. You guys single out groups like C & C as bodies that are hiding their Lutheranism and yet you want to instill a form of worship that looks like the antichrist! Luther got alot of things right, but he was still a Roman Catholic. Don't get me wrong. I cherish my Lutheran heritage. But it is wrong to hold to a book written by men as the end all on how to worship. We must always go back to the Word. The Living Water of the Word. Jesus is the Word. This is what saves. This is what being Lutheran is all about. Grace by faith alone. Maybe we need a new reformation and we will be called the Neo-Lutherans."

Anonymous said...

Since I've posted a lot on this thread, I don't think I ever said they were definitely in the wrong, but am arguing for the ideal. There is much not defined in Scripture about many topics including worship.

For a review of Lutheran history on the subject, I found this link: http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/lutherantheology.communionfreq.html to be informative. (Sorry, I don't know how to make it an active link.)

Rob

Anonymous said...

Why is offering communion every Sunday legalistic? Offering isn't coercing. There may be some that desire to take it weekly. Is that a sin? If we truly believe in "Gospel in Word and Sacrament", then why wouldn't we want to provide the opportunity to receive the Lord's Supper weekly (or every service for that matter)?
Those that chose not to take communion every Sunday are not restricted either way. Those that do are limited when the frequency is limited.

A pastoral recommendation that a parishioner seek another WELS church on alternate Sundays to fulfill his desire to receive the sacrament weekly is utter nonsense. I(a WELS member)would consider transferring to a confessional Missouri Synod church that communes weekly (there are several in my area).

RandomDan said...

Anon @ 12:55pm

Whenever Roman Catholicism comes up in discussions such as this one, 99 out of 100 times the person making the comparison shows ignorance of church history.

I still wonder, however, how we can claim that we are freed by the Gospel not to proclaim the Gospel through the means of the visible Word.

Anon54321 said...

Thanks Rob. I think by clarifying that these churches are not "definitely in the wrong" (which I think the article *does* imply) you go a long way to bridging the gap with those who accuse of legalism. Very important and ideal, yes, but heterodox? No.

Anonymous said...

Anon54321, I'm certainly no authority on the determination of what is heterodox concerning communion frequency. So, I was defending cyber-reputation (vanity) and not the others who made the statement.

There are many more learned than me about the subject. It appears it's been debated among Lutherans for years. I find a strong argument for weekly communion (and more) being a Confessional Lutheran practice (with some scriptural support), but it doesn't appear to be common today. Does that make it heterodox? There are other doctrinal differences among Lutheranism that certainly do. I don't think an ELCA church practicing weekly communion makes it orthodox.

But language is important and we all tend to use the broad stereotypical brush. And there is passion on both sides. I agree, weekly communion is very important and ideal - and something for which to strive when there are people asking for it. I don't think it's an easy change for the pastor to implement, especially if the attitudes of those on this blog are representative of what is found in the local parishes. But it is ideal.

Rob

Freddy said...

Rob and anon54321,

Along with you (if I interpret your statements accurately), I am not ready to refer to those congregations who do not celebrate the Lord's Supper every Sunday as “in sin.” However, in browsing through AC XXIV and the Apology, I'm not convinced that failure to hold communion every Sunday isn't Confessional (and I intend by my use of double negative to suggest non-Confessional practice, rather than accuse). AC XXIV makes it clear that the Mass is the celebration of the Sacrament (including the liturgical apparatus of the Western Rite which surrounds it), vehemently defends against the accusation that Lutherans seek to abolish the Mass, stresses the importance of corporate Mass, and boasts that Lutherans hold communion every Sunday, and then also at additional times during the week, if the people want it.

