29 January 2008

On the Oddities of Calendar

This past Sunday, our Synod commemorated St. John Chrysostom. We were not alone in that commemoration. Our sisters and brothers in the ELS commemorated him that day also, as did the Eastern Rite and Western Rite Orthodox and the Anglicans and I believe any observing the "exceptional" Latin rite in the Roman Church. However, our counterparts in the ELCA will observe his day September 13th, together with most Roman Catholics around the world. September 13th is the actual day of the great saint's death as he was traveling to Pityus on the distant shores of the Black Sea; but January 27th marks the day in 438 when his remains were returned to the city of Constantinople from which he had been exiled some 34 years before. His final words are rumored to have been: "Glory to God for all things."

The liturgy that bears his name contains some beautiful words:

"Thou it was who didst bring us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until thou hadst brought us back to heaven and hadst endowed us with thy kingdom which is to come."

He was a great preacher of God's grace and of the free justification of the sinner by faith alone. But he wanted nothing to do with a so-called faith that didn't blossom forth into works of love and mercy - and he was especially concerned with care for the poor. In that faith that shows itself alive in love, he found great joy and comfort for the many hardships he had to endure.

God willing, I'll be speaking a bit about the great saint today on Issues, Etc.


Olympiada said...

What is the ELS?
What is Issues, Etc?
I commend this post, its wonderful! I hold that you are most definitely pious! Who wrote the Liturgy you use if you do not use the Liturgy of St. John Chyrsostom?

William Weedon said...

ELS - Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

ELCA - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Issues, Etc. - radio show on KFUO (http://www.kfuoam.org/ie_main.htm)

Our liturgy was largely the work of St. Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome - at least he's the one generally crediting with it taking its distinctive form.

Olympiada said...

What are the differences between the two Lutheran denominations you mentioned? Also does the Lutheran church practice open communion?

William Weedon said...

ELS and LCMS are more closely tied theologically than ELCA and LCMS. ELS and LCMS differ on the doctrine of the Office of the Ministry (too long to explain!), while ELCA and LCMS differ on numerous things:

open communion (ELCA yes; LCMS no)
ordination of women (ELCA yes; LCMS no)
Bible contains the Word of God (ELCA)
Bible IS the Word of God (LCMS)

Thus, to answer the question: "Does the Lutheran Church practice opinion communion?" "It depends on which Lutheran Church one is talking about!"

Past Elder said...

Just as a footnote, the ELS is in fellowship with another small, but larger and better known than the ELS, Lutheran body, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and while neither is now in fellowship with the LCMS, all of the above are closer to each other theologically than to the ELCA as a whole, as Pastor outlined.

As to open (opinion?) communion, that is a sticking point -- WELS holds that while LCMS officially retains the practice of closed communion, functionally they don't.

Also, not only are women not ordained, on the same basis they don't vote in congregational voters meetings either, which was until recent years was the LCMS practice too and is another sticking point. When I was an elder in WELS, we sought ought the unmarried and widowed women, those not part of a marriage whose head would speak. Which leads back to the differences about the Office of Holy Ministry, indeed too much for a combox, but LCMS has come to see the OHM as a different matter than voting in voters meetings regarding women, a woman in the OHM violating the Biblical order of creation and the institution of Christ and a woman voting in voters meetings not.

So the sticking points between the ELS/WELS and LCMS are distinct, but related, so one will lead to the rest.

The ELS has a Norwegian origin in the US, WELS German like LCMS, but now one can find many backgrounds in all synods -- like me, English descended in LCMS, or WELS before!

Our historic liturgy does indeed derive from Gregory, though I'd say now sadly some of them derive from Vatican II, and some aren't liturgical at all but more Willow Creek style, both to me "Contemporary Worship".

One of the great experiences of my life, in pre Lutheran days, was to experience the liturgy of St John Chrysostom in an Eastern Catholic parish in Miami, and there are solid confessional Lutherans in Eastern Europe whose liturgy is based on that liturgy rather than the Gregorian Western one. There's a link to a Ukrainian version of such on my blog.

Past Elder said...

That's sought out, not sought ought. Right up there with opinion communion. Lord, if thou shouldst count typos, who could stand?

William Weedon said...

Lord, if Thou shouldst count typos, O Lord, who could stand?

Certainly not THIS puppy. :)

baptizatus said...

Pr. Weedon,

I heard you on Issues, Etc. today, and the quotes you read were great! It's good to know that St. John Chrysostom was a Lutheran ;-)

Question: what place, if any, does the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (in part or in whole) have in our Lutheran churches? are there helpful things in it that could have a place in our liturgies, or should we not mess around with them?

Pax tibi.

William Weedon said...

Dear baptizatus,

The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom doesn't have much of a direct impact on Lutheran liturgy in this country. LSB's DS 1 and 2 do use the Kyrie from that liturgy, and certain elements in the post-sanctus prayer also are based on it.

The place to look for a more direct impact, though, is the Ukrainian Lutherans. You can check out their liturgy here:


Their history is rather fascinating - but in short, they left the jurisdiction of Rome and became Lutherans *to continue to use this liturgy.* Enjoy!

