Monday, July 30, 2012

FW: Elert: Has the liturgical church replaced the preaching church?




Feed: Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison
Posted on: Monday, July 30, 2012 4:34 PM
Author: Rev. Matt Harrison
Subject: Elert: Has the liturgical church replaced the preaching church?




The untimely death on Nov. 21, 1954, of Werner Elert, professor of Theology in the university of Erlangen Bavaria, is a serious loss not only to Erlangen and to German theology but also to world Lutheranism. He is perhaps best known in North America for his two-volume Morphologie des Luthertums (Munich, 1931, 1932) [The Structure of Lutheranism, CPH]. During and since World War II his Dogmatics and his Ethics were pub- lished, and more recently he devoted his considerable energy and the resources of his vast scholarship to studies in the ancient church. Elert turned in this direction in his later years because he was more and more persuaded that Protestants in general and Lutherans in particular had surrendered Patristics to Roman Catholic scholars and that the altogether natural, but apologetic, interests of these scholars colored conclusions and made it increasingly difficult to get at the truth. The first major fruit of Elert's new studies was published in his Abendmahl und Kirchengemeinschaft in der alten Kirche (Berlin, 1954) [Eurcharist and Church Fellowship, CPH], a study which sheds important new light on current ecumenical discussions. A few weeks before his unexpected death, at a meeting of the General Synod of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (VELKD), he participated in a discussion which preceded the adoption of the first part of a new liturgy for that church. His extempore remarks on this occasion are here translated from the Informationsdienst der VELKD (January, 1955) both in memory of this distinguished theologian and churchman and also on account of their significance for American as well as European Lutheranism.



"In the historical part of Leiturgia it is asserted that Luther really did not achieve a proper understanding of public worship. When one goes on to consider the conception of worship which is set forth in this study, one finds that it rests, quite understandably and properly, on a consideration of historical development. The liturgical life of the church is of course an historical phenomenon which must be traced to its origins. Now, it is to be observed (and this can easily be established by anyone who is familiar with the literature) that the description of the beginnings of Christian worship which is offered in Leiturgia follows the description given by Roman Catholics on the basis of the very outstanding investigations which have been made in recent decades by Benedictines especially, and more recently also by Jesuits. Lutheran liturgiologists rest their case, insofar as the historical treatment is concerned, on these investigations. I do not intend to criticize the work of the Benedictines, for everyone knows how much thorough knowledge, how much quiet objectivity, and how little polemic is involved in it. However, we cannot and should not expect that these Catholic brethren are in a position to understand and present, even in the history of worship, what was of concern to Luther. If Luther is to be judged by the norms which are basic to the Benedictine interpretation, it can indeed be said that he did not really un- derstand what worship is.



"Over against this charge I should assert that, if it can at all be said that Luther reached back beyond the Middle Ages to the ancient church, this was especially true in his restoration of preaching to an important and central place. The contrary opinion with regard to public worship in the ancient church is so widely held that I cannot hope to counteract it effectively in the few moments at my disposal here. But I cannot refrain from mentioning a few little things which the reader of the sources will encounter and to which the literature makes some reference. We are today given the impression that worship in the ancient church was quite exclusively liturgical — as we still find it, for example, in Eastern Orthodox churches. But in a sermon one of the ancient Church Fathers sets forth in very vivid fashion the fault he has to find with the contemporary liturgical service. The congregation is not there, he reports. The people are wandering about outside, the boys and girls lounging about during the performance of the liturgy. They have a watchman posted at the door, however, and when the distribution of the elements in Holy Communion is about to begin, a signal is given and the young people rush into the church like a pack of hounds, snatch up the host from the clergyman's hands as a dog snatches up a piece of meat, and then depart. I am not suggesting that this sort of thing was the general practice, but it happened.



"I have a different understanding of preaching from that [set forth in Leiturgia]. The preaching of the ancient church . . . was doctrinal preaching. It was an expression of the orthodox faith of the church at that time. Accordingly it is subject to the prejudiced charge which is leveled against all forms of orthodoxy, including the orthodoxy of our time, that the preaching was dry and irrelevant and of interest only to learned theologians. I wish that you could see some of the few extant fragments of paper on which stenographers recorded sermons. Perhaps you are aware that the extant sermons of the great Church Fathers, including those of Augustine, were not written by themselves but were recorded by stenographers. When one sees and deciphers the hastily written shorthand notes of the stenographers, one can get an impression of what preaching was like at that time. Sermons were not dull doctrinal addresses in our sense of the term. Congregations were attentive. Records reveal the tremendous, dramatic emotion which the sermons evoked, even the cries with which the auditors interrupted the preacher. The stenographic reports give us all sorts of information, even that Augustine had a bad cough on one occasion. This is alluded to in a passing remark, 'Pardon me, I could not help coughing, for I have been preaching a great deal the last few days.'



