Saturday, July 31, 2010

FW: What's At Stake?

Another reason to listen to Issues, Etc…


Feed: Stand Firm
Posted on: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 7:00 AM
Author: Scott Diekmann
Subject: What's At Stake?


Quoting from the July 13 segment of Issues, Etc. with Dr. David Scaer discussing the Lord's Supper:

Host Todd Wilken:

"What's at stake in these differences over the Lord's Supper among Christians?"

Guest Dr. David Scaer:

"What's at stake is that, what is at stake is Christianity itself, because if the position that the bread cannot be the body of Christ is allowed to stand, then the next step is that the body of Jesus cannot embrace the Son of God completely, and taking that to its logical conclusion you end up with Unitarianism or deism. This is exactly what happened to Puritan theology in New England which began in the 1600s, the 1700s. That morphed into Unitarianism very easily, and the emphasis then goes on, as soon as the emphasis goes on the sovereignty of God, the person of Jesus takes a second place, and basic, you change the whole nature of Christianity so it really isn't Christianity any more."

View article...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Resources Received

Littlejohn, Robert and Charles T. Evans. Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning. Wheaton: Crossway, 2006. 224 Pages. Paper. $14.99. (LHP)

FW: New Poll: The Common Service

A proposal and poll to consider…


Feed: Gottesdienst Online
Posted on: Monday, July 26, 2010 2:58 PM
Author: Pr. H. R.
Subject: New Poll: The Common Service


Gottesdienst has long been supportive of the use of the Common Service in English speaking Lutheranism. Our reasoning can be read in this modest proposal for the use of the Common Service today. This venerable English-speaking descendant of Luther's Latin Mass was once a rallying point of liturgical unity across American Lutheranism - and is the only serious contender for the role if such unity should ever be viewed as desirable yet again.


So what is the state of the Common Service in your congregation? Please answer the poll at right and put in the comments any notes you think worthwhile for others to read - for example, did you reintroduce the service where you are now serving? Did some pastor come in and take it away from you? Did you leave it for a while but then come back to it?


The congregations I'm serving now began holding Divine Service in English in 1915-16. The Common Service has been the only order of Communion ever used here in these 95 years. Any others with that kind of history? Anybody out there serving or attending a congregation where it's never been used? If so, when was that parish founded?





View article...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

FW: What Makes Lutheran Worship Lutheran?

More from Stephen R. Johnson…


Feed: Fine Tuning
Posted on: Friday, July 23, 2010 1:24 PM
Author: Stephen R. Johnson
Subject: What Makes Lutheran Worship Lutheran?


Part 2 in a series.

One of the most challenging things I faced as a former worship leader in the Evangelical Free Church was exactly how to define what worship was. One elder at the time quipped, "Ask 50 different people what worship is and you'll get 50 different answers." This was absolutely true and remains true today. One of the great things about Lutheranism is that it recaptures and explains a view of worship that is Biblical and objective–– not according to my whims, but according to what God says.

Worship is God gathering His church together so He might give to us His gifts. These are the gifts of His Word, Baptism, His Supper and His Holy Absolution. We are sustained through these things. Worship in essence calls us to get out of the way and let these things come to us, that we might receive them in gratitude and allow them to renew and shape our faith. As we hear the Word of God read and preached, we also share it together in our songs and hymns. Since we know that the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God, we do not wish to waste time singing things that are not the clear and well-explicated Word. Lutherans have always regarded our hymns as mini-sermons. This is because what we sing is just as important as what we hear preached. The Word of God present in our hymns sustains us in our faith.

The modern praise and worship craze that the Lutherans are now readily employing runs antithetical to our long held definition of worship. The songs do not proclaim God's Word in any substantial manner. Rather than appealing to the objective Word of God and expounding upon it, CCM appeals to our subjective emotions, insists that it is us who serves God in our worship rather than God who bestows his gifts as we gather. In modern praise and worship practices, we are to ascend into God's presence. I used several musical techniques used to accomplish this and it was all really emotional manipulation. But the impulse behind it was mysticism.

In Lutheran Worship, God descends to us, making His very presence real in the body and blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. This He does by the power of His Word and promise, and it is objective. Jesus' body is present in the Holy Supper because He says it is. And what He says, He does. This is a far cry from the impulse in modern Protestantism to want to experience God as some kind of internal happening. I used to hear people say, "Wow, Jesus was sure present in our worship today." As Lutherans we can be assured, by God's own promise, that Jesus is present in His Holy Supper, and through his Word, every single week, every time we gather around those things, whether we feel it or not.

The Sandi Patti song, "Lord I praise you because of who you are; not for all the mighty things that you have done…" is not exactly a CCM hit. But it emerged out of a culture where Christian entertainment has become very popular (and unfortunately imported into church worship). Sandi Patti became a very popular Christian version of say, a Celine Dion, but even before her. As you can tell by the first line of the refrain of this song, it is meant to communicate this: "Of course it is easy to praise God when you get something out of it, or when He does something for you. You ought to really praise Him for who he is. Then you know you will be praising Him rightly." As altruistic is this sounds, it is pure Gnosticism. Everywhere does Scripture praise God because of His actions. Look at song after song in Scripture. Start with the Psalms, look at the praises of Daniel, Moses, Mary the Mother of God and hosts of others. You don't even have to go any further than Psalm 136 to see how God is perpetually praised for what he does. Indeed, the Incarnation is the supreme act of God coming amongst his people in a tangible, external, real way. Jesus' life was a life of doing things: healing, teaching, serving, and ultimately, dying to forgive our sins–– an action on His part–– and then rising again, ascending, judging. This is the God who saves. Not the cosmic "who you are" that the song refers to. Folks, the modern praise and worship movement in all its manifestations is infested with Gnosticism. This runs thoroughly contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions and has been rejected in our historic worship since day one. We know who God is because of what He does!