Olympiada said...

So to further the discussion of open communion, what does that mean?

William Weedon said...

It means that at an LCMS altar, ordinarily only those who have been baptized into the Trinity and who been confirmed (or welcomed to first communion) as Lutherans are admitted. In the ELCA (and sadly, in too many LCMS parishes), the practice is more "open" than "closed." In my own District, however, our District President is pretty firm on a responsible communion practice that does not offer the Sacrament to those we are not actually one with in the confession of the faith.

Olympiada said...

What do you think about open communion with the EO? Does this appeal to you at all?

Past Elder said...

Rome's novus ordo attempted to re-incorporate some of the Eastern Kyrie, but unfortunately got it mixed up with the Confiteor, which isn't even there in the Eastern liturgy, so you have a penitential rather than a petitionary prayer:

For the times we have (insert sin),
Lord, have mercy.

Our DS I and II, from their first versions in the LBW, did better, preserving the "In peace let us pray to the Lord" and the first few petitions from the Eastern rite. We got it right, but it whets my appetite for more of the Eastern liturgy!

I wonder why they didn't relocate the Confession of Sin to its place in the Eastern rite while they were at it.

My former synod got it wrong too. In the Common Service, "Lord, have mercy" got relocated to before the Absolution!

The link Pastor gives is the same one on my blog. Copy and paste, and enjoy! That Lutheran body, btw, is in fellowship with the ELS and WELS through the CELC, an international association of Lutheran synods.

In WELS, it was the pastor's practice before Communion to say something like this: Communion is shared among our fellowship, and to avoid judging hearts, we can only go on the associations one makes, therefore we invite members of WELS or ELS congregations to participate.

In my LCMS parish, a statement of our Communion beliefs is printed in the worship bulletin on Communion Sundays, with an invitation to those who agree with those beliefs to commune.

I think even within LCMS it might be disputed whether this fulfills the requirements for closed communion. To WELS, it clearly does not.

Myself, I wish I had been around in bygone days where one announced one's intention to commune to the pastor the day before. I think that was a fairly common practice in both WELS and LCMS, who were in fellowship then, and now hardly heard of in either of them! Certainly as an elder, I was never approached about it at all, though our bulletins regularly said address questions about our communion practice to the pastor or one of the elders!

Olympiada said...

So does the Lutheran church make fornicators, or drug addicts, or drunks or drug dealers or liars repent or do penance before they can receive communion, or does it just serve it to anyone it knows?

William Weedon said...


I won't presume to speak for the ELCA or others. In the Missouri Synod, when we are being faithful to our Symbols, we are careful to warn people against an impenitent use of the Sacrament. In our hymnal, we have one service where the pastor says:

"Beloved in the Lord, it is our intention to receive the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, in which He strengthens our faith by giving His body to eat and His blood to drink. Therefore, it is proper that we examine ourselves, as St. Paul urges us to do, ***for this holy Sacrament has been instituted for the special comfort of those who are troubled because of their sin and who humbly confess their sins, fear God's wrath, and hunger and thirst for righteousness.***"

No one who persists in sin and disregards the will of God, should approach the altar; as Dr. Korby used to say: "It will be glass in your stomach; stay away!" But every poor sinner - no matter what his or her sin - who seeks from God forgiveness and strength to turn away from their sin and live in conformity with God's will, is summoned by Christ to His table.

William Weedon said...

Oh, I should have added, that in our Small Catechism, we confess the Office of the Keys: the special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

Thus, "I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude manifest and impenitent sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us himself." Lutheran Service Book p. 326

Olympiada said...

Who is Dr. Kirby? If someone keeps falling in the same sin over and over again, don't you think its better to excommunicate them so they can get over it? Does the Lutheran church practice excommunication or does it just let sinners go? Also, what does pastoral care of the Lutheran church involve?

William Weedon said...

Dr. Korby was a great teacher of our Church who died a few years ago - he was a big advocate of the proper use of confession and absolution. As to falling into the same sin repeatedly, pastors need to carefully discern if it is a matter of impenitence ("I'll do whatever I want, thank you very much") or of a besetting sin, which the person is truly struggling against, fighting against, sometimes winning the fight, but sometimes losing. Besetting sins are to be remedied by USING the Word and Sacraments and learning to cling to Christ's promises and not believe Satan's lies. Impenitence, however, is to be banned from the Sacrament. It is trying to determine the distinction between these two that makes administering the office of the keys such a fearful thing.

Olympiada said...

Wow, how do they train you to perceive such a thing? What if a sinner's falls scandalize others when they see them going to communion. Then what?

William Weedon said...

I don't think that anyone can be "trained" for such a thing, but one prays and seeks to do the best with what one knows - both about God's unfathomable love and about the sinners before you.

As to others being scandalized - well, Jesus was known for receiving sinners and eating with them. It is not the fallen that are the problem; it is those who refuse His gift of liberation.

Past Elder said...

