Wednesday, June 30, 2010

FW: Good News from the Roman Catholic Church

Father Hollywood says…


Feed: Gottesdienst Online
Posted on: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 8:47 PM
Author: Father Hollywood
Subject: Good News from the Roman Catholic Church


By Larry Beane


One of the overzealous changes of the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church since the 1960s was a really loose translation of the Mass into English. But finally, after nearly a half century, the language is being rolled back to a more accurate translation.


One example is the wretched translation of the response to the salutation "The Lord be with you" (which since the 1960s has been rendered "and also with you") is being changed to the more literal "and with your spirit" - which is not just more faithful to the Latin, but also reflects the reality that this response is not just "hey, how ya doin'?" but is rather a recognition and affirmation that the priest is speaking by the authority of the Holy Spirit in his office.


There are always unintended consequences when things are dumbed down.


All these decades later, the Roman Catholic Church, largely owing to Pope Benedict's somewhat traditionalist-friendly leadership, is rolling back the dumbing down. Maybe we could say that their liturgy is being "smartened up." At very least, churchly and theological language is coming back into use.


This is important to Lutherans for the simple reason that, as the old saying goes, when the pope catches a cold, the Lutherans sneeze. At least since the 1980s, we have also accepted the 1960s Roman Catholic paraphrases of much of our Mass (such as LSB Divine Service 1 and 2's translation of the Gloria in Excelsis and the Sanctus), as well as the above-mentioned pastoral greeting and response: "The Lord be with you, and also with you."


The LCMS Commission on Worship had the opportunity to roll back "and also with you" across the board in the LSB, but inexplicably chose to retain what is, in essence, becoming a sectarian greeting in addition to being inaccurate (not to mention that there are three possible responses in LSB).


But the good news is that LSB (which I personally like very much overall) will not be the last word on English language Lutheran hymnals. In a couple decades or so, there will be another opportunity to fix some of these 1960s lapses in judgment.


Of course, there will also be another opportunity to royally screw it up. I guess that's the story of Church History in a nutshell.


Meanwhile, kudos to the Roman Church for this improvement, and hopefully, this particular papal sneeze of a more accurate translation of the ancient liturgy will find English-speaking Lutherans reaching for the Kleenex...



View article...

FW: Flung to the Heedless Winds

A hymn for this day…


Feed: Gnesio
Posted on: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 10:11 PM
Author: admin
Subject: Flung to the Heedless Winds


On this day (June 30) in 1523 "Flung to the Heedless Winds" was written by Martin Luther to commemorate the martyrdom of two young Augustinian monks, Heinrich Voes and Johann Esch, who were burned at the stake in Brussels. Voes and Esch had been condemned to death after examination by the Cologne Inquisitor, Jacob von Hogstraten, and at the instigation of the Louvain professors.

Flung to the heedless winds,
Or on the waters cast,
The martyrs' ashes, watched,
Shall gathered be at last.

And from that scattered dust,
Around us and abroad,
Shall spring a plenteous seed,
Of witnesses for God.

The Father hath received,
Their latest living breath,
And vain is Satan's boast,
Of victory in their death.

Still, still, though dead, they speak,
And, trumpet tongued, proclaim,
To many a wakening land,
The one availing Name.

German Text

Luther sings on of the two young martyrs:

By help of God I fain would tell
A new and wondrous story,
And sing a marvel that befell
To his great praise and glory.
At Brussels in the Netherlands
He hath his banner lifted,
To show his wonders by the hands
Of two youths, highly gifted
With rich and heavenly graces.

2. One of these youths was called John,
And Henry was the other;
Rich in the grace of God was one,
A Christian true his brother.
For God's dear Word they shed their blood,
And from the world departed
Like bold and pious sons of God;
Faithful and lion-hearted,
They won the crown of martyrs.

3. The old Arch-fiend did them immure,
To terrify them seeking;
They bade them God's dear Word abjure,
And fain would stop their speaking.
From Louvain many Sophists came,
Deep versed in human learning,
God's Spirit foiled them at their game
Their pride to folly turning.
They could not but be losers.

4. They spake them fair, they spake them foul,
Their sharp devices trying.
Like rocks stood firm each brave young soul
The Sophists' art defying.
The enemy waxed fierce in hate,
And for their life-blood thirsted;
He fumed and chafed that one so great
Should by two babes be worsted,
And straightway sought to burn them.

5. Their monkish garb from them they take,
And gown of ordination;
The youths a cheerful Amen spake,
And showed no hesitation.
They thanked their God that by his aid
They now had been denuded
Of Satan's mock and masquerade,
Whereby he had deluded
The world with false pretences.

6. Thus by the power of grace they were
True priests of God's own making,
Who offered up themselves e'en there,
Christ's holy orders taking;
Dead to the world, they cast aside
Hypocrisy's sour leaven,
That penitent and justified
They might go clean to heaven,
And leave all monkish follies.

7. They then were told that they must read
A note which was dictated;
They straightway wrote their fate and creed,
And not one jot abated.
Now mark their heresy! "We must
In God be firm believers;
In mortal men not put our trust,
For they are all deceivers;"
For this they must be burned!

8. Two fires were lit; the youths were brought,
But all were seized with wonder
To see them set the flames at naught,
And stood as struck with thunder.
With joy they came in sight of all,
And sang aloud God's praises;
The Sophists' courage waxed small
Before such wondrous traces
Of God's almighty finger.

9. The scandal they repent, and would
Right gladly gloss it over;
They dare not boast their deed of blood,
But seek the stain to cover.
They feel the shame within their breast,
And charge therewith each other;
But now the Spirit cannot rest,
For Abel 'gainst his brother
Doth cry aloud for vengeance.

10. Their ashes will not rest; would-wide
They fly through every nation.
No cave nor grave, no turn nor tide,
Can hide th'abomination.
The voices which with cruel hands
They put to silence living,
Are heard, though dead, throughout all lands
Their testimony giving,
And loud hosannas singing.