Lutherans, ask yourselves the question: Is the music we are singing grounded in the objective, external word of God, or in Christian experience? Does it explicate scripture like a mini-sermon, or does it seek to create a mood, elicit an emotional response, or worse, "ascend" into a mystical experience with God?

Lutherans have always rejected a theology of glory in their worship. A theology of glory suggests that we contribute something to our salvation and growth. Everybody wants to feel as though we are gaining God's favor by our own actions. So we seek the mystical experience. We expect that we can encounter God in some tangible way by using the right music, in the right style, perhaps with a little mood lighting. We want God to make us feel His presence. Take a look at this popular CCM chorus: "In the secret, in the quiet place, in the stillness you are there. In the secret in the quiet hour I wait, only for you, cause I want to know you more. I want to know you, I want to hear your voice, I want to know you more. I want to touch you, I want to see your face, I want to know you more." Let me just say that one can sincerely believe everything this song says and still die in their sins.

Lutheran theology has always held that salvation comes to us as pure gift. We did not earn it and we do not deserve it. We merely receive in faith what God gives. And, by the way, that faith is a gift too. All of this is outside of ourselves. It is received by believing the promises; by grasping in faith that what God has said is true, not because it is validated through an "experience" with God. So, songs like that above, have no place in Lutheran worship.

Yet, amazingly, God in His grace has given us Himself to experience. He tells us, "taste and see." His very presence comes into our lives as a pure gift to be received by undeserving sinners. Clamoring after the mystical encounter with God as we are so inclined to do these days amounts to nothing more than unbelief. It is a refusal to believe the words, "This is my body… This is my blood." It is refusing to believe that those things are enough. We want more, so we must have our favorite music. We want more, so we insist on feeling something. We want more, so we must hear sermons that tell us what to do to be better people and contribute to our own justification. We're not content with God's gifts. We spurn His gifts by seeking after a more meaningful experience.

Check out a quote by a fellow named Mike Baker. I do not even know him, but am looking forward to remedying that. He, like me, is relatively new to Lutheranism. He, like me, was a worship leader in the praise band. He, like me, discovered great riches in the Lutheran Confessions. He has left some very inspiring comments in response to my previous blog which was highlighted at The Brothers of John the Steadfast site.

…By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit guides you–a broken desert hermit–to the Lutheran Confessions and you use that like a map to find this remote oasis where the waters of the Gospel flow in endless streams of beautiful, life-giving grace. And it's free! Not only that, but the water is PURE and there are people in the church [pastors] who have the sole job of just handing it out to you ALL THE TIME. Shoot, if you don't stick your hands out, they will put it in your mouth themselves! And the water isn't just to lure in new folk. It's for everybody! All the time! Did I mention it's free?

…and the stiff-necked people who have been lounging in the shade the whole time you were out there being made into beef jerky by false doctrine don't even know what they have. They don't even teach their own kids about the water. They are too busy complaining about how boring the water is and how it would be better to put in a coffee shop or cut down a lot of these pesky trees to get a better view of the outside world.

Mike did not know he was talking about me and the relief I found in the clear waters of the Lutheran Confessions, but he was. His comments are also about Lutherans who have taken God's gifts for granted and are seeking after things that will not provide what they think they will. Please consider our warning, not because we deserve to be listened to, but because we learned from our mistakes and observations, from many years of not realizing that God gave us worship so we might receive His gifts – and that is enough!

View article...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FW: Ten Good Ideas from Contemporary Hymn Writer Keith Getty

An interesting list…


Feed: Ancient Evangelical Future
Posted on: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 7:02 AM
Author: David Neff
Subject: Ten Good Ideas from Contemporary Hymn Writer Keith Getty


Irish songwriter Keith Getty began his workshop Tuesday at the National Worship Leaders Conference by telling those who had come to learn how to write a great worship song to leave. "Because art is the expression of life, you cannot 'how-to' creativity."

Getty collaborates with his wife Kristyn and friend Stuart Townend. "They're the words and I'm the music," he says, estimating that somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of the words of any of their songs are his. "But we both get involved on both sides."

Here are ten notable and worthwhile ideas edited and distilled from Getty's workshop comments:

1. The primary form we use is the story form. The gospel is primarily story. How do you take people who want 4-line worship songs and get them to sing 32 lines? By structuring the song as a story.

2. It is important to look at things that are harrowing and that don't necessarily make us feel happy. The central core of the Christian faith is not something that makes us happy. We need to acknowledge our need for a redeemer. The reason we worship is that we meet God through the central story of the cross.

3. We need lament. But if you want to write lament, remember that a successful lament resolves. Not into a happily-ever-after ending, but like the psalms of lament, by ultimately acknowledging that God is God.

4. To write strong melodies remember that folk melody has to be passed on orally (aurally). I try to write songs that can be sung with no written music. I imitate Irish folk melody, with a great deal of contour, of rise and fall.

5. Use pastors and theologians as resources for your writing. But keep company with them. Don't just ask them to fix your text here or there when you're done with it.

6. Trinitarian worship safeguards us from so many problems our worship can get into: either an overly stern view of god or a casual view of god. Both can lead to problems in our lives.

7. Martin Luther is one of ten people from history I would want to have coffee with. I have looked at a lot of Luther's hymns and emulated him. First, Luther had a high view of redemption. He also believed we live our lives in the midst of spiritual warfare. Thirdly, he had a high view of the church and a high vision of the church.