Browsing further through Vol. 53 of Luther's Works, Liturgy and Hymns, it is apparent how Luther sought to carry out our Confession in practice. In An Order of Mass and Communion for the Church at Wittenberg, Luther states that “properly speaking, the mass consists in using the Gospel and communing at the table of the Lord,” and makes clear that the freedom enjoyed in our liturgical choices applies to specific liturgical orders within the Western Rite, not to definitions of the Mass. In the introductory comments preceding this section, the editor presents the fact that it was Luther's introduction of substantive preaching to the Mass that was worthy of note, adding use of the Word to the Sacramental rite. Accordingly, it is also in this section that Luther states, “the Word is important and not the Mass.” However, his words apply to the practice of daily mass, in which the Word was not present. At no time (that I have read so far) does Luther advocate removing the Sacrament from the Divine Service – the main service of the week.

In The German Mass and Order of Service, Luther makes several points indicating his understanding of how our Confessions ought to be carried out, including the following: (1) Mass was offered every Sunday; (2) Services outside of the Divine Service (Sunday Mass), there was no sacrament; (3) Matins and Vespers were offered every day, and included lessons not only from Biblical texts but also covering topics supporting the catechism; (4) It was important that teaching the Bible included an effort to preserve ecclesiastical language and terminology. For example, schoolboys were taught the Bible in Latin and were expected to participate in daily Matins/Vespers by reciting, reading, and singing the Biblical texts in Latin, sometimes also in German for the benefit of everyone present, but not to the exclusion of languages not universally understood. Preaching was in the vernacular, but it wasn't at all necessary that all parts of the service reject everything but simple vernacular – indeed, proper teaching required that ecclesiastical languages be used so that the people would come to understand them. (5) The lesser, daily services, i.e., Matins/Vespers, were primarily for the benefit of the young and the unlearned. These were the services that were flexible enough to cater to their weaknesses (indeed, even Luther stated that it was necessary to mix-it-up a little in these lesser services, to hold the attention of the weak and keep them coming to church, otherwise, the churches would empty). Luther did not speak this way of the Divine Service, however. I would add as worth noting, that “mixing-it-up to hold the interest of the weak” was for the purpose of building up the weak and ignorant, to draw them into teaching of ecclesiastical languages/terminology and by engaging in additional catechesis, not for the purpose of pandering to and perpetuating their weaknesses and ignorance. (6) Finally, while there is liberty in the choice of specific liturgical order, the validity of an order is dependent upon its proper use. Proper use is a function of catechesis! If the people are not properly catechized regarding the orders they use, they will not use them beneficially.

I could go on, but this is getting long. There are other examples from Luther which apply, such as his desire the there be liturgical unity in the various regions of Germany (I take these “regions” as analogous to "Synods" within Lutheranism, today). Chemnitz, in his Examen also has much to say regarding the Mass and adiaphora. I plan, next, to begin browsing through my four-volume set for his advice on this topic, as well.

In closing this comment, I will state that while those who complain that frequency is not specified in the Scriptures, and so seemingly conclude we are completely free to hold communion every day or once a year (apparently for whatever reason comes to mind), or who pit the Word against the Sacrament by suggesting that the Word is sufficient without the Sacrament, are missing the fact that while the Bible does not prescribe worship practice, the Confessions very much seem to do so. It seems to me that this debate ought to, and eventually will, center on what the Confessions say about our liturgical Lutheran practice.

My thoughts,
Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

"It seems to me that this debate ought to, and eventually will, center on what the Confessions say about our liturgical Lutheran practice."

And therein lies the proverbial rub, I suspect. I don't think most of those who oppose weekly communion here are running to the Confessions to determine practice. There may be a few, as there are always exceptions to the rule, but there is a definite attitude toward the role of the Confessions within WELS that might hinder the fruition of your notion (as I paint with my broad brush, right?). I'll just say I'd be surprised. It would be intriguing. But I'm often wrong, so who knows.

Rob

Freddy said...