"If one reads the great sermons on the dogma of the ancient church which Gregory Nazianzen preached in Constantinople before he was elevated to the patriarchate—the entire dogma of the ancient church is contained in four sermons which have been published on

the basis of stenographic reports— one must be astonished at the intellectual and spiritual power of the preacher, who was able to communicate the teaching of the church to his hearers in such a compact, vivid, and existential manner, for what he treated concerned life and death. This is what services were like in the ancient church. Our honored liturgiologists . . . will say that all of this is well known. But there is still danger that we misinterpret the ancient church when we see it only in the light of the Benedictine investigations and inquire only about the origin of the Kyrie and ask when the Hallelujah was first employed. . . .



"The impression has gone abroad, and our liturgiologists are at least partly to blame for this, that the preaching, teaching church is to be replaced in some sense by the liturgical church."





Lutheran Quarterly VI (1954), 181, 182

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FW: The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church (or, Compassion for the Alumnae of the Christian Faith)




Feed: Mockingbird
Posted on: Monday, July 30, 2012 12:47 PM
Author: David Zahl
Subject: The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church (or, Compassion for the Alumnae of the Christian Faith)


Good news! Dr. Rod Rosenbladt's watershed lecture has finally made it on to youtube, courtesy of the good people over at New Reformation Press. If you've never heard Rod's bold and deeply pastoral take on the collateral damage of Christian legalism and fundamentalism, it's time you did so:

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Received for Review



Paustian, Mark A. Prepared to Answer: Telling the Greatest Story Ever Told. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2004. 211 Pages. Paper. $16.50. (P)

Paustian, Mark A. More repared to Answer: Telling the Greatest Story Ever Told. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2004. 242 Pages. Paper. $16.50. (P)

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FW: Announcing the St. Ambrose Hymn Writing Contest


News of note…


Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Sunday, July 29, 2012 11:25 PM
Author: Pastor Tim Rossow
Subject: Announcing the St. Ambrose Hymn Writing Contest


A good, solid corpus of hymnody has been a hallmark of the Lutheran confession. Hymns as "sung confessions of the faith" have served the church well throughout her history, underscoring and emphasizing the truths of God Word that are being proclaimed.

However, some of the readings in our Lutheran Lectionary do not have hymns that serve this purpose. Therefore, the St. Ambrose Hymn Writing Contest was created to fill this gap.

Each year, a Sunday of the Church Year will be selected for which there is a perceived gap in hymnody, and we invite you to write a good solid Lutheran hymn based upon the Gospel for that Sunday. The winning submission will be awarded a $1,000 prize and be eligible for publication through Liturgy Solutions.

For more information on the contest, the Sunday and Gospel selected, and what makes a hymn a good, solid, Lutheran hymn, visit the St. Ambrose Hymn Writing Contest web site at

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FW: A virtual reconstruction of the Second Temple...




Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Saturday, July 28, 2012 5:00 AM
Author: (Pastor Peters)
Subject: A virtual reconstruction of the Second Temple...


For those interested in a more illustrative vantage point on the Second Temple (the one as Jesus encountered) this video gives you a wonderful perspective through computer imaging...

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

FW: Funeral Music




Feed: Weedon's Blog
Posted on: Saturday, July 28, 2012 2:20 PM
Author: (William Weedon)
Subject: Funeral Music


Can be tricky.  I mean, the family may have their heart set on some pieces that simply do not serve the Church's mandate to proclaim the resurrection and the comfort and joy of Christ's victory over the grave. They want the "familiar" but then that really sets a challenge before pastors when their wishes ask for pieces not in our hymnal (my former parish had a policy that no hymns not in the hymnal would be sung at weddings and funerals - it's kind of limiting, but it helps the pastor to be able to say: "Oh, I'm sorry. We can only do what's in the hymnal - that's our congregation's practice. Can we look at some of these?") or for pieces that simply have nothing to do with the hope and joy of resurrection.

My pastoral practice for good or ill in the past was always to insist that the first hymn HAD to be a hymn of the resurrection. It connects with the lighted paschal candle and the pall as a sign of our baptismal sharing in Christ's righteousness and victory. I'd have several suggestions available to choose from. I'd encourage the hymn before the sermon to be a favorite of the person who had died. If they had two strong favorites, maybe include another one right after the sermon.  

But leaving the Church, the procession out headed to the grave? This is the time for the Church's huge "You have not won, Death!  You have not won at all!" to be proclaimed.  There are a handful of hymns in our hymnal that do the job, but I've come to believe that the absolute best piece at that moment is:  "God's Own Child."  