8. The congregation is the choir and it is merely the privilege of those of us who are musically gifted to help them sing.

9. Lyrics and great writing are the same thing. Lyricism is poetry. If your write lyrics, read as much poetry as you can. Lyricists are people who love words and do crossword puzzles.

10. Growing up, I never listened to pop music as a child. I was steeped in church music. That could be a blessing because everything I write can be sung by a congregation.

* * *

Christianity Today interviewed the Gettys in 2008.

Learn more about the Getty's work at their website.

View article...

FW: Luther’s Preface to the Wittenberg Hymnal

From Gnesio…


Feed: Gnesio
Posted on: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 1:10 PM
Author: admin
Subject: Luther's Preface to the Wittenberg Hymnal


That it is good and God pleasing to sing hymns is, I think, known to every Christian, for everyone is aware not only of the example of the prophets and kings in the Old Testament who praised God with song and sound, with poetry and psaltery, but also of the common and ancient custom of the Christian church to sing Psalms. St. Paul himself instituted this in I Corinthians 14 and exhorted the Colossians to sing spiritual songs and Psalms heartily unto the Lord so that God's Word and Christian teaching might be instilled and implanted in many ways.

Therefore I, too, in order to make a start and to give an incentive to those who can do better, have with the help of others compiled several hymns, so that the holy gospel which now by the grace of God has arisen anew may be noised and spread abroad.

Like Moses in his song [Exodus 15], we may now boast that Christ is our praise and song and say with St. Paul, I Corinthians 2, that we should know nothing to sing or say, save Jesus Christ our Savior.

And these songs were arranged in four parts to give the young–who should at any rate be trained in music and other fine arts–something to wean them away from love ballads and carnal songs and to teach them something of value in their place, thus combining the good with the pleasing, as is proper for youth. Nor am I of the opinion that the gospel should destroy and blight all the arts, as some of the super-religious claim. But I would like to see all the arts, especially music, used in the service of Him who gave and made them. I therefore pray that every pious Christian would be pleased with this and lend his help if God has given him like or greater gifts. As it is, the world is too lax and indifferent about teaching and training the young for us to abet this trent. God grant us his grace. Amen.

Via Luther's Works Vol. 53, pp. 315-16.

View article...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FW: LCMS Convention Worship Service

Yet another perspective…


Feed: Vocation in the Valley
Posted on: Thursday, July 15, 2010 6:22 AM
Author: Brian Yamabe
Subject: LCMS Convention Worship Service


I've seen many comments and posts about the Divine Service that was held on Saturday at the LCMS National Convention. Most focus on the eclectic nature of the music and some of the "contemporary" influences on the service. I want to focus on one item that made the thing a complete train wreck for me. Whoever modified DS1 and placed a stylized Kyrie between the Confession and the Absolution should not be allowed to arrange a service again. I was honestly baffled and kept wondering where in the world the Absolution was after I had confessed my sins. While we were singing this Kyrie my stomach was turning and I was confused. I flipped to the next page of the worship folder and found that the absolution was coming.

I did not care for the stylized Kyrie but that's not my quarrel. It inserted something that I needed to do between my confession and Christ's absolution. It was a different theology. In later talking to Pr. Weedon (sorry for the name dropping), he said that this is where Roman Catholics sometimes place the Kyrie. This was a clear example of substance being lost in the name of style.

View article...

FW: More Like the Baptists Every Day?

Another perspective on Convention worship…


Feed: Fine Tuning
Posted on: Monday, July 19, 2010 8:44 AM
Author: Stephen R. Johnson
Subject: More Like the Baptists Every Day?


As a former church musician in the Evangelical Free Church, I was for years immersed in efforts to use music to create enthusiasm for and numerical growth in worship attendance. The LCMS is going where I was, and subsequently left, in favor of a truly Lutheran brand of worship. The LCMS is looking more and more like the Free Church; not everywhere, but in enough places to cause alarm. And it is not so much about who is doing what, as much as there is a consciousness pervading the LCMS that is bound to make us into a more and more mainline protestant church and a less and less Lutheran church. Lutheran theology and worship is distinctive and has certain hallmarks that make it what it is. If we want to preserve these things, we need to speak more clearly about how we are not.

When Jesus comes again in glory to judge both the living and the dead, nothing will be set ablaze more quickly than 21st Century popular culture. Yet, it appears that we cannot wait to befoul ourselves with it. And the 2010 LCMS Convention provided some very good examples as to how. It was disappointing to me to witness the egalitarian manner in which worship music styles were treated. The arguments about how differing musical styles communicate different messages are well established, yet we insist on acting as if they do not, as if differing musical expressions carry no implications, for better or worse, one way or the other. At very least, the music of the pop-culture is carnal and not churchly.

The mainstream evangelical protestant denominations have seen fit to make their worship music reflect the sounds and moods of the secular popular culture almost exclusively. This trend is steadily increasing in the LCMS. The more the music sounds like the world, the better. This usually involves a drum kit, electric bass, electric guitar, and some kind of keyboard. And this has become the essential accompanying entity for their services. Out goes the organ, and even a piano, and in come the trap set, electric bass, and guitar. And this core group of instruments, with the timbres they produce, is the sound that defines contemporary worship music–– and for supporters, it is a requirement. Any other manifestation of a contemporary sound is of little to no interest for congregations intent on going in this direction. This, no matter how much better other contemporary initiatives may serve to uphold and illuminate the texts of the music being sung or how creative and masterful other stylistic renderings may be. For supporters of this approach, there is only one kind of contemporary music: rock-n-roll (or maybe jazz). How many of our churches are moving in this same direction?