11. From lies to lies they still proceed,
And feign forthwith a story
To color o'er the murderous deed;
Their conscience pricks them sorely.
These saints of God e'en after death
They slandered, and asserted
The youths had with their latest breath
Confessed and been converted,
Their heresy renouncing.

12. Then let them still go on and lie,
They cannot win a blessing;
And let us thank God heartily,
His Word again possessing.
Summer is even at our door,
The winter now has vanished,
The tender flowerets spring once more,
And he, who winter banished,
Will send a happy summer.

View article...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Resources Received

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 8). Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010. 750 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. (LHP)

FW: Some Thoughts on Vestments...

….from Pastor Peters…


Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Sunday, June 27, 2010 4:47 AM
Author: Pastor Peters
Subject: Some Thoughts on Vestments...


Thirty years ago my home parish gave me money for vestments which I used to purchase kits from C.M. Almy and which my blessed wife stitched together.  They were presented to me at my ordination -- a two fold gift from both Golgotha Lutheran Church and from my wife.  I have cherished them and used them and use them still.  Good vestments, well kept, last a long time.

A little background... I grew up in a black gown parish.  Later I saw a surplice over the black gown (I did not know that this one was not an academic gown but a cassock).  Until I went to college, I had hardly even seen anything but black academic gown or cassock/surplice.  Once at college I was amazed at albs and stoles in the color of the season and chasubles to match.  I came home full of enthusiasm for what I had found, and the ladies of my home church ordered the kits and stitched together stoles.  I spoke to the Pastor about an alb and when I returned for the next break, lo and behold, he was wearing an alb and stole.  My home parish was never on the cutting edge of this vestment thing but was open.  Whenever I celebrate there, I have always worn an alb/chasuble; whenever I have led only the Service of the Word, I have worn cassock/surplice.

The one who taught me most of what I know about vestments is the sainted Dr. Edward F. Peters.  I knew him as teacher, mentor, and friend.  It is not that St. John's College was a hotbed of vestment experimentation but a few folks (Dr. Andrew Harnack and Dr. Peters) wore Eucharistic vestments.  At the Senior College I learned even more (even a tie dyed chasuble -- well, it was the 1970s and I was living on the wild side).  At Seminary I saw the culture shock as some of the profs who had come from black gown Central Illinois were suddenly introduced to the vestment collection at the Senior College.  I am happy to see that things have improved greatly from those first days of its return to Ft. Wayne.

At Redeemer on Rudisill I learned even more from another teacher, mentor, and friend -- The Rev. Charles Evanson.  He was there to move a parish that had been experimenting with some of the more edgy stuff to a classic style that fit its building and the Divine Service there a bit more.  He did it with much grace.

I have always worn alb/chasuble for Eucharistic services and cassock/surplice for non-Eucharistic services.  It is the way I was taught.  I also wear a cope for festival services (again, I defer to the sewing skill of my wife or I would not have had a cope).  I am not rigid about it but it is my customary practice.  The choice of vestments is a matter of taste (check out for those in not such good taste) but the wearing of vestments is something commended by our Lutheran history and Lutheran fathers.  Why?  Well, one good reason is that the wearing of vestments reminds us that the Pastor is there not as person but as office bearer to represent Christ to the gathered community through the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments.  These vestments tend to minimize personality in a way that street dress maximizes.  What we wear as clothing choices is reflected of our personality and taste.  The wearing of clergy shirts and collars and vestments is, to some measure, a means of masking the personality and taste of the Pastor and draw attention to the office and to the Christ who works through the Pastoral Office to distribute His gifts through the means of grace.

I am not legalistic in this but think it is one of those things that is good, right, and salutary -- it is the tradition of the Church but not without reason and it is a practice that we ought to consider before discarding.  In nearly every congregation that has some form of blended or contemporary worship, the Pastor is generally sans vestments, sans clergy shirt and collar, and even sans suit.  A tee or polo shirt and khakis have become the de facto vestments of the day -- all in the name of being casual.  In some respects, there is nothing casual at all about dress that draws attention to you as a person.  In some ways, the most casual way for a Pastor to appear when leading worship is in vestments -- casual in the sense that who he is as a person is masked or hidden by the vestments of the Office he bears.

Now I know that there will be those who reject my words or who think me presumptuous or even pompous about this.  I am making no rules but simply suggesting that the practice of the Church is wise, salutary for the Church and the Pastor, and in keeping with what we believe, teach, and confess.  And I am remembering the awesome gift given to me 30 years ago when the underwriting of my home parish and the skills of my beloved wife presented me with a set of vestments which I still wear quite happily...

View article...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Resources Received

Rehn, Amy. Song School Latin (Teacher's Edition). Camp Hill, PA: Classical Academic Press, 2008. 113 Pages. Paper. $22.95. (LHP)

Currid, John D. and David P. Barrett. ESV Bible Atlas. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 349 Pages. Cloth with CD and Poster. $49.99. (P)

FW: Commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

From Pr. Weedon's Blog...

Feed: Weedon's Blog
Posted on: Friday, June 25, 2010 6:45 AM
Author: William Weedon
Subject: Commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

From the Treasury and our Synod's Website:

The Augsburg Confession, the principal doctrinal statement of the theology of Martin Luther and the Lutheran reformers, was written largely by Phillip Melanchthon. At its heart it confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. Signed by leaders of many German cities and regions, the confession was formally presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Augsburg, Germany, on June 25, 1530. A few weeks later Roman Catholic authorities rejected the Confession, which Melanchthon defended in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531). In 1580 the Unaltered Augsburg Confession was included in the Book of Concord.

"I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings, O Lord, and shall not be put to shame."  - Psalm 119:46

"Our Churches do not dissent from any article held by the Church catholic.  They only omit some newer abuses."

Prayer:  Lord God, heavenly Father, You preserved the teaching of the apostolic Church through the confession of the true faith at Augsburg.  Continue to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

View article...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

LHP Review

Horton, Michael. Christless Christianity. Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2008. 270 pages. Cloth. $19.99. 800-877-2665 (LHP)

Dr. Michael Horton; J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, host of The White Horse Inn and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine adds Christless Christianity to his previous works, Putting Amazing Back into Grace, Too Good to Be True, Introducing Covenant Theology, and A Better Way.