I'll also add, that like Rob (above), I claim no expertise in these matters. I am continuing to learn and am appreciative of those who are pointing us to the Confessions. As a result of getting into the Confessions more, and for the record, I must reject what seems to be the common explanation for why the Confessions are not diligently taught among us, that "they do not address issues that are disputed among us, or regarding which there is much confusion" (a summary of reasons I have heard/read over the past few years), and have begun to appreciate the words of Walther regarding the importance of a laity that is Confessionally literate: "The Book of Concord should be in every Lutheran home... If a person isn't familiar with this book, he'll think 'That old book is just for pastors... After working all day, I can't sit down and study in the evening. If I read my morning and evening devotions, that's enough.' No, that is not enough! The Lord doesn't want us to remain children, who are blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine; instead of that, He wants us to grow in knowledge so that we can teach others" (quote taken from the General Introduction of my Reader's Edition of the BOC).

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

"In closing this comment, I will state that while those who complain that frequency is not specified in the Scriptures, and so seemingly conclude we are completely free to hold communion every day or once a year (apparently for whatever reason comes to mind), or who pit the Word against the Sacrament by suggesting that the Word is sufficient without the Sacrament, are missing the fact that while the Bible does not prescribe worship practice, the Confessions very much seem to do so. It seems to me that this debate ought to, and eventually will, center on what the Confessions say about our liturgical Lutheran practice."

And therein lies the rub. Confessional Lutheran liturgy is not the end all on worship. The Bible is. I have nothing against the visible Means of Grace. My bone to pick is the prevailing ATTITUDE of it's staunch supporters. You elevate Luther to a type of Pope. As much as the C & C folks appear to be some rogue group espousing Evangelical Doctrine to YOU, I counter with Lutheran High Church looking like the antichrist. I am not judging hearts here, but what is good for the goose....bottom line is as long as worship is Biblical and our focus is on what God does for us and not what we do for God, we are OK. We are not to judge on the outward appearance, remember?

Freddy said...

Anon @12:55,

I'll respond very simply by suggesting that you investigate a little more fully the reason for having Confessions. The simple explanation, given over and over by WELS and other Confessional Lutherans is enough to address this: It is not sufficient to say, "I believe everything the Bible says," because such a statement fails to answer the very next question, "What do you say the Bible says?" Confessions answer this question for us. In appealing to the Confessions, we are appealing to what we say the Bible says. In this regard, our Confessions are definitive -- even more so given that our agreement to the Lutheran Confessions is not just rhetorical, but carries with it the force of conscience, as we agree to our Confessions, not rhetorically, but as a matter of Christian Conscience. Read Ch. V of Krauth's Conservative Reformation on this specifically, and Preus' Fire and the Staff to see generally the importance and outworking of Confessions in our practice. And so it follows, being Confessionally literate is vitally important.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

"I counter with Lutheran High Church looking like the antichrist."

And this is where you reveal your ignorance of church history. The liturgy promoted by the "Lutheran High Church" existed long before the Roman Catholic church did. The Roman church only twisted what initially was good. So when Lutherans use the liturgy, they are looking like the ancient apostolic church, not the Roman Catholic church.

The case is entirely different when it comes to contemporary worship. Contemporary worship was designed by false teachers. It didn't start in orthodoxy and then get twisted later on. In fact, Lutherans who claim to be "adapting" contemporary worship are in essence the ones doing the twisting. Thus, when Lutherans use contemporary worship, they are looking like false teachers.

That's the big difference between the liturgy and contemporary worship--a difference which contemporary worship supporters either don't understand or don't talk about. The liturgy has its roots in orthodoxy. Contemporary worship has its roots in false teaching.

I simply don't understand the arrogance involved in saying, "Well, the apostles and ancient church fathers thought that the liturgy was the absolute best way to proclaim the gospel, but I think I'd rather use a worship style that was invented last decade by false teachers."

Anonymous said...

"Confessional Lutheran liturgy is not the end all on worship. The Bible is."

And since the Bible is silent on much of worship, you would have us do what on Sunday? Why shouldn't the Lutheran church use Lutheran confessions to identify Lutheran practice? Whatever you think we should be doing or can be doing on Sundays is a form of liturgy developed by someone somewhere sometime. It just may not be Lutheran, which is fine, but shouldn't be the case for the Lutheran church.