It seems apparent to me that the LCMS Convention was trying to model both repertoire and performance standards for this pop/rock style–– a style that was presented, this year more than ever, as a perfectly viable option for any of our LCMS parishes to employ. So, just like the evangelical protestant, we are incorporating into our services a pop-culture sound, some parishes to a significant degree, where the sound of the band becomes normative and essential for our worship music, or so it is thought.

Nowhere was this more dismally exemplified than during the Karaoke styled, congregational hymn singing, setting traditional hymns to prerecorded hymn accompaniment tracks, using this pop-band style. This practice quickly made its way into evangelicalism a couple decades ago. Apparently it is more satisfying to sing a traditional hymn with a back beat, electric guitar and trap set rather than with an organ, piano or both, or even with combinations of other instruments. I seriously question whether most people think this is all that cool to begin with. But even if they do, I am more confident in this: the rock band accompanying a traditional hymn forces its text into a mood or spirit provided by the music. It should be the reverse. The text should inform how the musical accompaniment is crafted. This time-tested, honored, and responsible approach to hymn accompanying is all but destroyed when using the pop-band approach to congregational singing. And the evangelicals who have employed it have essentially given up using traditional hymns in their worship. This is because it does not work! Are we Lutherans doing the same thing?

Like the evangelical, Lutherans in many areas are already closing themselves off to real variety and creativity in worship music, in that, if the service does not have the exact kind of instrumentation and style they want, it does not pass for being contemporary enough. Take away that trap set or remove the electric guitar and the music is not truly contemporary! Like me, those contemporary musicians and composers who resist this style, are open to almost any style of music that does not attempt to mirror or bend the knee to the pop-culture as it is manifest in our day. We are open to a great variety of musical styles, instrumentations, textures, harmonic, rhythmic, and ethnic vocabularies. These are the tools we use as musicians. Our goal is musical quality, as we are musicians. Our great priority is to retain and exalt our rich hymn tradition from ancient and post-Reformation repertoires. Our goal also is to cultivate a churchly, contemporary musical expression that sounds like something other than what the world reserves for it's most licentious musical entertainments. Is this not a more responsible and creative approach than just simply engaging the pop-band?

Here's my concern for the LCMS and earnest Lutherans everywhere: After a decade of an all but complete endorsement of pop-culture styled contemporary music (as evidenced by this recent convention) we are moving in exactly the same direction as our Protestant evangelical counterparts. It would be interesting to see how many of our own congregations have minimized the liturgy to the barest framework, altered it to barely recognizable, or jettisoned it entirely–– as the mainline protestants have done. The more of this music parishes employ the less it will be thought that careful adherence to the liturgy will be necessary. Same with our hymns. In evangelicalism, hymns have all but disappeared entirely. How close are some of our parishes to doing the same? How many of your young people are learning hymns? Which hymns? Does it matter? In modern Protestantism, it clearly does not. Insofar as these things are happening among us, we may expect to suffer the same theological fate as the watered down services of the evangelical protestant. It will affect the thrust of our preaching and the definition of our worship, taking us further and further from our confessional moorings.

Next post will discuss how, even in the face of vehement protestations to the contrary, the employment of pop-culture styled contemporary worship music serves to erode our confessional theological precision.

View article...

FW: Contrasts to Convention Worship

One perspective on worship at the LCMS convention…


Feed: Confessional's Bytes
Posted on: Friday, July 16, 2010 11:27 AM
Author: Jim Pierce
Subject: CC: Contrasts to Convention Worship


During the course of discussion in a thread over at Brothers of John the Steadfast dealing with worship, I made the following comments that, as one person wrote responding to my points "I believe that this point bears repeating" and I couldn't agree more. So here it is.

"We cheerfully maintain the old traditions made in the Church for the sake of usefulness and peace. We interpret them in a more moderate way and reject the opinion that holds they justify. Our enemies falsely accuse us of setting aside good ordinances and Church discipline. We can truly declare that the public form of the churches is more fitting with us than with the adversaries. If any one will consider it in the right way, we conform to the canons more closely than the adversaries. Among the adversaries, unwilling celebrants, and those hired for pay, and very frequently only for pay, celebrate the Masses. They sing psalms, not that they may learn or pray, but for the sake of the service (as though this work were a service) or, at least, for the sake of reward. Among us many use the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day. They do so after they have been first instructed, examined, and absolved. The children sing psalms in order that they may learn. The people also sing so that they may either learn or pray." —Apology XV, 38-41, Concordia: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord

What I find interesting in the above reading from our confession is that music is meant to teach us doctrine. The songs are sung so that we may learn or pray. Today's "contemporary worship" tunes are not catechetical, they do not teach but instead are a form of entertainment. Music in many evangelical circles is used to set the tone of a worship service. The music is "mood music" and the "mood" to be set is our giving an excellent sacrifice of praise to a sovereign who, upon seeing our "sacrifice", will have mercy upon us and bless us. Such thinking is antithetical to Scriptural Lutheran worship where praise is in response to what God is giving us: the forgiveness of sins.