"There is nothing worth comparing to this life-long comfort sure. Open-eyed my grave is staring, even there I'll sleep secure.  Though my flesh awaits its raising, Still my soul continues praising. I am baptized into Christ!  I'm a child of paradise." 

When people leave church singing THAT, they can virtually DANCE to the grave in the joy that is the unique experience of the Christian faith. Such funerals then witness as no other service of the Church does (because of the larger number of unchurched who end up showing up for funerals) of the Life that has been given the deceased, a life that is way stronger than the death that seems (but only seems!) to have triumphed. We know it is not so and sing our joy in the face of death.  

Pastors, whatever you do when it comes to addressing the problem of hymns in the funeral, work to make sure that every funeral that comes along witnesses in song the joy of the resurrection itself - that the flesh that lies in that coffin dead and decaying will rise incorruptible and shining in glory!

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FW: In case you were wondering…



WOW. Simply, wow…


Posted on: Friday, July 27, 2012 1:56 PM
Author: Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes)
Subject: In case you were wondering…


In case you were wondering why half the hymns have disappeared from this site, here is a shameless plug promoting the book where all those translations (largely updated and improved since the last time readers of this blog saw them) will be found bound up in one handy volume:

Sketch of cover design.

I'm pleased to announce (having entered the contract stage) that Concordia Publishing House  has agreed to publish my translations of the missing hymns from KELG, together with the other hymns already translated (such as those in ELHB and TLH), and other material from the Church hymnbook for evangelical Lutheran congregations of the unaltered Augsburg Confession, tentatively to be released later this year—incidentally, the 125th anniversary of the death of the blessed Dr. C. F. W. Walther, the person chiefly responsible for the production of the German original.

Not poised as an official synodical hymnal but primarily as a translation of a historical document with high devotional potential for modern users, it will be published under CPH's Peer Review process, which allows books that would not normally be published (because of, e.g., their relative niche value, the difficulty these days of keeping dedicated in-house editors, etc.) to see the light of day.

Along with a professional and informative historical introduction by Rev. Jon D. Vieker (translator of LSB 596, inter alia), the translation comprises all the hymnody with all the stanzas from the 1847/1892 editions of the hymnal, along with other KELG material, including prayers and collects gathered from Luther, Rabus, and Arndt, KELG's version of the passion harmony, and the history of the destruction of Jerusalem. These materials are augmented by furhter appendices, notably a translation of the old Saxon divine service for Sunday mornings, and 55 supplementary tunes in 4-part notation, for all the tunes needed which do not appear in CPH hymnals from the time of TLH on.

While having all the non-original material itself conveniently collected in one volume will be a unique value in itself, the addition of all the newly translated material will serve as a rich and informative resource for history students and hymn-singers alike. Scholars of Lutheranism in America, as well as anybody who has an passing interest in the Church's hymnody and confessions, should be pleased and edified by this translation of the Church Hymnbook.

Matthew Carver

Ss. Aurelius & Natalia, Martyrs, A.D. 2012.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Received for Review



Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola. The Chants of Angels (Gregorian Chant). Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2011. Audio CD. $18.95. (LH)

McCabe, Michael. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (Hymns of Praise Anthem Series). Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2012. Hymn Anthem for Organ, Trumpet, SATB, and Congregation. $2.20. (H)

Halls, David. Ye Servants of God (Hymns of Praise Anthem Series). Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2011. SATB [sheet music] with organ, congregation, and optional trumpet. $3.10. (H)

Lau, Robert. Sing, Ye Faithful (Hymns of Praise Anthem Series). Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2011. SAB [sheet music] with organ, congregation, and optional trumpet. $2.20. (H)

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Monday, July 23, 2012

FW: A Church Cannot Remain Lutheran Without Visitation




Feed: Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison
Posted on: Sunday, July 22, 2012 4:45 PM
Author: Rev. Matt Harrison
Subject: A Church Cannot Remain Lutheran Without Visitation



Furthermore, a synod that is "faithful to the Confessions," must also "c. supervise the confessional faithfulness of its members."



It is therefore not enough that a synod, so to speak, have only the official Lutheran statement "A synod true to the Confessions, adhering without reservation to all the Symbols [confessional statements]." It is not even enough that it receive only such pastors and teachers as prove themselves faithful to the Confessions. It must also see to it that they remain that way; for only he that is "faithful to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22, Luther Bibel).



