14 July 2009

A Beautiful Selection from a 19th Century German Homily

by Max Kommet, Superintendent of Lüneburg-Celle. Dr. Herl pointed this out to me and we both found it striking on a number of points:

"The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is so full of burning love, its reception so full of grace and righteousness, but then also its celebration the highpoint in the life of the congregation. According to the thinking of Christian antiquity, every complete Congregational divine service culminates in the celebration of Lord’s Supper, to which according to the old Christian practice the whole congregation went every Sunday. They viewed the celebration of the Supper as the high point of their congregational life.…..

They built their chancel so that the altar was the summit. Our Divine Service is as the climbing of a great mountain. It begins with the cry from the depths: “Lord, have mercy!” and lifts itself up to the confession of redemption in the Angel’s song: All glory be to God on high! Then it climbs higher with the epistle and the gospel, to which the Creed echoes back. After the sermon comes intercessions for all troubles and estates upon earth. Then after the bidding of prayer, the giving of thanks proceeds, with the call: Hearts on high! And the course climbs onward. In the thanksgiving we mingle voices with the choirs of the Church triumphant, as we sing with them the thrice holy hymn, and with the Hosanna greet Him who draws near in His Supper. On our knees we pray the Our Father and receive the Words of Institution. From one level to the next we have ascended, and now the congregation has arrived at the summit of the mountain: above her, heaven is open, before her a divine table spread with one bread and one cup for all, she herself one family of the children of God. A household of brothers and sisters in Christ. There is something deeply moving about this journeying of the congregation to the altar, as if it called out in our hearts: “I will arise and go to my Father,” and now the dancing begins in our Father’s house, and the the Kingly feast commences and the angels rejoice, and the Father frolicks over having found again his sons and daughters gathered at the table. They receive Christ’s body and blood, confessing this is nothing else than was upon the Cross. As Paul said: “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death,” and so it is. For every celebration of the Supper is a great proclamation of Christ’s death before God and the world. Here is the high point of the Divine Service, which then draws quickly to a close with the Canticle of Simeon: “Lord, now you let Your servant go in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” For at the summit of the mountain the Lord has met us in the mystery of the Sacrament, as near as we can draw to Him in this pilgrimage."

As a sort of visual, check out this (HT: McCain):


Jon Townsend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon Townsend said...

Das Bild ist absolut toll!!
Wenn ich das nur als einen Wandplakat haben koennte!!!

William Weedon said...

Warum kannst du nicht das Bild aufgecopy and upgeblow zu machen deinen Wandplakat? ;)

William Weedon said...

P.S. That's the kind of Deutslisch we speak in the Weedon house. All upge, um, all mixed up!

Jon Townsend said...

Wow, that was like talking to my aunt 20 years ago. Spoke German up in Frankmuth until she came to Detroit to marry my uncle in the late 40's. Genglish.
Already playing with enhancing and making it bigger, without losing the quality.

Anonymous said...

That's what's known as "Die Schoenste Lengevitch"

(The following is the title poem from a book of that title, published in Chicago in 1925)

Den andern Abend ging mei Frau
Und Ich a Walk su nehme'.
Of course, wir koennten a Machine
Affordern, but ich claime
Wer forty Waist hat, wie mei Frau,
Soll exzerseizah, anyhow.

Und wie wir so gemuetlilch geh'n
Elang die Avenoo,
Da bleibt a Couple vor uns stehn.
Ich notiss gleich ihr' Schuh',
Und sag zu meiner Frau: "Christine,
Ich mach a Wett' das zwei Greene.

A Greenhorn kennt man bei sei Schuhs
(Das muss ich euch erklaere).
Ich wunder wie sie's stende tun
So tighte boots zu weareh.
Es gibt mir jedesmal a pain--
Doch dass iss somet'ing else again.

Der Mann stared mich a while lang an
Als wollt er etwas frage,
Denn blushed er wie a Kid bis an
Sei hartgeboilten Krage,
Und macht a Bow, und sagt zu mir:
"Par-dong, Sir, holds ze tramway here?"

"In English," sag ich, "oder Deutsch
Da kann ich fluent rede,
But die Sprach wo du talke tuhst
Die musst du mir translehteh."
"Sie sprechen Deutsch? Na, lieber Mann,
Wo haelt denn hier die Strassenbahn?"

"Ah, wo die street-car stoppe tut!"
Sag ich, "das willst du wisse'!
Well, schneidt hier crast die empty Lots,
Der Weg is hart zu misseh',
Und dort wo du das Brick House siehst,
Da turnst du und laeufst zwei Block East."