In my experience, determining impenitence from besetting sin, and excommunication itself, is something that unfolds over a period of time, rather than a decision made as a one time review and decision.

Certainly as elders, a lot of our work was seeking out members who had issues, inviting their input, trying to see the situation as the person sees it, and then try to sort out the facts as well as admonish if needed. The point being, in my experience every effort is made to reach out to the person, to help or connect them with help if besetting sin is involved,to admonish if needed, in the hope that they will repent if impenitence is involved, and in either case to try everything to bring the person back and be of help in doing so, and only after all efforts fail resort, indeed as a last resort, to take the measure of excommunication, nothing else having had effect.

It's worth noting too that excommunication is not really what puts one outside the spiritual life of the community, it is the person's acts which do so, to the extent that the community can no longer but formally recognise and enforce the situation that already exists.

It's bloody awful, actually, the last thing we want to do, literally, not at all done lightly, and I don't know of any pastor or elder who either would not spare any effort to reach out to the person, being no less a saved sinner than they, or who would not feel something almost inexpressible should the step need to be taken.

As to the rest -- non judicare ut non judiceris, judge not that ye be not judged. Apart from the office of church discipline Christ gave to his church, the only person whose presence at Communion I have any business judging is my own.

Olympiada said...

Some questions. What's an impenitent? Is an elder like a bishop? What does it mean to put one outside one's spiritual community?

Past Elder said...

I'm going to defer to Pastor on these -- it's his blog, not mine, and he's a pastor, I'm not.

Except to say no, elders as the term is being used here are not like bishops at all. Elder is sometimes used to translate the word presbyteros in the New Testament, along with the cognate presbyter and sometimes priest, which we Lutherans, but not Catholics, see as the same office as bishop or overseer. Elder in a Lutheran congregation is not that at all, in fact, the pastor is! Confusing, huh?

Put simply, the pastor is the elder in the NT sense, Lutheran congregational elders are not. We are laymen, have not been to seminary, have no particular other training, are not clergy, nor do we make our living at it. We are simply laymen elected by our congregations to assist the pastor in some of his duties for a limited time, where I was, three years. Each member of the congregation (including the elders) is assigned an elder, not to replace the pastor at all, but to be of help to him in the spiritual care of the congregation. Elders also typically oversee worship -- the schedule of services, good order, set up and take down of the altar for services, so to speak, as well as often assist in the distribution of Communion. Elders meetings always include the pastor too, since we're there to assist him.

A "Past Elder" is simply a layman elected by a congregation to serve in that role whose term is expired and either did not stand for re-election (in my case, because I was not in the same synod or congregation any more) or was not re-elected.

Olympiada said...

So does the Lutheran church have bishops?

Mark said...

It's so cold around here that's it's taken me way too long to comment on the LCMS/ELCA distinction related to the Bible as Word of God. But here goes....

William, you mentioned the distinction this way: Bible contains the Word of God (ELCA)
Bible IS the Word of God (LCMS)

The official constitutional description is much close to IS than CONTAINS, however:

"The canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the written Word of God. Inspired by God’s Spirit speaking through their authors, they record and announce God’s revelation centering in Jesus Christ. Through them God’s Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world." 2.02.c

Past Elder said...

You ask the best questions, Olympiada!

My answer would be this: if by "does the Lutheran church have bishops" you mean does the Lutheran church have the office established in the NT to which the modern term bishop is sometimes applied, then yes we have "bishops"; if you mean does the Lutheran church have officers called bishops, then some Lutheran church bodies do but most don't.

In short, we have the office but generally don't use that word for it.

The RC, and presumably EO, answer would be, we may in some church bodies have officials called bishops but in any case they by whatever name are not "real" bishops in the office established by Christ.

So in the one case it depends on what you're aking, and in the other depends upon of whom you ask it! And in any case I'd say the Lutheran answer is we have the office and usually don't use that word for it.

Past Elder said...

Aking, the typo thing again! Asking!

Olympiada said...

past elder, I mean do you have bishops, as in overseers, as in rulers of a diocese? Do you have dioceses? Excommunication? Monastics? No, right? Icons (religious pictures)? Forgive my abhorrent ignorance about the Lutheran religion. First exposure I got to it was through my retired bishop, a former Lutheran, and my curiosity got sparked.

William Weedon said...


We have District Presidents, who are pastors serving to superintend larger geographic areas. We have excommunication. They are constantly re-elected, though, so not bishops in the strict sense of the word. There are hardly any Lutheran monks left, but there are some - google St. Augustine's House! Icons are not uncommon in Lutheranism and Lutheranism definitely opposes iconoclasm. My own parish has two large depictions of the Savior and a statue of Him (the statue is above our altar). Depictions of the saints is much rarer among us.

Olympiada said...

Pastor William, very interesting indeed! What are the grounds for excommunication in the Lutheran church and who makes that decision?

William Weedon said...

The ground for excommunication (I would think in any church, not just the Lutheran) is continued impenitence, despite repeated admonition from the Word of God. When formally done, a joint decision between the pastor and the parish, each of whom would have been involved in the admonition, in accordance with Matthew 18.