But it is impossible for a sizable church body to remain in the true faith if there isn't a constant check to see that everything still is as it was in the beginning, when the pastor came to the congregation. Without visitation it is probably impossible for a church to remain in unity of faith and confession. Therefore it is a terrible line of talk that the so-called "confessionally faithful" [Bekenntnistreue] are spreading in Germany: ''[All that's necessary is] that the pure doctrine be public doctrine (doctrina publica), that is, the authentic, authoritatively established doctrine that everyone is required to profess, so that every false doctrine is actually without authori- tative standing!" Therefore, [they say,] provided the pure doctrine is the authoritatively established one, the Church may be ever so corrupt, yet it is a true Lutheran [church]. If the pledge of loyalty to the Confessions has not yet been rescinded but is still valid, though not a single pastor proclaims it, then the Church is still sound.



That is no different than if an organization is formed for a good purpose, and finally the members agree to do something rascally but they retain their constitution as a benevolent organization. Then they cannot say: "We are indeed committing a dirty trick, but because, according to our constitution, we should really do good, therefore we are nevertheless an honest, honorable organization, since it says so in our constitution, which we still have!" That is what those so-called "confessionally faithful" ones in Germany say: "You see, the constitution says, 'The Lutheran doctrine is public doctrine (doctrina publica)!'"



But it is not enough that it is on paper; nor is it enough that all pastors and teachers are pledged to it when they enter office. No, this Confession must also be faithfully practiced [im Schwangegehen].

That is why Luther, in his treatise "On the Councils and the Church" [1539], writes:



First, the holy Christian people can be recognized by their possession of the Holy Word of God. . . . But we are speaking of the outward Word, orally proclaimed by people like you and me. For this is what Christ left behind as an outward sign, by which we can recognize His church, or His holy Christian people in the world.13



It is not enough to have a Bible lying in the vestry, but it must be proclaimed from the pulpit. Moreover, a church may have a thousand oaths sworn to be faithful to the Augsburg Confession and yet be a vile sect; and that is true of the state churches [in Germany]. In the best cases there are still good pledges of allegiance to the Confessions, but very few preach accordingly from the pulpit. One is reformed, another is Methodist; rationalistic, yes, even atheistic, i.e., there are some who do not believe in a living God and still have solemnly sworn allegiance to the Confessions of the Lutheran Church. They simply say, "That is an old tradition, which it would be dangerous to discontinue because of the common people, who still cling to the old faith. But our superintendent, who put us under oath, knows very well what we mean; after all, he himself doesn't accept the Confessions in their entirety either. But because the regional bishop has so ordered it, therefore we continue it."



But such people are not Lutheran pastors. The confession of the Church must sound forth from the pulpit. And a congregation may be part of a large Lutheran church: If it has a false pastor and he constantly preaches false doctrine and it likes his preaching very much and definitely wants to keep him—that is not a Lutheran congregation either, even if the right official confessional statement is inscribed over the entrance. The [Augsburg] Confession must be proclaimed, and it dare not just say in a book somewhere that it really should be preached.



One must say: Churches that indeed teach false doctrine but have not sworn to uphold pure doctrine are not as bad (as those who have sworn to uphold pure doctrine but do not do so). They are better because the people are not so deceived by them. So when a church says "Here Lutheran doctrine is doctrina publica!" and you don't hear it proclaimed, that church is a miserable sect, regardless of what it claims to be.



God had a purpose in letting us be called "Lutheran"—a name we really don't care for (as everyone knows, the romanists gave us that name as an expression of contempt)—for that name now proclaims: "This is the Church that proclaims the faith that Luther had and preached." If we were not called "Lutheran" but perhaps "biblical" or "Christian" or "pure," then one person would think, "Pure means this," and another would think, "Pure means something else." But now we can prove which Church is the orthodox one; that is to say, it must have the Lutheran Confessions.



Luther has a beautiful statement on the need for church visitation:



Both the Old and the New testament14 clearly show us what a godly, wholesome work it is to have understanding, capable people visit the pastors and Christian congregations, for we read in Acts 9:32 that St. Peter traveled here and there in the land of the Jews and that Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36) also revisited all the places where they had preached. And in all of his letters [Paul] shows how concerned he is about all the congregations and pastors. He writes letters, sends his followers, even goes in person. Similarly when the apostles (Acts 8:14) heard that Samaria had accepted the Word, they sent Peter and John to them. We read also in the Old testament that Samuel traveled here and there, to rama, to Nob, to Gilgal, and so on, not because he enjoyed walking, but out of love and a sense of his official duty and because of the dire need of the people, even as also Elijah and Elisha did, as we read in 1 and 2 Kings. Christ Himself also did the same thing even more diligently than all, with the result that for this reason He had no place on earth to lay His head, a place He could call His own (Matthew 8:20).