What I am writing about "contemporary worship" is no overstatement. The lyrics of CW songs tend to be "me" centered, focusing on something "I" do for God. "I" drives all the verbs in most of these songs. For example, take the lyrics of the following "praise song" which was sung at the LCMS convention (as reported by Scott Diekmann):

I will give you all my worship
I will give you all my praise
You alone, I long to worship
You alone, are worthy of my praise

How nice of "me" to give God something, as if anything I could give Him is better than a pile of stinking dead worms. No, the fact of the matter is that I am a sinner begging at the table of God and it is HE WHO IS GIVING while I receive His free gifts. The praise that comes off my lips after I receive His gifts are the words of a man who deserves death and eternal damnation. Indeed, I have nothing to give to the Lord, I am empty, hungry, thirsty, and He feeds me and fills me. My paltry thanks in response to the forgiveness of sins He freely gives to me is the thanks of a slave to his master. When I thank and praise God in response to His gifts, I do so from what He has given me. The lyrics of the "praise song" quoted from above, comes across as if I am giving God something that isn't already His, so pat me on the back for my good deed of worship.

Most contemporary worship songs are of the same stripe as that above. They are anthropocentric and push Christ to the background where He is relegated the task of "divine cheerleader" there to help us pull ourselves across the finish line one day.

My apologies if this sounds like a rant, but I have "been there and done that" and know the utter despair that arises from the theology of glory this stuff comes out of. It is a place I never want to go again.

View article...

FW: Update on Our Liturgical VBS, by Pr. Rossow

A preview of a series of articles on "Authentically Lutheran" worship…


Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Saturday, July 17, 2010 6:43 AM
Author: Pastor Tim Rossow
Subject: Update on Our Liturgical VBS, by Pr. Rossow


I was disappointed during LCMS Convention debate yesterday to see an amendment fail that would have required new starts to use Lutheran liturgical resources. For some reason many in our church body have bought into the myth that using non-Lutheran liturgical resources is beneficial. People like this will object to kneeling or making the sign of the cross because doing such is too Catholic but they do not hesitate to use, and even chase after, basic Protestant resources (Methobapticostal as many like to call them) that are born out of an unacceptable theology that rejects baptismal regeneration and God's gifts in the Holy Supper. Why would Lutherans not want to use Lutheran liturgical resources? It just does not make sense. We here at the Brothers of John the Steadfast use and promote the historic Lutheran liturgy.

What does make sense is how wonderfully the children of our VBS sang the liturgy this past week at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinois. This year we changed our VBS worship by dropping the typical camp-song format and using the same Morning Prayer liturgy that our children use for our Day School chapel each week. They sang it wonderfully. Someone on an earlier comment string quoted Pastor Cwirla as saying: "Give them something to grow into, not something to grow out of." That truism was on clear display at Bethany this week.

In my previous post I shared a few insights on how effective the liturgical approach was. Here are a couple mpre thoughts, this time from our closing VBS chapel service.

  • On the closing day yesterday we had two chapel services within three hours and the kids did just fine. As a matter of fact, they sang even better at the second service. Speaking of Rev. Cwirla, I felt like I was at a Higher Things Conference with so many chapel services.
  • The pre-service song was LSB #930 "All you works of God bless the Lord." That song became so popular during the week that some of the kids started singing the refrain while the pianist was merely introducing the hymn. They were so enthused about the song they could not wait to sing.
  • Speaking of piano, as I stated before, the combination of piano and organ for our instrumentation had a quieting effect on the children. Most every LCMS-er knows the uncontrollable buzz of a VBS opening chapel. I was amazed that once the organ or piano started playing each morning the buzz stopped. It is not that way with the camp fire/strumming guitars approach. (Strumming guitars have their place by the way. We use them occasionally at our chapels and even in the Divine Service but not as the primary instrumentation.)
  • The office hymn was LSB #578 "Thy Strong Word." It was also the theme hymn, It fit well with our week long emphasis on creation. We only sang verses 1,2, 3, and 6. The children liked the hymn so much that some of the boys complained that we didn't sing verses 4-5! Are you kidding me? How wonderful to have children asking for more hymn verses. Maybe the adults will get to that point some day.

Speaking of strumming guitars in the Divine Service, in the coming weeks I will have our Cantor, Phillip Magness, newly elected member of the LCMS International Ministry Commission, write a series of articles for BJS on our approach to worship at Bethany. We are not "traditional." We are not "contemporary." We are not "blended." The best way we have come up with to describe it is to call it "Authentically Lutheran." We use a variety of instrumentation (numerous choirs, conga, tympani, strings, brass, bells, piano, accordion, etc.), hymns and liturgies all coming from LSB. The Lutheran Service Book is a great resource for rich, varied Lutheran liturgy reflecting culture from around the world (Chinese, African, Hispanic, etc.). It is far from stuffy and ancient. It is living and breathing but it is Lutheran and historic. Another great example of this approach to worship in a congregation much smaller than ours is Hope Lutheran Church in De Witt Michagan where Cantor Nicole Lepella has worked a model similar to Bethany. As President Elect Harrison begins his year-long program of unifying the LCMS we hope he will take a close look at this approach to the liturgy as a model for the LCMS.

It was a wonderful week. The children sang the liturgy as well and in most cases better than the informal camp "liturgy" that we used in the past. This is not just happening in Naperville and De Witt. In a day or so I will be posting a video from a liturgical VBS at Pastor Heath Curtis' church in southern Illinois. Like our kids, they sang the catechism songs (see my earlier post) and sang them well. We are Lutherans. Lutheranism is the purest expression of the Christian faith. Let's not go running after other mixed (heterodox) expressions but be who we are, be proud of it and continue to preserve the faith with these Godly expressions.

View article...

FW: When Should a Worship Song Be Retired?

An interesting "overheard" conversation…


Feed: Worship Matters
Posted on: Friday, July 16, 2010 3:35 PM
Author: Bob Kauflin
Subject: When Should a Worship Song Be Retired?