You don't want the Lutheran church to follow its Confessions because they are too Roman for your tastes. But you think it is OK to follow other forms of worship, other liturgies, developed by whom? Calvin and Zwingli? Please show us where everything you think is acceptable in church is backed only by Scripture.

Rob

Anonymous said...

"But you think it is OK to follow other forms of worship, other liturgies, developed by whom? Calvin and Zwingli?"

I never said that or implied it.

I can see a new Lutheran Church that has the elements of liturgical worship presented in much less of a high church manner with a music style that is more in line with the times. How is that Calvinistic?

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:56, I asked who developed the liturgy you prefer? From what you've said here, it seems to be in line with Zwingli who, as a minimalist, opposed what has become the Anglican terminology of "high church." So your preferred form of worship comes from men as well. It's quite interesting that what you have just proposed is embraced by the Anglican movement to blend traditional with contemporary to satisfy both.

Calvin worked his liturgy too - all during the Reformation and having their foundation in the Roman Catholic liturgy of the time. But I am certainly not an expert. Just a casual reader and one trying to find out what it means to be a confessional Lutheran.

Rob

Anonymous said...

And in the end, when we stand before the Lord, what will all this arguing really matter? You men are ALL a bunch of time wasters.

Anonymous said...

Rob,
Take off the blinders, please.

The liturgy I talk about is one that could be. Any form of liturgy comes from men. Your point is moot. You seem to be groping for straws. For not being an expert and just a casual reader, you seem to draw some pretty defined conclusions.

Confessional Lutheran. Who coined that term?

You guys need to take off this filter of confessional lutheranisms. This is not what Luther was searching for. He was searching for truth and pure Christianity that the pagan RCC no longer possessed. Thank the Lord God granted him the Spirit that revealed it to him. We should all be so blessed.

Anonymous said...

"You guys need to take off this filter of confessional lutheranisms."

That sentence says it all. The C&C supporters are now telling us not to be Confessional Lutherans.

If only all C&C members were so honest and freely admitted they weren't Confessional Lutherans instead of pretending that they still are.

Freddy said...

Anon @7:28, normally I wouldn't comment, but your statement simply is just foolishness. Are you Lutheran? Do you know what Church Fellowship is? Such “arguing,” as you put it, is in defense of the pure Word and of Confessional Unity in the Visible Church, to which we are directly exhorted in the Scriptures. In no way is such discussion a waste of time!

As for Anon @8:41, you sound alot like Anon @2:56, and I concur with Anon @9:20 – you show your colours by publicly expressing your disdain for the Lutheran Confessions. Instead, you envision “a new Lutheran Church,” which isn't Lutheran at all, but which, at most, offers only rhetorical platitudes to what it considers materially irrelevant in the modern era (i.e., the Lutheran Confessions). The fact is, Luther did intend a Church based on Biblical truth and Confessional unity, and the the Confessions which he is directly responsible for not only define Lutheranism but Biblical Christianity as well. The math is simple: take away the Confessions, and not only does Lutheranism disappear but so does the basis for unity in the Visible Church. By rejecting the Confessions you cannot be Lutheran, and therefore have little say in any genuine Lutheran setting. Indeed, you would make a fine C&C spokesperson.

Yes, I'm irked -- and probably wasting my time responding to this nonsense,
Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

"... what will all this arguing really matter? You men are ALL a bunch of time wasters."

"You guys need to take off this filter of confessional lutheranisms. This is not what Luther was searching for."

Jesus seemed to spend a few moments of His life explaining truth, yet it remained hidden from most. He also rebuked false teachers on occasion and warned of others to come. The Bible has a lot of words to say about such activity. The Reformers, too, wasted a lot of time arguing and a lot of paper defining and defending truth. It's sad that you see this quest as unnecessary yet today, or that a blog can't assist in this effort for some. Lutheranism is not a fight against all things Roman Catholic - it is a fight against error and a fight for truth.

Rob

Anonymous said...

Here is a workable link for the online essay on the history of Communion Frequency in the Lutheran Church, to which Rob referred: http://tinyurl.com/ygkugt

Rob's friend