Also the ancient fathers, the saintly bishops, used to follow these examples. For this work led to the origin of bishops and archbishops; accordingly each one was required to make many or fewer visits and visitations. "Bishop" really means supervisor or visitor. And "archbishop" [means] one who is over those who supervise their teaching and life. And the archbishop should visit such bishops, look after their needs, and supervise their teaching. [That continued] until finally this office became such a worldly, pompous rulership [Herrschaft] that the bishops made themselves princes and lords and delegated the function of Visitor perchance to a provost, Vicar, or dean [Dechant].


Later, when the provosts and deans and canons [Domherrn] had also become lazy aristocrats [Junkern], this was delegated to ecclesiastical officials, who pestered people with loading tickets [Ladezeddeln] in money matters and visited no one. . . . But no one gave any thought to doctrine, faith, love, how to live a Christian life, how to care for the poor,15 how to comfort the weak, how to punish the unruly, and whatever else is included in such an office. . . . So this office, just like all the sacred, Christian, ancient doctrines and regulations, became the object of Satan's and Antichrist's mockery and ridicule [Gaukelwerk] resulting in horrible, appalling perdition of souls.


Who can express how useful and necessary this office is in Christendom? One may perceive it in the damage that resulted since the time when it fell [into disuse] and was perverted. Not even one doctrine or position has remained right or pure, but, on the contrary, a great many abominable cults and sects have arisen, such as the convents and monasteries are, through which the Christian church was severely suppressed, faith destroyed, love transformed into strife and conflict, and the Gospel put away [unter die Bank gesteckt]; nothing but human works, human doctrines, and human illusions reigned in place of the Gospel. Then the devil certainly had a field day, because he had crippled this office and brought it under his own control and had set up spiritual hypocrites [geistliche Larven] and monkish nitwits [Monchskalber], so that no one opposed him. The task is indeed a very difficult one, even when the office is properly and conscientiously administered, as Paul complains to the Thessalonians, Corinthians, and Galatians that also the apostles themselves had their hands full in fitting into it.


Accordingly, since the light of the Gospel has now mercifully been restored to us by the superabundant and unspeakable grace of God—or has perhaps first dawned on us—the light by which we have seen how wretchedly Christendom has been confused, scattered, and torn asunder, we also would have gladly seen that true episcopal and supervisory office restored as extremely necessary.



Let no one think that it has not been so among us. We must not despise the importance of the office of Visitor, even if its value is not always immediately apparent. For example, let us say that a dear brother who visited us perhaps gave us some good advice, cheered us up, or lifted our spirits simply by coming. And if he says, "Oh, dear brother, I also have the same problems you have," and he sees then that others are faring the same as he, then already there is more than a small blessing in such a visitation.

Besides, we must remember: Such offices are especially important for the future. If we fail to set up such offices now, when by God's grace we are all united, then untold harm can result therefrom. Now is the time for us to hold fast to such established practices, so that they will be there when at some time false spirits have insinuated themselves. For such arrangements are not for the zealous, who are on their knees day and night [in prayer] that they may be found faithful; they are rather for those who get weary and exhausted with teaching, keeping watch, praying, and studying [Forschen]. The devil can again blow out the whole light for us, and unity may turn into such Babylonian confusion that we are appalled. Therefore we must do all [we can] to ward off such danger. Then, if it still doesn't work, well—we didn't give birth to the Church, and we can't preserve it. We must commend it to God and see that we save our souls.



We know how little Luther thought of human ordinances [and] how he hated it that some wanted to make the Church's welfare dependent on rules and organizational structures. But how highly this same Luther speaks of the office of Visitor! He ascribes the terrible deterioration under the papacy primarily to the deterioration of this institution. Therefore let us cling tightly to it [darob halten]. And also this synod will certainly do it with the help of God.



The Preface to The Book of Concord says:



We likewise purpose to cooperate with one another in the future in the implementation of this effort at concord in our lands, according to our own and each community's circum- stances, through diligent visitation of churches and schools, the supervision of printers, and other salutary means. If the current controversies about our Christian religion should continue or new ones arise, we shall see to it that they are settled and composed in timely fashion before they become dangerously widespread in order that all kinds of scandal might be obviated [Preface to The Book of Concord; tappert, 14].



As soon as the Formula of Concord had been accepted, it was evident that visitations were necessary. Therefore, in the name of their Christian people, the Christian princes said: "We likewise purpose to cooperate with one another in the future in the implementation of this effort at concord in our lands . . . through diligent visitation of churches and schools." The Church has simply always had the same needs. What our dear forebears felt, that is what we also feel. Therefore we intend to follow in their footsteps and use the means they found trustworthy.


CFW Walther on visitation in "The Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod," At Home in the House of My Fathers. 

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FW: Thanks, Jen!