I was talking with a pastor the other day about one of his worship leaders who has a hard time leaving old songs behind (as in "Shine, Jesus, Shine"). Apparently there are a few songs from the 80s that the worship leader still finds quite moving. Unfortunately, the pastor and many young members of the congregation don't share his enthusiasm.

Our conversation led me to think of a few questions that might be asked in this situation:

Is it wrong to retire old songs?
If so, how do you know the right time?
Do we even need to be singing new songs?
What makes a song "old?"
Once a song is retired, should we ever bring it back?

Here are a few thoughts on this topic. Hope they're helpful.

1. Most corporate worship songs won't pass the "time test." That's okay.
Charles Wesley wrote over 6500 hymns in the 1700s. Three hundred years later most churches don't sing more than 20-30 of them. Percentage-wise, that's not very impressive. But in terms of effect, few hymn writers have had a more lasting or broad influence than Wesley (Although Isaac Watts, who only wrote about 650 hymns, has a much higher percentage of longevity.) It's safe to say that in a hundred years we won't be singing most of the songs we're singing today on Sundays. Some will last one week, others for a few years, some for decades, and others will still be sung after we're gone. All have a place in a congregation pursuing both old and new expressions - psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs - of God's praise. (Col. 3:16)

2. Music can hinder or help the impact of truth on our hearts.
One of the primary purposes of singing as a congregation is to "let the word of Christ dwell in us richly," (Col. 3:16). But if that word is wedded to poorly performed, unsingable, or distasteful music, people may never hear the word at all. On the other hand when the music is appropriate, enjoyable, singable, and well-played/sung, it can heighten the impact of biblical truth on our hearts. That means we need to give serious thought to whether or not the songs, arrangements, and musical settings we use are truly helping people sing biblical truths with passion. Churches can err in one of two ways. Either our music is so "relevant" that people don't even notice the words, or our music is so foreign that people have a hard time connecting at all.

3. A song should be retired when the musical setting no longer inspires faith to sing the lyrics.
God intended music to affect us emotionally (Mt. 11:17; Job 21:12). When a tune or musical setting no longer does that, or affects us negatively, we can change the arrangement, alter the melody (if it's public domain), or stop using the song. It's a fact that we tire of some tunes more quickly than others. That doesn't necessarily mean they were bad to start with. It just means they aren't the "100 year" kind of melodies. Wise leaders are on the lookout for fresh musical expressions to complement those that have stood the test of time.

4. A song should be retired when there are better or just different songs you want to introduce.
More than a few times we've taught a song that seems like it will be around for a while. But when you teach around 18 new songs a year, as we do, there's just no way to keep doing all of them consistently. So some of them are retired by default.

5. Music leaders are called to submit their musical preferences to their pastor and congregation.
I said in my book that my iPod isn't the best place to start for choosing songs to sing on Sunday. What affects me personally may be vague, ineffective, or even offensive to others. We're to use our gifts "so that the church may be built up" (1 Cor. 14:6). While there are good reasons to expand the musical palate of a congregation from time to time (to display the glory of God in a variety of ways, enable a broader range of emotional responses, and provide a fresh setting for lyrics), I shouldn't insist a song still "works" when no one around me agrees.

6. Retired songs should be brought back based on their their lyrical, not sentimental, value.
To sing a song simply because it's a "old favorite" can subtly emphasize our musical enjoyment more than our passion for Christ. It's focusing on the "container" more than the "content" (an upcoming post). But there are times when an old, familiar song says exactly what you want to say, and people's hearts are filled with faith as they sing it (even "Shine, Jesus, Shine"). In the not too distant past I've used "In my Life Lord, Be Glorified,""Oh, Lord, You're Beautiful," and a few older Sovereign Grace songs that seemed to fit the moment.

More could be said, I'm sure. What about you? How have you handled retiring songs?


View article...

FW: Some Words about Presiding

I would also love to see a good DVD showing good presiding at Divine Service and for the Daily Office…


Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Saturday, July 17, 2010 7:09 AM
Author: Pastor Peters
Subject: Some Words about Presiding


You have often heard me speak about the need for Pastors to be as comfortable presiding at the altar as they are preaching in the pulpit.  Today I would turn you to the need for a group like the Synod Convention to be led by a good presider at the lectern.  We witnessed a very fine job of wielding the gavel from Synod President Jerry Kieschnick.  He exhibited humor, mastery of the facts, humility, wit, and fairness from the podium.  Whether or not you supported him for President and whether or not you supported the restructuring proposals he brought to the convention, you have to admire the good job he did in leading the delegates through a very long week of work.

I am convinced that this is one of the big problems in congregational meetings (both attendance and effectiveness).  The ability to lead a group of people through an often complicated agenda is not something possessed by all those elected.  A good presider can make it easier to get through and give the group the sense that all sides got to speak and the outcome was fair (even if it was not the one you sought).  So often this is why congregational meetings end up as gripe sessions.  When the agenda is not nailed down and the one presiding does not have that special gift, the result is that those who have complaints are given the forum and the opportunity to complain.  As bad as that is, it is worse when it appears that there is no real business to contract and that this meeting was a waste of time.  The complainers may cause moans and groans but the meeting that has no purpose or agenda only teaches people that there is no reason to be there in the first place.  Both gripe sessions and wandering meetings with no purpose discourage the involvement of the people in the pew in the work of the kingdom and this is not good.

I wish that someone could produce a short video on how to preside at meetings.  It would be a great help to those who must (often for the first time) lead a congregation through an often difficult agenda.  In our own congregation the first meeting which the newly elected President oversees is the budget meeting -- one which can and often is somewhat contentious.  It is a baptism by fire and sometimes the one baptized ends up being burnt.  Sometimes the people sitting in on the meeting end up being burnt.  So if any of you have an article or video on the fine art of presiding at meetings, send it my way...

