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Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Where do I sit?

Seat Selection for Worship
Sometimes the Spirit doesn’t give you the coveted aisle seat.
Gordon MacDonald

Monday, January 17, 2011

My wife, Gail, and I were early arrivers at church this past week, and when we entered the sanctuary, only a few seats were already occupied. That meant that we had—I’m guessing here—about 350 seats to choose from.

Would we sit near the front? Probably not. I’ve spent more than a few years in the front rows of worship sanctuaries, and a tiny rebellious spirit within me now seemed to say, “if you’re not preaching today, go for one of those sought-after back seats. Hey, why not go all the way and do the balcony?” (more…)

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Here is a post from pastor Paul McCain.  Very interesting.  Well worth the read.

I get a lot of interesting communications from across the Missouri Synod here at Concordia Publishing House, on a wide variety of topics and issues. Just when I think I’ve seen or heard it all, I see something that I’ve never seen before. That happened again recently. A pastor gave us a lot of feeback and input on a wide variety of resources. He told us he has been in the ministry for twenty-five years. He commented on Lutheran Service Book and declared that only 40% of the hymns in it are “singable.” Ok. But it got more interesting. He said he likes some of the liturgies in it, but not others. Then he said, and this is a direct quote: “Some of it is not so good, DS II.  I told my secretary to tear it out of the hymnals.”

Hmmmmm….a pastor directing his secretary to “tear it out of the hymnals.” Really?

The older I get, and that seems to be happening more quickly than before, I am struck, over and over and over again, but how far removed we are from the spirit of our fathers when it comes to respecting the collective will of the Church when it comes to matters of adiaphora. The principle that what has neither been commanded, nor forbidden, is therefore free has been horribly abused among us to mean now, “Whatever is adiaphora doesn’t matter and you can do whatever you want with it.”

At the time of the Reformation the idea was that although we have freedom, we also have obligations to one another, therefore, I’m not free to thumb my nose at the church’s collective will in matters such as this. And so, here we have a pastor directing a parish secretary to deface the church’s hymnal because he, the pastor, in his vast and infinite wisdom, decides he doesn’t like Divine Service II, therefore, he, the pastor, has the right to take his congregation’s hymnals and tear a chunk out of them.

Am I wrong in my thinking here? Or does this perfectly illustrate a problem that is pandemic among us?

 

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The reasons for not offering it more frequently are many, one of the most common is, “But it won’t be special, if we offer it to often.” To that I say to every congregation and every person who put that forward as a reason: “Why do you take up an offering every Sunday? It makes it so less special when you take the offering.” But how many of our congregations always pass the plate, at every service, or, frankly, at any time there are people in the church building for a formal worship service: Wednesdays, Saturday nights, special occasions. We dutifully and without fail pass the plate and allow the people of God to give generously. So why do we not also as diligently give the people of God the chance to receive God’s special gifts in His supper as often as they are given a chance to give gifts back to God?

Finally a solidly written article on why churches should push for communion every week. In my previous congregation, we had the Lord’s Supper every week.  One of the comments used against communion every week is that the “worship service is too long.”  I say hogwash!  As pastors, we have freedom to design a worship service that will fit into an hour time slot.  We don’t have to use all the parts of the divine service.

What I really don’t understand is that we say we are a denomination that is built upon the Sacraments as the means of grace.  His Sacraments deliver to us the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation.  To say that we want to worship, but only pick and choose what Sacraments to follow is absurd.  We should be using them all.

I really like the following article, especially the comments by Hermann Sasse.  May this article open our understanding on the need and necessity of weekly communion.

There is no good reason not to offer the Lord’s Supper in every Divine Service. There are reasons not to, but they are not good reasons. They are either reasons forced on a parish by a long history of insufficient understanding and practice of the Supper, or they are excuses. But they are not good reasons. We are church that cherishes the means of grace, at least on paper. We all are taught to recite what the Lord’s Supper and what it means. Great words! But then, in too many of our congregations, the Lord’s Supper is only offered every-other-Sunday. The reasons for not offering it more frequently are many, one of the most common is, “But it won’t be special, if we offer it to often.” To that I say to every congregation and every person who put that forward as a reason: “Why do you take up an offering every Sunday? It makes it so less special when you take the offering.” But how many of our congregations always pass the plate, at every service, or, frankly, at any time there are people in the church building for a formal worship service: Wednesdays, Saturday nights, special occasions. We dutifully and without fail pass the plate and allow the people of God to give generously. So why do we not also as diligently give the people of God the chance to receive God’s special gifts in His supper as often as they are given a chance to give gifts back to God? It makes no sense to many any more. (more…)

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Debates across all Christian church bodies of which I’m aware, for quite a long time, have been going on over the question of what the Sunday morning worship service is really all about. I should qualify that last statement. This discussion is going on across those churches that actually still do regard the Sunday morning worship service as, first and foremost, the occasion when the Holy and Almighty God serves His people through Word and Sacrament and they respond with prayer, praise and thanksgiving, giving their adoration and worship to the All Holy and Glorious Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

A growing trend in such churches is to view the Sunday morning service as a tool to be used to attract non-believers to the Christian faith. Such a fundamental shift in understanding of what the purpose of the Sunday morning worship service is all about has extremely serious consequences for how worship is conducted, what goes on during the service, and so forth. Consider the following observations:

Worship is either an encounter with the reality of God, or it is some kind of attempt by man to raise himself by his own bootstraps. It then becomes an occasion for moralizing, a theatrical show, or a sort of pep rally. On the contrary, in the ancient church, the reading of the Gospel was surrounded with festive splendor because here Christ addresses His faithful followers. As the exalted Lord of the Church He today still exercises His prophetic function through His preachers and teachers. We still bear witness to His presence in the acclamations before and after the Gospel. We sing: “Glory be to Thee, O Lord!” and “Praise be to Thee, O Christ!”