From the LCMS International Center Chapel…


Feed: Weedon's Blog
Posted on: Monday, July 23, 2012 8:24 AM
Author: (William Weedon)
Subject: Thanks, Jen!

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FW: The 2012 Meeting of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada


On Hymnody…


Feed: PrayTellBlog
Posted on: Sunday, July 22, 2012 8:10 PM
Author: Chris Ángel
Subject: The 2012 Meeting of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada


The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada just met in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with the conference theme "The Meeting Place." As usual, this conference of the Hymn Society was indeed a meeting place — for lovers and leaders of congregational song from dozens of traditions; for composers, hymnwriters, and publishers; for scholars and students of hymnody; and for Winnipeg natives who joined us by the dozens for each of our evening hymn festivals.

Our opening hymn festival is a fine symbol of the week as a whole. It was coordinated by two leading Mennonite musicians, Irma Fast Dueck and Marilyn Houser Hamm, at Winnipeg's Sargeant Avenue Mennonite Church, based on the theme of the conference, "The Meeting Place." The first two hymns at this festival would be familiar to many Roman Catholics — Marty Haugen's "Gather Us In" and "What Is This Place," text by Huub Oosterhuis. Marilyn noted that these hymns had found a home in the hearts and hymnals of other traditions, including their own. This festival included an eclectic selection of songs, from a bluegrass version of "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (set to HOLY MANNA) to Charles Tindley's "Thou, O Christ, my Lord and King," to George Mxadana's "Sithi Bonga" ("We sing praise, O God.")

This year's plenary addresses included an address by Alice Parker, in which she offered thoughts and critiques (some quite pointed) on the musical and poetic quality of our songs. "I want transcendance every time I sing," she demanded, commenting that what is on the page is 5%, or even 1%, of the total music making experience. Another plenary was given by Dr. Andrew Fullerton, a Presbyterian pastor and theologian, who explored the connections between liturgy, drama, human creativity, and truth in a most engaging way. Liturgy and theatre share many commonalities, and Andrew invited us to compare our liturgies to "holy theatre" or "deadly theatre." Deadly theatre, he suggested, comforts the complacent, prevents an encounter with what is real, soothes and amuses its audience, purchases applause at the cost of truth, and changes no one.

Sectionals gave hymn writers, tune writers, and song writers a chance to work on their material; presented new collections for purchase, or gave participants to learn about topics as diverse as Dakota hymnody or hymn-related videos on YouTube. Several current graduate students presented their hymn-related work, including Jonathan Hehn (DMA candidate in organ performance, Florida State University) who won this year's Emerging Scholar award for his paper, "Congregational Song as Theological Debate in Late Antiquity: A Case Study of Arius' Thalia and the Development of Trinitarian Orthodoxy." Two recent hymnals were showcased: Worship, 4th edition (GIA Publications), and Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship (Faith Alive Christian Resources).

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Hymn Society. The conference included a celebratory luncheon, a wall display of some notable figures from the group's history, and some invitations to brainstorm about the future of the Society. Congregational song is in flux; while the group's name refers to the specific form of hymns, the Hymn Society has spent significant time in recent conferences engaging current trends such as global music, the music of Taizé, and praise and worship music. In fact, of the society's four hymn festivals this year, only two of them used the organ extensively. While maintaining and passing on the great musical treasuries our traditions have inherited, there is great excitement about the future of congregational song and what that will look like.

The 2013 conference will take place in Richmond, Virginia, from July 14-18, 2013. The conference theme is Vatican II as a source of renewal for congregational song. For more information on the Hymn Society, please visit

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FW: Life Together: Luther on discussing Worship


Hull and Luther…


Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Sunday, July 22, 2012 2:15 PM
Author: Pastor Chris Hull
Subject: Life Together: Luther on discussing Worship


Koinonia. This word can be translated or understood as "Life Together." How does the Church have life together? The Augsburg Confession answers this question saying, "It is also taught that at all times there must be and remain one holy, Christian church. It is the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel. For this is enough for the true unity of the Christian church that ther the gospel is preached harmoniously according to a pure understanding and the sacraments are administered in conformity with the divine Word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that uniform ceremonies, institutued by human beings, be observed everywhere. As St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:4-5 'There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one Baptism'" (Augsburg Confession VII Kolb-Wengert 42).

The cross of Christ Jesus unites the Church. The means by which the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, comes to us in the Gospel proclaimed, Holy Absolution, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper unites the Church. Is it neceesary that we all use the same Hymnal? No. Is it necessary that we all use the same lectionary? No. Are these the right questions to be asking? NO! These questions lead to division and legalism. They are questions designed not to comfort the terrified conscience, but to protectthe complacent sinner.  How much do I have to do to have fellowship with everyone else, says the lazy sinful creature. The better quesitions are as follows. Would it comfort the sinner in his justification if all the LCMS churches used the same Hymnal and liturgies? Would it comfort the terrified conscience if all the churches used the same lectionary?  Let us look and see what Dr. Martin Luther of blessed and holy memory says about these quesions and about the discussion of unity in Doctrine and Practice.