View article...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Resources Received

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 6). Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2009. 593 Pages. Paper. (Cloth also available.) $29.00. (LHP)

Voicu, Sever J., editor. Thomas C. Oden, General Editor. Apocrypha (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament XV). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010. 547 Pages. Cloth. $40.00. (P)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Resources Received

From the LCMS Convention Exhibitors' Hall...

Koine. Koine. Milwaukee: Judas on Straight Street Records, 2005. Audio CD. $15.00. (H)

Koine. Gesangbuch.  Milwaukee: Judas on Straight Street Records, 2006. Audio CD. $15.00. (H)

Koine. Church Bells. Milwaukee: Judas on Straight Street Records, 2008. Audio CD. $15.00. (H)

Koine. Anno Domini. Milwaukee: Judas on Straight Street Records, 2009. Audio CD. $15.00. (H)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

FW: More of This and That | The Shepherd's Study

A recent mention of LHP QBR online...

Subject: More of This and That | The Shepherd's Study

FW: What? Words Matter

A forward of a forward is still good…


Feed: Confessional Gadfly
Posted on: Friday, July 02, 2010 8:30 AM
Author: Rev. Eric J Brown
Subject: What? Words Matter


Higher Things reports that Baptists are starting to get that hymn lyrics are important

It's an interesting article with quotes from just down the road. This sounds precisely like what Lutheran traditionalists have been saying for a long, long time. But now that the Baptists have said it, perhaps the "trendy" folks in Lutheranism will start doing it in 15-20 years.

View article...

Pulpit Review: Christ!

Gerhard, Johann. Translated by Richard J. Dinda. Edited with Annotations by Benjamin T. G. Mayes. On the Person and Office of Christ (Theological Commonplaces: Exegesis IV). St. Louis: Concordia, 2009. 406 Pages. Cloth. $54.99. (P)

McGuckin, John Anthony, editor. Thomas C. Oden, series editor. We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (Ancient Christian Doctrine 2). Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2009. 191 Pages. Cloth. $50.00. (P)

Two new volumes on Jesus Christ were a natural pair to review and recommend together.

"The Theological Commonplaces series is an first-ever English translation of Johann Gerhard's monumental Loci Theologici. Gerhard was the premier Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century. Combining his profound understanding of evangelical Lutheran theology with a broad interest in ethics and culture, he produced significant works on biblical, doctrinal, pastoral, and devotional theology. Gerhard interacts with the writings of the church fathers, Luther and his contemporaries, and the Catholic and Calvinist theologians of his day. His 17-volume Loci is regarded as the standard compendium of Lutheran orthodoxy, with topics ranging from the proper understanding and interpretation of Scripture to eschatology.

"The central figure of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. In this volume, Gerhard addresses the etymology of Christ's name, the divine and human natures of Christ, the personal union and communication of the two natures, the communication of attributes, and the office (or work) of Christ.

"Useful for research on Lutheran doctrine, Gerhard's accessible style makes this a must-have on the bookshelf of pastors and professional church workers.

"Each embossed hardback volume includes
•the translation of Gerhard's Loci (originally published from 1610 to 1625)
•a glossary of key theological, rhetorical, and philosophical terms
•a name index
•a Scripture index
•a carefully researched works cited list that presents guidance for deciphering the numerous abbreviations of the other titles from which Gerhard quotes" (publisher's website).

As much as I've like the Gerhard volumes CPH has published to date, I eagerly anticipated this volume on Christ.

Each section follows a similar format: Thesis, Antithesis, Support from Scripture, Support from the Church Fathers, and ultimately, "Practical Use."

You will read of Christ's threefold office (318ff), find a clear and detailed discussion of the famous "three genera" of the "communication of properties" (180-317, called "attributes" in English Pieper), a massive section on the personal union (Chapter VII), and will rejoice at an extensive glossary (331), helpful Scripture Index (342), and an AMAZING list of Works Cited (354ff). The scholarship of Gerhard is matched by the able editor of this English edition.

If you have yet to invest in Gerhard, buy this volume first! I can't wait for the next one.

Our other featured work is volume two of the new IVP series, Ancient Christian Doctrine.

 "Who do you say that I am?"
"This question that Jesus asked of his disciples, so central to his mission, became equally central to the fledgling church. How would it respond to the Gnostics who answered by saying Jesus was less than fully human? How would it respond to the Arians who contended he was less than fully God? It was these challenges that ultimately provoked the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.

"In this volume covering the first half of the article in the Nicene Creed on God the Son, John Anthony McGuckin shows how it countered these two errant poles by equally stressing Jesus' authentic humanity (that is, his fleshliness and real embodiment in space and time) and his spiritual glory or full divinity.

"One cottage industry among some historical theologians, he notes, has been to live in a fever of conspiracy theory where orthodox oppressors dealt heavy-handedly with poor heretics. Or the picture is painted of ancient grassroots inclusivists being suppressed by establishment elites. The reality was far from such romantic notions. It was in fact the reverse.

"The church who denounced these errors did so in the name of a greater inclusivity based on common sense and common education. The debate was conducted generations before Christian bishops could ever call on the assistance of secular power to enforce their views. Establishing the creeds was not a reactionary movement of censorship but rather one concerned with the deepest aspects of quality control.

