So as I was cutting the grass I was thinking about my Synod. This usually makes me sad (and not too unfrequently makes me angry). But today it was definitely sad. I thought about how the landscape has changed in my years of ministry and in my experience in the Lutheran Church. If there's ONE thing that stands out, surely everyone will agree it is the changes to our worship. There was a time when you really could just about bet on either p. 5 or 15, and if you had a certain kind of parish, maybe Matins. But Lutherans didn't obsess on liturgy; they just worshipped. They followed what was in the book (more or less - we've never been ones for liturgical straight-jackets).
And then enter the whole contemporary worship scene (which should really be called by what it is: the adoption of the liturgy of the Pentecostals and Charismatics). What has been the result?
Are our churches stronger in mission than they were when the liturgy was honored nearly across the board in our Synod? Do we send more or fewer missionaries? Are our people more united now than they were then? How about our support of Synod - stronger or weaker? Is our preaching better or worse? How about our catechesis? Our confessional commitment?
No, I'm NOT picturing some golden age that never existed. Anyone who knows the Synod knows the turbulence of the 20th century almost from the get-go. But where theologians squabbled (as they always have and I suspect they always will), our people were nurtured in a culture that did not oppose liturgy and mission; speaking to the culture and being faithful to our Confessions. It was rather taken for granted. Would that we could see those days again. The invasion of the Pentecostal liturgy has brought disruption and disillusionment to so many parishes; and folks who wouldn't "get on the band wagon" were invited to leave. And then when troubles grew worse, is it any wonder that folks who had become accustomed to that foreign liturgy simply go home - they head to where that liturgy is native. The non-denoms and Pentecostals will always do it better than any Lutheran imitating them can.
And then I thought how Krauth's insight about the progress of error in the church also holds for worship: first they asked only for toleration; then they demanded equality; and you know what the next step is. I fear it's coming.
As the mower was clipping away and the grass was flying up, I had a hankering for simply turning back the clock to a time when Lutherans worshipped as Lutherans and took such worship for granted. Yeah, I wish it was my members' grandfather's church. It's turning into MY grandfather's church - he was a Primitive Baptist - except that he actually cared about doctrine.