Tuesday, November 23, 2010

LHP Review: Gathered Guests

Maschke, Timothy. H. Gathered Guests: A Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church (Second Edition). St. Louis: Concordia, 2009. 605 Pages. Paper. $24.99. http://www.cph.org/ (LHP)

I was a fan of Maschke's first edition. It had 542 pages then and now has 605. What's different here?

Concordia's Second Edition of Gathered Guests has Lutheran Service Book specifically in view. The cover even compliments the hymnal's color. Unfortunately, the cover is now paperback. I would encourage the publisher to make a hardcover version available for the college/university/seminary market. It will simply be more durable, and in the long-term for church workers, serve longer.

More importantly, the Appendices have been expanded, including the addition of "Worship Theses in a College Setting" recommended as preparatory reading for district representatives to the January 2010 Model Theological Conference on Worship. 

The original Preface has been reordered (and expanded) becoming the new Preface and new Introduction.

One will note the greatest expansions (not already mentioned) in Chapter 22, "Variety in Worship." Extended additions later in the section addressing "Worship Wars or Worship Choices" describes what is going on at worship in American Christendom. Maschke writes sensitively, and with much detail about the varieties of so-called "Contemporary" forms and song. He does not shy away from explaining controversies or sharing helpful critiques. His is a helpful voice in the cacophony of confusion. This could lead all to consider the theology and practice of others and our own perspectives first, and then, in a more informed way, commenting on the state of our unity (or disunity) as Christians at worship.  Consider the closing paragraph of the chapter as a commentary on worship, considered in its entirety:

Lutheranism has always emphasized variety in worship, but Lutherans do not encourage variety for variety's sake. Instead, Lutheran worship leaders tend to strive for a sense of balance in worship--particularly a balanced presentation of Law and Gospel for those who are both saints and sinners. The challenge is to create a balance of the past and future for the sake of the present, a balance of old and new that will provide continuity with the past and hope for the future. In all settings, worship is conducted to receive God's gifts through the means of grace and to give Him glory. Worship also allows the gathered guests to respond to God in praise, prayer, and adoration (512).
Gathered Guests gets the Christian theology of worship right and presents it winsomely to Lutheran students and laity. Parish pastors have a resource to help answer questions of Lutheran practice in the context of Christian history and a largely muddled American Evangelical current context.

God’s gathered guests come together because God calls us by His Gospel. We are gathered in His name to receive His Word and Meal. We respond in praise and prayers and works of service. This gathering time provides us with the power for living and believing. The worship service ends, but our service continues throughout the week as we live out our faith in Christ in our daily lives.—from the Introduction

This second edition of Gathered Guests explores the elements that compose the broad category of Lutheran worship, including
  • The historic nature of and current structure of the Divine Service, prayer offices (including Matins and Vespers), and festival and occasional services used in the Lutheran Church.
  • An overview of music, the arts, architecture, and their relationship to worship.
  • The role of liturgy, rite, and ceremony in the Divine Service.
Special features include
  • Glossary and topical and Scripture indexes.
  • Targeted information for lectors and worship planners.
  • Family and small-group devotional outlines.
  • Addresses the service orders included in the Lutheran Service Book. (publisher's website)

I pray that Timothy Maschke's text will continue to serve the LCMS so that we can grow beyond mere preference, uninformed tradition, and unmitigated experimentation to walk together with one another in love and true harmony.

Timothy Maschke is the Harry R. and June J. Rouse Professor of Pre-Seminary Studies and Recruitment at Concordia University Wisconsin. A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Maschke also has earned doctorates from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Marquette University. He previously served parishes in Illinois (back cover).

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.