"Ich fuerchte ich belaest'ge Sie,"
Sagt er, "mit meinen Fragen;
Doch wuerden Sie so gutig sein
Mir das auf Deutsch zu sagen?"
"In Deutsch!" schrei ich. "Na, denkst denn du
Ich talk in Tschinese oder Soouh?"

Beited der Nerf nich einiges?
By gosh, es iss zum lache'.
In vierzehn Tag' vergisst der fool
Sei eig'ne Muttersprache.
Wenn's net for uns old Settlers waer
Gaeb's bald kei Schoenste Lengewitch mehr.


Past Elder said...

Judas H Priest, and I thought Bavarian German after about 100 years in Minnesota was different!

The graphic should be for a frontlet before our eyes.

Unknown said...

Fr. Weedon,

Question: My German is not all up to snuff but I think I read in the diagram that the Creed is said before the homily?

Was that something that was done in earlier times?

Excuse the ignorance.


Unknown said...


I should add that I know modern day Anglicans and Roman Catholics (if I'm not mistaken) sya the creed after the homily

Phil said...

Thanks for the quotation, Pr. Weedon.

Wasn't this the sort of thing that Loehe said, and people said that he went too far in making the Sacrament the summit of the liturgy? (Not that I necessarily agree with them.)

Anonymous said...

Das Bild ist absolut toll!!
Wenn ich das nur als einen Wandplakat haben koennte!!!

Auch für mich bitte!


Anonymous said...

I am going to give a hat tip to my sister, who is still in an ELCA congregation, to take a look at this.

I'm guessing it will bring tears to her eyes.

What a beautiful reminder of the treasures of our historic liturgy.


EBJ said...

Thanks for providing this Pastor Weedon. I found it interesting that they knelt for the Our Father and Words of Institution. Was this a traditional practice among Lutherans?


Bishop Robert Lyons said...

I love this kind of description of the Divine Service, but in this day and age, it almost takes a mystic to appreciate the concepts. There was a time when this kind of background concerning the liturgy was taught in the Church, but today, rational Protestantisim (based on an unholy reliance on flawed human reason) has stated that we are 'reading too much into it' when we give such deep interpretations to the sequence of events in the Liturgy.

There is a conservative Lutheran Church in Canada that has a similar diagram up, in English, which is very useful (though not tied in to the design of a Church:


(The whole page is good, but scroll to the bottom to see the image I am talking about).

Thanks for sharing this!


mlorfeld said...

Having acutely tuned my pietism radar, I have to say, High Church pietism is still pietism. I'm not so sure how the imagery of "climbing" is in any way helpful in describing the Divine Service. In fact, that is precisely THE problem I have with American Evangelical/MethoBaptiCostal "contemporary worship"... it seeks to climb up to God.

Rather, in the Divine Service we are... served by God. It is for this reason that uniquely Lutheran architecture placed the Kanzelaltar (pulpit-altar) in the center of the people.

Phil said...


Are you saying that sanctification plays no role in the liturgy?

(My understanding is that justification is divinely monergistic, but that sanctification is synergistic. If you want to exclude anything related to sanctification, then I think you would be forced to deny the sacrificial/sacramental distinction in the Confessions.)

I think there comes a point where the label "Pietism" can be made to function on the same level that "Romanism" is used.

mlorfeld said...

Phil, I would actually disagree. I do not see this as a justification/sanctification thing (and for that matter, if sanctification is to be "made holy" then it too is monergistic... good works those we are active in... but that's not sanctification... in this regard I think Pieper is in part less than helpful and in part wrong).

In fact the liturgy itself places us in the role of beggar with "Kyrie Eleison" as our refrain (I actually remember hearing Pastor Weedon preach on this a few years back whilst I was still at Seminary). Considering the source, time period, and content, I am confidently standing by my observation that this is indeed Pietistic in the bad sense. It ascribes a theology of glory to the Divine Service where we climb up to God.

Phil said...

What do you say is the role of the sacrifical aspect of the liturgy, then? There's a big difference between saying that divine grace is the part of the liturgy that is causative and of the utmost importance on the one hand, and on the other hand saying that in the liturgy the believer's will simply sits back and watches. Luther's Antinomian Theses, which I'm currently going through, are helping me clarify some of these points.

This would seem to undermine the entire meaning of the liturgy (the versicle-response structure, for example). I'm no big fan of "climbing" language, but to the extent that we conform to God's will, can't we be said to do good works?

The "Kanzelaltar" has always seemed to me to be more Protestant than catholic.