Can there be Christianity without the Christ? Dr. Horton skillfully and correctly shows that in modern day America and many of its churches it is more than possible, it is sadly becoming the norm. Horton argues, with convincing proof, that the “the regular diet in many churches across America today: [is] “do more, try harder.” (pg. 17) He builds a case, over the course of the first five chapters, that clearly shows that modern evangelicals like Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and George Barna are not creating new heresies but returning to old false teachings that have been around since the church was born. Horton diagnoses the malady as “moralistic, therapeutic deism,” which he identifies as having roots in Pelagianism, (the moralistic footing) and Gnosticism, (the therapeutic footing). Chapter 2, aptly titled “Naming our Captivity” (mention is given to Luther’s Babylonian Captivity of the Church) presents Horton’s discussion of Pelagianism. In reality Horton suggests that the American church is more subject to semi-Pelagianism. “Much of Christianity in America, as elsewhere, stops short of being fully Pelagian…semi-Pelagianism says that salvation is a process that depends on the coworking of God and humans.” (pgs. 61-62) Horton asserts that Pelagianism, or the softer semi-Pelagianiam is man’s “default setting.” Gnosticism, enthusiasm, or “spirituality” is dealt with in reference to Dr. Horton’s claims, in chapter 5, also aptly named “Your Own Personal Jesus.”

Horton presents a lengthy discussion of modern evangelicals and their failures to involve or invoke Christ in his discussions in chapter 3, titled “Smooth Talking and Christless Christianity.” This chapter and the one that follows titled “How We Turn Good News into Good Advice” are Horton’s most convincing proofs of the removal of Christ from the church in America. Quoting Osteen, Hybels, Warren, Barna and several church growth proponents, Dr. Horton uses their own words to show that his diagnosis is based on careful observation of the symptoms of the disease. Interestingly, in chapter 4 the author shows how this removal of Christ is accomplished by confusion of Law and Gospel (legalism), taking the Gospel for granted and then provides a discussion of properly distinguishing Law and Gospel, and why both are necessary in the life of the church, in the life of Christians.

While Dr. Horton applauds churches and pastors for preaching Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 1) and maintaining an emphasis on the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, there is ample indictment across the theological spectrum in this work. The disease has infected most, if not all, confessions in America. “Even Lutheran young people who were active in the church could not define grace or justification.” (pg. 42)

Dr. Horton indicates that there is a sequel planned for this work. However, from this reviewer’s perspective this book stands on its own quite well. It identifies how American culture, and old heresies, has influenced the church to the extent that Christ becomes secondary. In fact, as shown, Christ becomes nothing more that a “life coach.” He is not Redeemer and Savior, but good moral and therapeutic example. The answer to the problem, the captivity, of the disease that infects much of the church is faithful preaching of the pure Gospel (Christ), as well as the law, along with administration of the Sacraments that Christ has instituted for salvation and its assurance. These means are emphasized well throughout this book.

This book is recommended reading for pastors, laymen, for the whole church. Reading Christless Christianity will be of benefit and will encourage those who are faithful to Christ and His Word.

The Rev. Ted Bourret is Pastor of Salem Lutheran Church, Gurley, Nebraska and St. Paul Lutheran Church, Potter, Nebraska, and a regular contributing reviewer of QBR.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FW: We Live in an Opportune Moment for Lutheranism

On Lutheran books…


Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 7:00 AM
Author: Pastor Peters
Subject: We Live in an Opportune Moment for Lutheranism


Some 38 years ago when I started out my college prep for the Pastoral Office, the bookstores at seminaries and colleges were filled with works by Tillich and Moltmann.  These were the cutting edge names of theologians and these were the things that dominated the marketplace of ideas.  You could still find Henry Esther Jacobs or Charles Porterfield Krauth but you had to dig through stacks of other works to get to them.  There were wonderful little books available by Ernst Koenker but in order to find them you had to dig through liturgical works of a more speculative and fringe nature.  You could still find Paul H. D. Lang and Frederick Webber around but they were passe' by then.  Now the marketplace is filled with the reprints of the classics from the past and wonderful new works by confessional and liturgical authors.

I remember how hard it was for me to find a copy of Regin Prenter's Spiritus Creator or Von Schenk's The Presence and now these are rather easy to come by.  I recall sitting in front of that large microfiche viewer at articles that were long out of print and unavailable in paper form and now the internet is filled with pdf copies of such things.  I cannot forget typing for hours (3 times no less) all 202 pages of my master's thesis with its requirement of less than 3 corrections per page (can we say carpal tunnel) and now I sit down and push out articles for a daily blog, write mini-treatises on theological forums, and finesse sermons with the aid of cut and paste.

No, if Lutheranism finds itself under the gun, it will not be for a lack of the richest library, the deepest periodical pool, and the widest selection of resources available.  We can give thanks to some of the good folks at Concordia Publishing House for their amazing turn out of new and old books (a real power house of late) and some smaller publishing houses (Repristination Press, ALPB Books, Ballast, Wipf and Stock, and the Luther Academy (to name but a bare few). Oh, it is true that some of the mighty have fallen (witness the deterioration of a once wonderful and strong publisher of orthodox Lutheran works -- namely Fortress Press).  Overall, however, we are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition that is largely still available and accessible to us in print.

We have great new authors pumping out books that both inform and challenge us (think Art Just for example) and translators making things available in English that were once lost to us (unless we could translate Latin or German).  We have more of Luther's works underway and commentaries and commentators galore to open up the full treasure of the Scriptures, study Bibles to assist our reading and learning of God's Word, hymnals and their accompanying resources to make us as conversant with what is on the page as were those who brought out the LSB.  We have spiritual guides and prayer books to help us maintain a regular and rich devotional life (think Treasury or John Kleinig).  God bless us for the tools... can we develop the skills to us those tools?