In 1525, Luther wrote a letter entitiled, A Christian Exhortation to the Livonians Concerning Public Worship and Concord. This letter was in response to the divisions concerning public worship practice in Dorpat, Livonia. In the editors notes before the letter it says, "In this exhortation we see Luther applying the basic insights of his treatise on The Freedom of a Christian to the field of worship. He tries to show how the church may tread the narrow path of liberty without falling prey either to license or to legalism" (Luther's Works 53.43). Is this not our problem today. Do we not abuse the freedom given to us in baptism by making worship either a license to adopt every passing cultural fad, or on the other hand by forcing ceremonies not given by God Himself, but institued by sinful legalistic man?

A few paragraphs into the letter, Luther addresses the brothers in Livonia saying, "First of all, I hope that you still hold pure and unblemished the teachings concerning faith, love, and cross-bearing and the principal articles of the knowledge of Christ. Then you will know how to keep your conscience clear before God, although even these simple teachings will not remain unassailed by Satan. Yes, he will even use external divisions about ceremonies to slip in and cause internal divisions in the faith. This is his method, which we know well enough from so many heretics" (Luther's Works 53.46).  The devil uses external ceremonies to creep into the church and cause division. His havoc eventually reaches the depths of justification and the church falls. While we debate the externals, the devil plunges his fangs into the articles of faith.

How do we deal then with these divisions in the church? Do we seek the trouble makers out and command them to be obedient little Lutherans or else? Do we send them to a three week training camp in liturgics? Do we call them out in Voter's Meetings, Circuit Meetings, and District Conventions? No, rather Luther encourages, follwing the example of St. Paul, to "entreat them with friendly exhortations, for people who will not give in willingly when exhorted will comply far less when commanded" (LW 53.46).  Luther concludes this little section saying, "There is no better way to do this than for each not to take himself too seriously and to think little of himself, but very highly of the others, or-as Christ teaches in the Gospel-to set himself in the lowest place among the guests at the wedding (Luke 14:7-10)" (LW 53.47).  How many men have said, "I have the perfect praise service that will really bring people into the church and once their in, I can start working on them with the Holy Spirit." On the other hand, how many men have said, "The liturgy shall fall when I fall. I shall defend the sacred Divine Service setting III until God calls me home. It shall not pass while I am alive." We must repent of this self-righteous piety that thinks we somehow control how the Spirit works or how the Church remains whole and united.

What should we do then about this division in the church about worship? Should we ignore it. Let the one LCMS church have only contemporary services (which really means doing it 10 years after the Mega Church down the street has already done it).  Lets let that little bitty church in the country keep their TLHs or let that hyper liturgical church downtown keep kneeling every five seconds. I'm happy with my church becuase we have it all, a traditional service for the older folks, a blended service for the boomers, and a contemporary service for the younger crowd becuase that is what really draws them in, not the power of the Holy Spirit who blows when and where HE wishes (John 3:8). Should we just agree to disagree and talk about those articles that really matter?

Luther says that we have the freedom to do so, but it is not beneficial for the life of the church. Luther continues saying, "We should consider the edification of the law folk more important than our own ideas and opinions. Therefore, I pray all of you, my dear sirs, let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a COMMON DECISION ABOUT THESE EXTERNAL MATTERS, so that there will be ONE UNIFORM PRACTICE THROUGHOUT YOUR DISTRICT instead of disorder-one thing being done here and another there-lest the common people get confused and discouraged" (LW 53.47). As Luther says, from the viewpoint of faith we are free to have the division, but from the viewpoint of love we must seek unity for the sake of the common man lest he get discouraged and begin to doubt the faith.

We should seek unity in doctrine and therefore in pratice. Lets be Lutheran about our worship. We are not descendants of Rome or Geneva, but Wittenberg. We should, in the words of Luther, "diligently seek to promote unity and to hinder this work of the devil, becuase God appoints the devil to do this in order to give us occasion to prove our unity and in order to reveal those that have stood the test. For in spite of all our efforts, enough factions and disunity will remain" (LW 53.49).

Let us learn from Luther about our Life Together. It will only happen when we abandon our preconceived notions about one another, stop acting like we know the hidden will of God, and open the Scriptures and the Confessions and have a true dialogue about the externals.  It doesn't matter what we think, nor what some 8th century Pope said about worship, nor what some Spray taned Mega Church Guru thinks about church growth.  What matters is that we receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit as He comes to us in the Word and the blessed Sacraments, for in this do we have true and lasting unity. Let us live our Life Together by bearing the cross of the consolation of the brethern. Let us hear the words of the Blessed Doctor and continue our Koinonia.


