Sunday, June 18, 2006

Interesting Discussions

Rev. Paul McCain has stumbled into (but more likely kicked!) a liturgical hornets' nest on his blog Cyberbrethren. Interesting discusion, and as one might suspect when dealing with a subject so close to the heart and the soul as worship practices, very heated. Readers of this blog will note that I lean pretty far over into the camp of "chancel prancers." I'm not ashamed of that. There is great meaning and depth in historic forms of liturgical worship. And worship does form and shape doctrine, just as the kind of clothes one wears forms and shapes not only others opinions of him, but his own view of himself.

What I like the best about Pastor McCain's discussion is the idea that it is not right to radically change practices of worship in either direction. I'm not talking one pastor who chants the liturgy and another who speaks it. I'm talking no vestments, might-as-well-be-Baptist Lutherans vs. Lutherans who present worship styles that suggest prayer to saints, an unhealthy veneration of the Blessed Virgin (which some people might think calling Mary "the Blessed Virgin" is unhealthy), and an attitude of why-did-we-ever-leave-let's-be-more-Catholic-than the pope.

I fear that vast differences in worship practice in the LCMS is terribly confusing to laity, devisive among clergy, and in general do not in any way aid or adourn the Gospel of Christ. But, can anything be done about it? I worry about the possibility of a split in the LCMS a lot, but is there an alternative? Would it be better to split rather than calling ourselves a Synod? Isn't that kind of hypocritical? Just some thoughts.


kerner said...

I'm only a layman, and I can't even speak for other laymen, but from my limited observation, a big reason we Lutherans don't appreciate our liturgy is that we never talk about it. I was confirmed in adult confirmation 35 years ago. I don't remember if I was taught anything about the history and meaning of the liturgy then, but I'm pretty sure I have heard no teaching or preaching on the subject since then. It's just something we do. But, if it's only something we do because we always have, that really isn't much of a reason to keep doing it. Especially in a culture that values innovation as much as this one does.

So, we get "orders" of service based on fads, be they slick contemporary evangelical, or Nouveau-Roman. As a vicar, you have a lot of sermons ahead of you. Next time you preach, maybe you could work into your sermon a couple sentences defining what a collect (for example) is, and why we just said one. Then maybe your parishioners would be less likely to let that liturgical element be eliminated, because they would know what it is and appreciate it.

Jim Roemke said...

Very good point, Kerner, and I believe a key reason for so much misunderstanding and confusion regarding worship practices. Even at the seminary history, meaning and the reason we worship liturgically is not addressed. I've had to do a lot of self-study, which in turn leads to me picking what I want to study, which in turn leads to me having different ideas about liturgical worship than my brother who has gone on a different line of study.

I have made it my goal to educate as many people as I can, with my supervisor's support, at my vicarage congregation about the rich meaning and reason we do what we do. I will continue to educate people in whatever congregation I am called to. And I encourage lay people to ask their pastors questions about the liturgy. They may not have all the answers but it will encourage them to find out. Thank you again for your insights, and I pray God's blessings for you as you gather around His Word and Sacraments in liturgical worship.