But are we reading them?  What good are these treasures of they are not mined?  What good are these resources if they are not used?  What are we left with if we listen only to the moment and not the voices of the fathers (early and Lutheran included)?  I lament that we live in such an opportune time and yet so often the richness of this moment is lost to us.  We rush out to buy the latest church growth promise in paperback form or can eloquently discuss the latest Parish Paper from Lyle Schaller or know intimately that latest tracks from the newest Christian diva, but we do not know our own tradition.  We talk in a language foreign to us instead of the vocabulary of the Confessions so that Lutherans actually speak of decisions for Christ, for example.

No, it is not for lack of resources.  For we live in a rich moment and one of the most opportune times for Lutherans to learn about Lutheranism and come to terms with who we say we are...  You can find things on YouTube about Bach and his witness through music, you can purchase facsimiles of the ancient papyrii or Dead Sea Scrolls, you can download to podcasts of great teachers, and you watch dvds of great teaching series on the six chief parts... but unless we are conversant with these great resources, we are like those who choose fast food to answer a craving for boeuf bourguignon and then wonder why all that we eat tastes the same.  There is a richness and depth to the Lutheran fathers that is completely lost to us -- not for lack of resources but for our lack of interest.  Here is a voice to say read, learn, and inwardly digest...

View article...

FW: Good Hymns Confess Specific Truth

I echo Dan's point here after having lived for 5 years in LDS territory…


Feed: Necessary Roughness
Posted on: Sunday, June 20, 2010 9:02 PM
Author: Dan
Subject: Good Hymns Confess Specific Truth


There is a funny yet sad maxim that runs in the circles of Christian musicians:

Q: How do you know whether a hymn is Christian?
A: The Mormons change the lyrics when they sing it.

A couple of weeks ago Time Out featured Holy, Holy, Holy, hymn 507 in the Lutheran Service Book. The first stanza if you recall goes like this:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Below is a video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing this hymn. The video features many depictions of Jesus, but check out how they sing the first stanza:


Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in His glory, blessèd Deity!

…and that's where the record scratches. God is no longer the triune God, the three in one and the one in three that we just confessed the last Sunday of May. Mormons do not confess the Trinity, thus the lyrics needed to be changed.

We have a treasure in Christian hymnody that maintains correct doctrine and faith in the Truth. Our hymns must do more than not confess false doctrine; they must confess true doctrine. It is not sufficient that we believe in a god, but the God that revealed himself to us in His holy word.

As pastors and musicians choose hymns for worship, they should be care not only to choose tunes that people sing but choose lyrics that embed Biblical truth into our minds and hearts. We can sing non-doctrinal songs the rest of the week (how else could I enjoy my Duran Duran? :)), but our time in worship should be with the Holy Spirit in, with, and under the words and ideas God gave us. The Holy Spirit bears witness about Christ (John 15:26) and thus is not to be found in generic statements, obfuscations, or false doctrines.

HT: Ellie Corrow

View article...

FW: You are what you do...

What are your favorite hymns? Answer for yourself and then read the following…


Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Sunday, June 20, 2010 5:48 AM
Author: Pastor Peters
Subject: You are what you do...

We all have perceptions of ourselves that are not objective or truthful.  We see ourselves more often as we want to be than as we are.  That is true of congregations and church bodies as well.  But the reality is that what we do is often a better revealer of our hearts than what we say.  Partly this is due to inconsistency but moreso to the fact that we see what we choose to see, how our experiences shape us, and according to the values we hold dear to us.

Each congregation and each Pastor face this challenge.  We are what we do.  We can say that we hold this or believe that but if it is far removed from our prayer and practice, it will be equally far removed from our beliefs and faith.  So, for example, we can say that we hold the Eucharist in high regard but when it is only occasionally celebrated or occasionally received, our practice counters our words.  We can say we believe the Word of God is efficacious but when we direct and manipulate that Word toward a specific goal we are admitting in practice that we believe the Word will not do what it promises unless we direct it so.  We can say we believe that God's Word is truth but if it is an unused and unapplied truth, then our practice says something different than our confession.

Within Lutheranism there is rather broad latitude about some practices.  Some Lutherans have bishops and some do not.  Some Lutherans have voters assemblies and others do not.  Some Lutherans have schools and some do not.  Some Lutherans have active social ministries of care and compassion and some do not.  Some Lutherans have six month long catechism classes and others 3 years and others nothing.  We can argue for or against these things and still be well within the range of Lutheran identity and practice.

Within Lutheranism there are other practices about which there is no similar latitude. This is not because a particular taste or preference is Lutheran but because these practices go to the heart and core of what Lutherans believe and teach and confess.  To violate them is to live in conflict with the core values and identity of Lutheranism.  Some of these include the Law/Gospel dialectic, the ecumenical creeds, weekly Eucharist as the Hauptgottesdienst, infant baptism, justification by grace through faith, etc.

We do not get to choose which practices are broader or narrower -- these are defined for us in our Lutheran Confessions.  While we can approach with fraternal admonition those within our fellowship whose practice borders the fringe or exceeds the boundaries of our Confession, discipline is not personal but belongs to the Church.  While we may desire to impose personal desires upon others, they cannot bind the consciences of others.  Only the Church can restrain our freedom to apply the Confession to a place and time and the Church must do this or there will be no effective boundaries at all.

I have often said that if you want to know what people think in their heart, ask them to name their favorite hymns.  In this way what we do shapes what we believe -- despite our words to the contrary.  Or, you can put this another, more classic form... lex orandi, lex credendi.... Either way the point is the same -- you are what you do...  For this reason practice is a legitimate arena of judgment and for this reason our practices  continually are examined and bound to the Confessions of the Church... and this is how it should be...

View article...