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FW: Baptismal debate... portends larger problems




Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Sunday, July 22, 2012 5:00 AM
Author: (Pastor Peters)
Subject: Baptismal debate... porteds larger problems


Living in the South brings with it the predominant mode of baptism -- not ours. Believer's baptism, with all of its missing sacramental identity and its focus shifted to the person being baptized, is the norm here. Is it no wonder then that the Lutherans are bombarded with propaganda from those opposed to sacramental baptism and the baptism of infants and small children. I have spoken of this before. What gets me is how easy it is to throw us Lutherans off -- to the point where we begin thinking that infant baptism is a later practice invented by the Church.

If Scripture will not silence its detractors with its own cohesive argument for sacramental baptism of infants, small children, youth, and adults, then we have to ask what did the early Church do with baptism. If the early Christians got it wrong, it must have been wrong from early days... OR, they have it right and infant baptism is exactly the presumptive practice of Scripture that accompanies its rich baptismal theology.

It is a pure and simple historical fact that the Church has always baptized infants. The very earliest Christian documents outside of Scripture speak of the practice which is presumed in Scripture. For example take the Apostolic Tradition written about 215 A.D. which directs the baptismal practice of the Church by saying:

The children shall be baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from their family. (Apostolic Tradition # 21)

This is neither the first nor the only document of early Christian history that speaks to the baptism of infants and small children but this is explicit in addressing those who cannot speak for themselves and of the parental role as sponsors who speak on their behalf in testimony to the miracle of grace given and bestowed in baptism.

Why, then, are we so uneasy about questions directed to infant baptism?  The church bodies which refuse this practice should be on the defensive for they are the ones out of step with Scripture and tradition.  It seems to me that if we Lutherans can be caught up in doubt over an explicit baptismal practice, consistent with the doctrine of baptism found in Scripture and amply attested in the early Church, well, then, we can be caught up in doubt about anything and everything we believe, confess, and teach.

It is a great sadness that Lutheran doubts can be so easily exploited by those so clearly in the wrong when it comes to baptism.  Theirs is the novel or new teaching here -- not ours!  It should not be.  We should be exploiting doubts in their minds and not the other way round.  This is the tip of the iceberg.  Just weeks ago we took in new members and one of the things asked of them is if Lutheran confession is consistent with Scripture -- the true teaching of Scripture:

P    Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from them and confessed in the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?
R    I do.

I have never had someone say "I don't" but clearly the depth of this conviction is at issue here.  One of the most troubling things about Lutherans is that we too quickly concede the position of Scripture to others and assume that our own confession and faith does not square with Scripture (and tradition).  Clearly one of the areas in which we need to work most is this confidence that our faith is grounded in Scripture, faithful to Scripture, and accurately reflects what Scripture unequivocally teaches.  Period.  In Bible study and catechesis the most consistent questions I receive are those which ask "but what about" the teachings of other churches (here, most likely Baptist, Church of Christ, or holiness groups).  "But..." -- in other words -- can they be wrong and we be right?  Yes.  Period.  This is most certainly true.

Until we address this Lutheran deference and doubt, we will continue to bring people in the front door only to have them sneak out the back door into one of the many stripes of evangelicalism...

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Received for Review



Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ecumenical, Academic, and Pastoral Work: 1931-1932 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Volume 11). Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. 612 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. (LHP)

Arand, Charles P., Robert Kolb, and James A. Nestingen. The Lutheran Confessions: History and Theology of The Book of Concord. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. 341 Pages. Paper. $39.00. (LHP)

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Received for Review


Little Rock Scripture Study. Little Rock Catholic Study Bible. Little Rock, AR/Collegeville, MN: Little Rock Scripture Study, a ministry of the Diocese of Little Rock, in partnership with Liturgical Press, 2011. 2632 Pages (plus maps). Cloth with dust cover. $49.95. (LP)

Sink, Susan. The Art of The Saint John's Bible: A Reader's Guide to Pentateuch, Psalms, Gospels, and Acts. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2007. 126 Pages. Paper. $14.95. (LHP)

Sink, Susan. The Art of The Saint John's Bible: A Reader's Guide to Wisdom Books and Prophets. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008. 112 Pages. Paper. $14.95. (LHP)

Sink, Susan. The Art of The Saint John's Bible: A Reader's Guide to Historical Books, Letters and Revelation. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2021. 138 Pages. Paper. $14.95. (LHP)

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