– Earnest Koenker, Worship in Word and Sacrament, p. 47 HT: Weedon.

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How did the founding fathers of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod regard the historic liturgy of the Lutheran Church? Let’s let Dr. C.F.W. Walther answer that question:

We refuse to be guided by those who are offended by our church customs. We adhere to them all the more firmly when someone wants to cause us to have a guilty conscience on account of them…. It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Papism in outward things. It is a pity and a dreadful cowardice when one sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American sects, lest they accuse us of being Catholic. Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, who perverts the saving Word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that the sects can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them?” We are not insisting that there be uniformity of perception or feeling or of taste among all believing Christians – neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he is. Nevertheless it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extend that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are addressed or instructed (NOTE: if Walther were writing today, he’d no doubt add: they look like movie theatres in which the hearers are entertained!), while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world. (Essays for the Church, Volume 1, p. 194 (St. Louis, CPH, 1992).

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AltarStumbled across some vintage Lutheran wisdom on the benefit and value of uniformity in worship practices. Enjoy.  Source of original blog posting was cyberbrethren.com

“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.””

From an editorial by Walther in Der Lutheraner, Vol. 9, No. 24, p. 163 (July 19, 1853)

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What’s Old is New Again

SolemnHighMass3_t640Here’s another article of what I’ve been saying for a while.

By Sarah Henning

August 29, 2009

When introducing a new service these days, most churches seem to go the rock ‘n’ roll route — something new to bring in a younger crowd.

To say that Trinity Episcopal Church went in another direction might be a bit of an understatement.

The result is a unique celebration of Christianity referred to as the Solemn High Mass. A mystical meeting of old traditions in a setting where blue jeans and T-shirts are appropriate, the Sunday night service features incense, music and what the church, 1011 Vt., refers to as all of the “major propers” including the Kyrie Eleison, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Credo, the Sanctus and Benedictus and the Agnus Dei, which are chanted.Way back. As in the fourth century.

Performed only during the Kansas University school year, the service, which began its 2009-2010 season last Sunday evening, has snagged a crowd young and old, Episcopalian and not, says the Rev. Paul McLain, the church’s curate.

“You’ll see some students here tonight, of course, a lot students in the choir,” McLain says before the first service of the year, which drew about 50 people to Mass and the free dinner that follows it each week. “But then you’ll see members of the congregation in all age groups, who have been attracted to the service and many newcomers. And we have people who drive in from as far away as Kansas City because it is such a unique service.”

A tradition using tradition

Solemn High Mass was introduced to Trinity in 2006 by its former rector, the Rev. Jonathon Jensen. Before leaving in June for his current post at the Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock, Ark., Jensen described his thoughts behind the addition of the old-style service this way: “We wanted to create something new that was different from what other places could offer in Lawrence. Lots of churches in Lawrence do contemporary worship, and that’s wonderful, but this is a 150-year-old downtown church that looks like an old English church and we have a fantastic organ and a wonderful chorale tradition, and we know what we can do best. And it’s not contemporary. It’s that (old style). And, so, we wanted to have this distinct offering.”

Hooked right away was KU junior Ryan Hood, who, though raised in a different faith tradition, was quite enamored with the formal style of the service when he first attended as a freshman at the university.

“It is a totally different way for people like me who sort of enjoy the higher style of churching — this is the highest style,” says Hood, attending in a white T-shirt and jeans. “I’ve been to a lot of churches around, and almost no church in the area that I’ve been to does things with as high, sort of formal, style as this is done. It’s very rare. It’s uncommon. Even most Catholic churches don’t do it in high style.”

Impacting the senses

The formality and style come from the service’s substance. Much of the service is sung or chanted by the choir, celebrant or congregation, including the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Communion is given to the congregation in a kneel every Sunday night. The smell of incense is present throughout the ceremony with a thurifer swinging it down the aisle during specific portions of the Mass.

“I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the idea that it uses all your senses — it just sort of inundates you with things,” Hood says. “This thing encourages you to smell and to taste, to touch and to see and to hear and just sort of be flooded with … the presence of God and the presence of everything that we care about. Yeah, it really gets you involved on a totally different level than most services do.”

That difference was felt immediately by the Rev. Ronald Pogue, the church’s interim rector. He was a novice at the execution of a Solemn High Mass, though he says he was excited at the opportunity to be at a church that offers such a service. He believes such a Mass is important to the future of the church — even though it’s such an old style.

“We have noticed a growing interest in ancient or meditative liturgies, particularly among the 18-30 year old age cohort. It’s one aspect of the emerging global cultural shift that is taking place,” Pogue says. “I am proud of Trinity Church in Lawrence and Father Jensen for taking this important step in opening the doors a bit wider to include those who are seeking a service like this.”

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