FW: Cool J.S. Bach Website



Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Sunday, June 20, 2010 4:27 AM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: Cool J.S. Bach Website


Received this nice note from Robert Eickmann and wanted to pass this along to you. I stumbled across a number of related websites this morning and knowing your love of Bach thought of you. I realize that you might already be aware of BinAural Collaborative Hypertext, however if you are not it would be sad to rob you of this tool through thoughtlessness. Be sure to check out the "Showcase"

View article...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Resources Received

Schulz, Klaus Detlev. Mission from the Cross (Lay Reader's Edition). St. Louis: Concordia, 2010. 125 Pages. Paper. $12.99. (Special Introductory Price: $9.99!) (LHP)

Jones, Paul S. What Is Worship Music? (Basics of the Faith Series). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2010. 43 Pages. Staple Bound. $3.99. (LH)

Gordon, T. David. Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2010. 189 Pages. Paper. 12.99. (H)

O'Donnel, Douglas Sean. God's Lyrics: Rediscovering Worship Through Old Testament Songs. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2010. 211 Pages. Paper. $15.99. (H)

A Noted Review: "Holiday" Fiction

Meade, Starr. Keeping Holiday. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 192 pages. Paper. $14.99. 877-872-2871 (N)

Starr Meade, author of Training Hearts, Teachings Minds, an educator and director of children’s ministry, provides the whimsical fantasy book, Keeping Holiday. In the style and spirit of C.S. Lewis, Mrs. Meade presents the story of young Dylan and Clare, cousins, who journey to find the real “Holiday” and the “Founder.”

Since the book is intended for juvenile audiences, (ages 5 and up) this is an easy reading book of only 13 chapters. Mrs. Meade uses fantasy, allegory, and symbolism in spinning the tale of Dylan and Clare as they encounter darkness, mystery, deception, intense fear and finally joy on a four-day search for “Holiday” and “authorization” to keep “Holiday” forever. In the book “Holiday” appears to represent heaven, while “authorization” it would seem, represents the Biblical doctrine of justification.

While being an easy reading book, the concepts presented are anything but easy, and at times are extremely challenging. Rated as a book intended for juvenile audiences, I am not sure that youth at age 5 could clearly and easily understand these concepts. I had difficulty identifying the clear and concise Christian meaning or teaching, in the midst of the fantasy, allegory, and symbolism. Several times I had to read and re-read portions of the book in clarification.

Mrs. Meade makes it very clear that “authorization,” which represents justification is not the work of Dylan and Clare, even though they search for the “Founder” in order to be authorized. A common and recurring line in the book is, “you don’t find the Founder, He finds you,” Throughout their misadventures of darkness, being lost, struggles and challenges, Dylan and Clare are always “found” and led by the “Founder” even while they never see or actually meet him. Ultimately, they find that they were “authorized” by the “Founder” (and thus able to keep “Holiday” forever) long before they realized their changed status. Jesus said, “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10). And St. Peter writes of the call of the Christian sinner by the Gospel, by God, “who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9). Keeping Holiday alludes to these Biblical doctrines and truths. However, and this is the most serious weakness of this book, there is no clear presentation of the Christian Gospel in the person and work of Christ Jesus. While the “Founder” must be concluded to be Christ Jesus, this is difficult to apprehend. Justification (or “authorization”) is not clearly presented as being accomplished and declared on account of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on behalf of the lost, or those in the darkness of sin and death. The closest the book and author comes to this is when Dylan speaks with Missy the mistletoe, about the “Founder.” Missy says, “The Founder not only paid what they owed the Emperor [God, the Father], he also offered himself to the Emperor as the one who would meet all those requirements.” (emphasis added)

Keeping Holiday does not make reference to the “means of grace” by which the Holy Spirit calls, gathers and enlightens the church. The “Founder” does call Dylan and Clare out of trouble and temptation with his voice or with his word. And at least on one occasion, the “Founder” provides much needed nourishment (bread) and strength to the young travelers on their pilgrimage. Mrs. Meade provides that once a person is “authorized” (justified) they then, and then only, do good works (list on page 68) which properly places sanctification in relationship to justification.

While the book has some theological weaknesses, and especially so from a Lutheran perspective; it was fun to read, and unexpectedly challenging. I don’t believe it is appropriate for younger readers (certainly not for 5 year olds), but could be interesting for more mature readers (even someone as old this reviewer!).

The Rev. Ted Bourret is Pastor of Salem Lutheran Church, Gurley, Nebraska and St. Paul Lutheran Church, Potter, Nebraska, and a regular contributing reviewer of QBR.

FW: Confession and Liturgy Remain Inseparable in a Healthy Church

Another Sasse quote…


Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Friday, June 18, 2010 4:55 AM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: Confession and Liturgy Remain Inseparable in a Healthy Church


"Confession and liturgy belong inseparably together if the church is to be healthy. Liturgy is prayed dogma; dogma is the doctrinal content of the liturgy. The placement of liturgy above dogma, for which one hears calls in the liturgical movements of all confessions with the well-known saying "lex orandi lex credendi"…, has been opposed in the Roman Church by the present Pope Pius XII] in his encyclical "Mediator Dei", in which he points out that one can also turn this saying around and that in all circumstances dogma should be the norm for the liturgy. If that is already known in Rome, how much more should it be known in the church that makes…the right understanding of the Gospel also the criterion for the liturgy."

Hermann Sasse, The Lutheran Understanding of the Consecration, in We Confess the Sacraments, trans N. Nagel, Concordia, 1985.

View article...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Noted Review: Creation Apologetics

Chaffey, Tim and Jason Lisle. Old-Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict Is In. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008. 207 Pages. Paper. $12.99. (N)

This volume is an in-house correction/discussion guide for Christians when they disagree about creation and evolution. Some are overt evolutionists, denying Genesis outright. Others think God used macro evolution to "create," a problematic position at best. A few speak of "day ages" contrary to the clear Hebrew word. Chaffey and Lisle have a helpful book for Christians, pastors, and congregations in my own Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. They support the Bible's clear teaching of a seven day creation (actually six as they point out with the day of rest).

Old-Earth Creationism on Trial tries and convicts well-meaning fellow Christians for teaching the "millions" and "billions" beliefs espoused by countless books, public school science curricula, and museum after museum.

Martin Luther is among those quoted positively over and against modern authors (74ff).

