22 August 2008

Melancholy Musings as the Grass Clippings Fly

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.


Phil said...

The situation is quite sad, but you do know that the whole problem was that the liturgy and doctrine were taken for granted, no?

...Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

What happened is we traded our birthright for a bowl of red lentils. We had an identity - we knew who we were - and as such, we could lead others to us, we could share what we had. This is where God is present for us.

Now, we have adopted a consumerist attitude - we are competing for the Christian market, so we have to satisfy the wants of that consumer group. We no longer proclaim, we placate. We no longer advise, we advertise. Because somehow we thought this was a business - because somehow we thought we should do what everyone else is doing.

We forgot who we are in Christ. To forget that is to forget Christ Himself.

"Now you've got me all depressed!"

O.H. Lee said...

It has been said in this situation before: "As the glory or shame of a nation is read upon its battle-fields which tells for what it perilled the lives of its sons, so my the glory or shame of a church be determined when we know what it fought for and what it fought against; how much it valued what it believed to be the truth; what was the truth it valued; how much it did, and how much it suffered to maintain that truth, and what was the issue of its struggles and sacrifices."

C.P. Krauth, "Conservative Reformation", p. 147

Rev. James Leistico said...

well, if you are going to be depressed anyway, at least use the depression to get a chuckle. Read today's Dilbert (saturday Aug 23 - www.dilbert.com), think about a certain synodical leader being the pointy haired boss, and replace the quote in the last pane with this:
"I believe you call it 'Ablaze'"

Scott Larkins said...

As my grass clippings fly in this wonderful Missouri humidity, I thank God for faithful Pastors like you and my pal Pr. Kevin Golden. Grace Lutheran Church -
Holts Summit, Missouri.

There is hope for our Synod.

Scott Larkins said...

Or not....


Drive through prayer? What? Where am I? Somebody pinch me!

wmc said...

The liturgical problem also affects our outreach. No longer are we able to do outreach together as a synod, not even as district or circuit. We are reduced to congregations and their pastors vying for a share in the religious marketplace. Sad indeed. I remember growing up in the LCMS when that name meant something liturgically and confessionally.

The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.

Past Elder said...

I quite agree with the above. But I suggest it is incomplete.

Pastors enjoy an education in liturgy and theology that is quite apart from the experience of the average person whose butt is in the pew.

For that matter, laypeople who are into this stuff enough to be out here blogging about it are also atypical of the other butts in the pew.

Aquinas one remarked that revelation contains some things we could have figured out for ourselves, but are too busy trying to make a living and care for our families to spend a whole lot of time figuring things out.

Point being, lex orandi lex credendi. Which on the ground means people go with what they see and do, not see and do as the result of academic and prayerful inquiry.

When those of sufficient background busy themselves with liturgical busywork, and the result become an order of service, a rite of worship, which is no longer a rite in the sense mentioned elsewhere on this blog but a matter of "settings", options a and b for this and that, the lectionary we have "always" used or a new one, the calendar we have "always" used or a new one, why would they not think of worship as something fluid, a matter of settings and options depending on "taste", and wonder why we should not explore yet other "options" and "settings" that seem to work for others?

When that is the lex orandi they see even from the liturgically minded, why should that not be their lex credendi? There is absolutely nothing in their experience or background to prevent it.

What we have is the same thing Luther described in the Preface to LC, applied now to the whole matter of corporate prayer and life, of what happens when we don't stick to a single thing and do engage in all sorts of explanations inappropriate to the hearers.

IOW, we have let in through the back door what we try to keep out through the front, then wonder why it is here! When they see contemporary options equally valid with the traditional under the banner of liturgy, why should they not be open to more contemporary options?

That is the step that came before the consumer mentality. First came the variety of products, then came the marketing. There is no marketing apart from a market, and it is too little too late to criticise the marketers when it is we who created the market!

PS -- since LCMS seems intent on enjoying, so to speak, the fruits of Vatican II about a quarter century or so behind the times, the whole drive by prayer and confession thing was joked about years ago in the aftermath of the post-conciliar slaughter. We called it Toot and Tell.

-C said...

I have thought about this post alot in the last couple of days.

It made even me profoundly sad.

William Weedon said...

Terry...how did you get so smart? :) I agree in substance.

William Weedon said...


Yet our Lord is the expert at turning sorrow into joy. And so we sow in tears and wait for the turning...