"Ultimately, what was and is at stake is not fussy dogmatism but the central gospel message of God's stooping 'down in mercy to enter the life of his creatures and share their sorrows with them. He has lifted up the weak and the broken to himself, and he healed their pain by abolishing their alienation'. (publisher's website)

You may have missed volume one on the FirstArticle of the Nicene Creed. This is a great place to warm up to the ACD series.

Each section begins with the section of the Nicene Creed under consideration in the volume, reproduced in Greek, Latin, and English translation. The line in bold tells you the specific part under discussion. This is similar to the format of the predecessor Ancient Christian Commentary set. Those with ability in the ancient languages will benefit. The text is also quite accessible for those with only English. "True God from true God," (53) is shown to be an accurate translation of the Greek for true/truth. "Very God," familiar from some versions in English, copies the Latin "verum."

Page 68 introduces the famous Greek term invented by Christians to explain in shorthand a Biblical reality. Homoousioun = of one Being with the Father.

An "Outline of Contents" provides an unique three-page guide to the volume (182ff).

My only concern with this series thus far are the price of individual volumes. The set will be available at a discount. See IVP's website for individual volume discounts.

Christ is the message of the Christian church. These two books will equip pastors and laity alike to clearly and winsomely tell the Biblical Good News about Jesus!

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

Pulpit Review: Ancient Christian Texts

Scheck, Thomas P., Translator. Edited by Christopher A. Hall. Gerald L. Bray and Thomas C. Oden, Series Editors. Origen: Homilies on Numbers (Ancient Christian Texts). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009. 196 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. (P)

How many commentaries on the book of Numbers do you have on your shelf? Two are on mine.

This volume in the ACT series is a creative and unique way to add to your commentary toolbox and engage in some historical theology.

All too often, theological works of previous generations are ignored. My brothers, this should not be!

"Origen of Alexandria (185-254), one of the most prolific authors of antiquity and arguably the most important and influential pre-Nicene Christian theologian, was a man of deep learning and holiness of life. Regrettably, many of his works are no longer extant, in part due to the condemnation of his ideas by the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553. The condemnation, however, took little account of his historical circumstances and the tentative nature of his speculations. The anathemas were more likely directed toward sixth-century Origenist views than to the views of Origen himself, though clearly he expounded some views that would be judged unacceptable today.

"Origen's numerous homilies provide the oldest surviving corpus of Christian sermons and shaped exegesis for succeeding centuries. With Jerome he was one of the early church's great critical and literal exegetes. Devoutly he sought to develop a spiritual exegesis of the Old Testament grounded in the revelation of Jesus Christ. The Homilies on Numbers presented here offer a splendid example of his spiritual interpretation of Old Testament texts. He asks, What foreshadowing, what warning, what instruction, what encouragement, reproof, correction or exhortation, do we find in the narratives of Numbers for our benefit as Christians?

"Here, based on Baehren's critical Latin text, is the first English edition of these homilies, ably translated with explanatory notes by Thomas P. Scheck" (publisher's website).

Yes. This is a first English edition of these sermons. Did I get your attention?

Origen's homilies are peppered with "this reminds me of" moments, though without those specific words. Most folks call them allegories. I can see the danger involved, and do not wish to deny its threat to a literal understanding of Scripture, but much criticism of Origen has come about because of what his later editors and students said, and when Origen is quoted out of context. Sure enough, he says enough things that would not pass for orthodox in his day or ours, but this edition of extended writing by Origen should serve his reputation and today's Church very well.

We look forward to more volumes in Ancient Christian Texts.

Blessed are those who will reach this summit of blessedness; blessed are those who have climbed to these heights of merits, and blessed is our God, who has promised these things 'to those who love him.' These are the ones who are truly numbered by God in the sacred Numbers, or rather, they themselves are those whose 'hairs of their head have been numbered,' by Jesus Christ our Lord, 'to whom is the lgory and the power in the ages of ages. Amen.'

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

Upgrade to Finale 2011

If the following doesn’t show up well for you, visit the following web page.


We have been enjoying Finale 2010 for about six months now. Mostly, I’ve appreciated that it can handle (be handled by?) my Toshiba laptop with Windows Vista 64-bit.


Yes, there is a steep learning curve, but nearly all of your previous learning carries over to new upgrades. I’m looking forward to the lyric upgrade for Finale 2011.




From: Finale []
Sent: Thursday, June 24, 2010 9:49 AM
Subject: Upgrade to Finale 2011


Upgrade to Finale 2011. View this e-mail as a web page. View this e-mail on a mobile device. To ensure delivery to your inbox, please add to your address book.

Only $99.95

SAVE $20
use code "F11U2R"

Automatic Lyric Placement: Lyrics space themselves and the notes they're attached to automatically so that you can have engraver-level quality without manual editing.

New Music Fonts: Hundreds of new font characters are included for percussion, mallet, and handbell graphics. Also included is an AlphaNotes™ Font for use with beginning students.

Easier Staff Layout, new Quick Reference Guide, improved pick-up measures, and more.


Finale 2011 upgrade pricing is valid for registered Finale 2010 users in the US and Canada who use the F11U2R code when ordering. Offer expires October 15, 2010. Finale 2011 is a hybrid application with both Macintosh OS X and Windows versions on the same DVD.

We respect your privacy, to unsubscribe click here.

FW: Copyright – Fair use Checklist



See below…


Feed: Wild Boar from the Forest
Posted on: Thursday, July 08, 2010 12:07 PM
Author: forestboar
Subject: Copyright – Fair use Checklist


Thanks to Bob Smith at the Fort Wayne Library for posting the link.

For those who wonder, "Is this fair use?", the Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office has put together a fair use checklist.

Go HERE to see it.

View article...