I particularly appreciate the insight that the eight who survived the Flood used names they knew of the pre-Flood world to describe and name the renovated world. Re-use of the names "Tigris" and "Euphrates" don't refer to the same rivers of early Genesis as they do after the Flood (88).

Objections are handled point by point in alternating prosecution and defense chapters in the book.

And the authors propose a way forward to a proper, honest, and important discussion for Christians.

Read and use this book to help prepare your family and friends (especially young people) to respond to the biases of what passes for modern science.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

FW: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, A Sinner: A Litany

Let us pray…


Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Thursday, June 17, 2010 7:57 PM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, A Sinner: A Litany



I recently was expressing concern to my friend Pastor Weedon about a "litany" I saw being promoted for use by youth groups, well, ok griping, moaning and groaning about it, to be more accurate. It was shockingly and embarrassingly bad. Pr. Weedon simply responded by saying, "Ignore it and pray this."

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy On Me a Sinner

A Litany by Pastor William Weedon

Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Word of the Father,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, the Word through whom all things were made,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, foretold by the prophets in signs and words,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, in the fullness of time conceived by the Holy Spirit,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Holy Virgin,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, hymned by the angels,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, adored by the shepherds,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, worshiped by the Magi,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, held by St. Simeon,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, praised by St. Anna,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, obedient to your parents,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to a sinner's baptism,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, fasting in the wilderness,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, driving out demons,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, cleansing the lepers,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, teaching the precepts of the kingdom,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, raising the dead,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, walking on water and changing water into wine,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, praised by the little children,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, riding into Your city as the sacrifice appointed,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, giving your body and blood to be eaten and drunk,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, praying in the garden,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, bound and mocked,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, stripped and beaten,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, innocently condemned to death,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, opening Your hands upon the cross to embrace the world,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, knowing the loneliness of our exile and our sin,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, trampling down death by death,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, pouring forth water and blood to save the world,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, sanctifying our graves by lying in a tomb,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, harrowing hell and releasing the prisoners,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, rising in victory over death and corruption,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, appearing to the disciples in the broken bread,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, ascending in triumph,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, High Priest who ever lives to intercede for us,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, coming on the clouds of glory to renew all things,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, returning to judge the living and the dead,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, delivering the Kingdom to God the Father,
have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

View article...

LHP Review: Context for Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Conspiracy and Imprisonment 1940-1945 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 16). Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006. 882 Pages. Hardback. $60.00.  (LHP)

Just over a year ago, I began service in a new call. This is one of the review books I brought with me from Morrill, Nebraska to Sheridan, Wyoming. In that time, there have been some changes in how we have done our work here at LHP QBR. We have transitioned to a blog. Some reviews have been delayed by pastoral care emergencies. We have expanded the number of reviewers. We have renewed our focus. In order to continue doing this to some extent and do justice to my vocations of Christian, Husband, Pastor, School Headmaster, and Worship Chairman for the LCMS Wyoming District (the reason for my service here as QBR editor) our reviews are hopefully more to the point. The shorter length also meshes well with the emerging practices of the blogosphere.

Bonhoeffer lived and served in a time of tumultuous change. The developments in my life are given better perspective with every new release in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series. I can identify with Bonhoeffer in his vocations of Christan, man, pastor, and scholar. Do we always agree? No. Is that supposed to limit how much I can learn from him? Not in my mind.

"This volume, published in the year of the one hundredth anniversary of Bonhoeffer's birth, documents Bonhoeffer's life under the increasing restraints and fateful events of World War II Germany.

"In hundreds of letters, including ten never-before-published letters to his fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer, as well as official documents, short original pieces, and a few final sermons, the volume sheds light on Bonhoeffer's active resistance to and increasing involvement in the conspiracy against the Hitler regime, his arrest, and his long imprisonment. Finally, Bonhoeffer's many exchanges with his family, fiancée, and closest friends, demonstrate the affection and solidarity that accompanied Bonhoeffer to his prison cell, concentration camp, and eventual death." (publisher's website).

Some DBW volumes provide new critical editions (in English translation) of his main published works. The latter volumes in the series provide the aforementioned sermons, notes, letters and other documents that provide the all-so-important context for his major works (187), news of the time (Mass Deportation of Jewish Citizens, 225ff), and the life decisions (being secular, 328ff; a letter for after a successful coup, 572ff) that led to his imprisonment and death. Perhaps that is why I take exception to the use of inclusive-language translation of historical documents (25). I do look forward to seeing Letters and Papers from Prison (DBW 8), Fiction from Tegel Prison (DBW 7), and Ethics (DBW6). The Appendix 1 map of Bonhoeffer's Germany was particularly helpful.

I wonder if the "martyr" question is even a helpful one. Did he really die as a direct result of his confession of Christ? No. That's my opinion. Was it unjust? Yes. Was Bonhoeffer persecuted as a Christian and as a pastor in Nazi Germany. No doubt.

I enjoy reading Bonhoeffer the theologian. When we writes in harmony with Scripture, he excels. "The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God's Yes to Christ and his work of expiation" (473). Might this be confusing to laypeople? Sure. I appreciate his insight, fresh language, and courage. He holds to both baptizing and teaching as God's means of making disciples in the face of those who would abolish infant baptism (571).

Critique Dietrich Bonhoeffer as you will (and perhaps should). He was willing to critique himself. And we can learn from him in that regard, too.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pulpit Review: Luther Is Back!

Luther, Martin. Edited by Christopher Boyd Brown. Luther's Works, Volume 69 (Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapters 17-20). St. Louis, Concordia, 2009. 469 Pages. Cloth. $49.99. (P)

Luther, Martin. Translated and edited by Charles Daudert. Foreword by Paul L. Maier. Off the Record with Martin Luther: An Original Translation of the Table Talks. Kalamazoo, MI: Hansa-Hewlett, 2009. 495 Pages. Paper. $19.95. (LHP)

When I started working at the seminary library, I was told that after Jesus Christ, more books were written about Martin Lutheran than any other human being. Yet, The American Edition of Luther's Works remined at 55 volumes (plus the Introductory Volume) for far too long. Much of the Weimar edition will likely never be seen in print in English (though online access would be a great idea to make the work of translating more cost-effective.

I have the privilege of introducing you to a fresh translation of the Table Talks at a bargain price and a new official addition to the American Edition of Luther's Works by Concordia Publishing House.

CPH says this...
"About the Series: The twenty planned new volumes are intended to reflect both modern and sixteenth-century interests and to expand the coverage of genres underrepresented in the existing volumes, such as Luther's sermons and disputations. The primary basis for the translation is the comprehensive Weimar edition.

"About this Volume: Volumes 22–24 of Luther's Works: American Edition did not give us all of Luther's preaching on the Gospel of John. Now, in the new volume 69, we have Luther's exposition of Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17, as well as his preached meditations on the entire passion and resurrection of our Lord according to John. In LW 69, Luther is an expert guide through the mysteries of Lent and Easter. Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown's introductions and footnotes in many ways surpass the scholarly apparatus of the old series. Brown sets Luther's commentary in the context of patristic, medieval, and contemporary Reformation commentaries on John in order to show what was most important to Luther as he preached on Christ's passion.

"The last part of the new volume is truly unique. For the first time, we have collected and translated all of Luther's sermons on John 20:19–31, where Jesus breathes on His disciples, gives them the Holy Spirit, and bestows on them His authority to forgive and retain sins. This passage, which is quoted and explained in many editions of the Small Catechism, as well as in the twenty-eighth article of the Augsburg Confession, has been the center of not a little controversy over the years. The sermons here in LW 69 show in what ways Luther's explanation of this passage changed through his career, and in what ways it stayed the same. In every sermon Luther's concern to uphold the forgiveness of sins through the word of absolution is clear and heartening.

"Become a subscriber. Each volume is currently priced at $49.99 each, but as a subscriber you pay only $34.99 plus shipping, a 30% saving. Volumes will release once a year and will be shipped to you automatically. To become a subscriber, view prospectus, view table of contents, or read testimonials visit This product also available through the Libronix Digital Library System" (publisher's website).

By now you may be looking at your set on your shelf and wonder why there was a need for this volume. Think of volume 69 as the volume that was missing between the original numbers 24 and 25. With this book you will have a completed Luther commentary on the Gospel according to St. John.

The format of the volume has the familiarity of the original volumes, yet with a freshness of font and subtle formatting improvements. One will immediately notice the references to the Weimar edition page numbers on each page of this translation. Page 350 explains other changes in format due to differing texts by different scribes or print editions. Page 377 explains the use of new angle brackets.

Luther on John 17, verse 3: "Behold, this is what this text means as well: If you want to have eternal life, there is no other way, method, or means than by knowing the Father, the only true God, through Christ, His Son, whom He has sent. Whoever proposes anything else to you will certainly lead you astray" (36).

Some from Luther's time to ours try to twist Luther's words to justify their own ideas. Nicolaus von Amsdorf would have none of that (145)! Luther has special insight into how Pilate could have shown the Jewish leaders they were breaking their own law (229). Page 323 gives context to the Invocavit sermons and the doctrine of Absolution. Page 407 is a reminder that Luther suffered from kidney stones.

My experience with this volume was as my Lenten devotional. I highly commend it for your use in that way in 2011. Volume 69 is a treasure, an essential purchase, and a vital future part of your theological library!

Let me allow Dr. Paul Maier to introduce Off the Record  in his own way:
"Anyone acquainted with the voluminous writings of Martin Luther will know that his comments while dining at table with his family, students, and friends show the most fascinating side of the great reformer. Here he was under no obligation to dispute theology, sermonize, or indulge in philosophical speculation. Rather, just as wine is supposed to loosen one’s tongue, so the conviviality of table conversation succeeds even better in revealing one’s inner thoughts and outer observations, which is especially the case in Luther’s Table Talk.

"Here we find his choicest opinions, wry comments, unguarded remarks, passionate involvements, and, above all, his best humor. Martin Luther had a sense of humor that was as huge as the man himself, and he loved to regale guests at the dinner table with the latest witticisms he had picked up hither and yon. Some of his jokes provoke laughter to the present day, despite the ravages of time and circumstance. Probably it was his capacity to see the funny side of things that helped support the man in the face of the enormous challenges in reforming an apparently unreformable church—one man against the world of his day.

"In the four-storey Black Cloister at the eastern end of Wittenberg where Luther lived with his family—a gift of Frederick the Wise—it was open house all year at the Luthers. University students roomed and boarded there, visitors used it as a hotel, while relatives and friends dropped in regularly, especially at mealtime. The world is forever grateful to the students who had the foresight to take up pen, as well as fork, to record the master’s words as he presided at the table.

"To be sure, several editions of Luther’s Table Talk are currently available, and one may wonder why another such is necessary. First, the popular translations available are reprints of a 17th Century translation that has been discredited. What is less known is the fact that only about twenty per cent of the authentic six volumes of the Tischreden in the Weimar edition of Luther’s writings have, in fact, been translated. Accordingly, many scholars of the Reformation are minded to do a full translation and commentary on all or most of Luther’s Table Talk. I, for one, had planned such a project—until, that is, Charles Daudert showed us all how it should be done! Any frustration or even jealousy that I might have had was quickly submerged in the joy of reading material from the great reformer that I had never before encountered, which only added to my appreciation for Luther’s fresh originality and his way with words and phrases.

"Fair warning to the reader: in the Table Talk, Luther is at his unwary best and not hindered by such niceties as prudence, propriety, etiquette, or convention. Some of the material is salty, saucy, and even “over the top.” At such passages, it would be well to remember that Luther himself did not write this material or sign-off on it. It is all recorded by his eager students, who somehow managed to eat meat and potatoes at Luther’s table, yet also take copious notes on whatever he said. His dear wife Katie, who alone could balance the books in the Luther household, thought students should pay advance royalties to her husband—knowing that the material would eventually be published. But Luther countermanded the idea: actor that he was, he needed an audience, not money. Besides, he said, 'I never worry about debts: when they are gone, there will always be more.'

"Modern tastes may also frown at the hyperbole and exaggerations in which Luther so freely indulged. There is no question but that if Luther had had access to a computer, he would have used italics, bold, and underline for much of his discourse. That was his way, but also the way of Old Testament prophets, New Testament evangelists, and especially that of Jesus Christ Himself.

"One need not be a Lutheran to relish this material, nor, on the other hand, will Lutherans concur with all the thousands of insights Luther unleashed before his table guests. Everyone, however, will agree that this is fascinating reading served up in a graceful—and faithful—translation by Charles Daudert, and I heartily recommend it to anyone, especially those intrigued by the Reformation era" (Paul L. Maier's Introduction as reprinted from the publisher's website).

Charles Daudert has been very busy. He has taken on an unique challenge. And his hard work has paid off.

Yes, I prefer the format of the Concordia/Fortress American Edition. That said, it's hard to argue with an accessible, larger-print $20 paperback.

I will take issue with the use of the term "consubstantiation" as an adequate explanation of the Lutheran position (337). Non-Lutherans use it to make-believe that we have a philosophical theory for the real presence instead of being willing to acknowledge that ours is actually the Biblical position on the Supper. Some other minor typos pepper the volume like "rouge" for "rogue" on 106. Apart from those brief items, I loved the rest!

The translator/editor has wisely chosen to put some of this "complete" translation into a separate downloadable document. This supplement provides "the deleted sections of Table Talks [which] contain language used by Martin Luther which many persons consider offensive or statements which may easily be misunderstood. Such comments can detract from the particular converstation and may adversely reflect upon Dr. Luther and the Reformation, especially when taken out of context, a popular practice of these times. The original, unedited, and uncensored versions of those sections are published in this supplement for use by pastors, Luther students and academics." A wise decision!

In the main book, the paperback, quotations are organized by topic first and then by date.

A choice quote: "Money is Satan's scripture, through which he works in the world, just as God does everything through the true Scripture" (97).

Another: "To speak slowly is best suited for a preacher, because he canin that fasion more thoughtfully and exactly put forth his sermon. Seneca also wrote about Cicero that he spoke slowly and from the heart" (226). My wife first gave me this advice. And Luther is also a good advocate for Classical Lutheran Education!

I say this to one and all, including myself: Christians need to read more Luther. Enjoy your time in the Word with one of its best students.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

An Update: A lay reader's edition of Mission from the Cross

I want to alert our readers  to “Mission from the Cross: Lay Reader’s Edition,” which is a companion volume (125 pp.) intended to put lay leaders and church workers on the same page.


The introductory price is $9.99. Even at the regular price of $12.99 this would be a bargain.


Visit and place your order!



FW: If You Cannot Sing...

A good Tuesday thought about Sunday morning…


Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 7:24 AM
Author: Pastor Peters
Subject: If You Cannot Sing...


In our Sunday morning Bible class we are reviewing the Bible in the Liturgy.  In preparation for the step by step walk through the liturgy, we began with a discussion of singing and music in relation to worship.  Of course, the weight of those passages was decidedly toward the Psalms.  An offhand comment I made provoked some discussion so I thought I might touch upon it here.

While we tend to think of music as reflective of individual, personal taste, music is a gift from God for the purpose of worship and praise of Him who gave us this gift.  God never asks of us that which He has not first given to us and so it is with music.  While music is dominantly secular today, it was not always so.  Perhaps only a few hundred years ago and music was predominantly sacred.  Choral music and music sung by an assembly remains dominantly religious in nature.  There are few places where people gather as a group to sing that do not relate to worship.  So even though we are tempted to believe that music has become predominantly a secular enterprise, we are reminded that we spend most of our time singing, singing in Church.

Now there are those who say that singing is not my thing.  Some will confess (and not falsely) that they do not have a singing voice or the musical ability to carry a tune.  I might go the path of those who say God said "make a joyful noise" and therefore it does not matter how badly you sing or how tone deaf you are, add your noise to the mix and do not be shy.  My experience is that folks who do not sing or cannot sing do not appreciate being told to bellow like a cow and God will be glorified by it all (even though the Christians brothers and sisters around you may be scandalized).

I would suggest something very different.  If you cannot or do not sing, do NOT stand there with your hymnal shut and your eyes looking around.  Open your hymnal, place your eyes upon the text, move your lips, and sing in your heart and mind.  The words and music that you cannot sing, you may speak in your heart and mind and move your lips to testify to this worship of "silent" singing.  It is ridiculous to stand with the book shut and your eyes, heart, and mind wandering around the sanctuary while others sing.  It is selfish to listen to others singing (remember they are not singing for you but to the Lord).  It may not be salutary to join your voice if you cannot sing or your singing may distract from the song itself.  Therefore, move your lips to show you are part of the assembly, read the words in your minds, and sing in your heart with the congregation that it may truly be the song of all that is lifted to the Lord with thanksgiving and joy.

Many years ago a rather blunt and mean spirited Pastor told my Dad not to sing because he sounded like a sick cow.  Let us not continue to promote such foolishness and rudeness in the name of God.  Congregational song is for all the people -- even if some will by necessity sing silently -- not with their voices but joyfully in their hearts.  Hymns are the songs of the Church, the heritage of the faithful who went before us to which we add our own contributions -- the best of today for His glory.  Let them continue to be the song of the Church (and all who are part of that community of faith).  So I refuse to say not to sing but rather to sing in your heart if you cannot sing with your lips but to join us in that song, to move your lips as testament to your place within the great choir of the faithful, and let the Word in that song speak to you and through you and the music support that Word in its flight of praise, thanksgiving, worship, and witness (the great marriage of text and tune).

There is nothing sadder than to survey a people gathered in song only to see some folks standing there as if the congregation were singing for their benefit or they were not a part of this assembly called and gathered by the Spirit.  So do not stand apart but join the community by singing in your heart, reading with your mind, and moving your lips in testament to the words that speak to us the Word and, in turn, speak it to the world in witness.

View article...