What does it mean that the Bible is inspired?
For many Lutherans, the inspiration of the Scriptures is mostly about why the Bible is rightly the source and norm for the church's teaching.
Liturgy Book Review
Fry, C. George and Joel R. Kurz, editors. Lively Stone: The Autobiography of Berthold von Schenk. Delhi, New York: American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2006. 152 Pages. Paper. $12.50. www.alpb.org (607) 746-7511 (L)
The Church lives under the cross. Such a statement might be surprising to a theologian of glory, but not to a theologian of the cross like the Rev. Berthold von Schenk. The parishes he served (and the condition in which he found them) were all on the brink of closure.
As John Hannah notes in the Forward, "….confessional revival did not extend to parish worship life" (5). This is unfortunate, as is the "Eucharistic minimum" that also prevailed. Upon reading the history of the Saxon migration, one mourns for those who died when the ship Amelia was lost at sea. In addition, one mourns in a different way for what the liturgical life of the LCMS could have been if the vestments and other liturgical traditions aboard had not been lost.
The editors do well to warn the reader about being shocked or infuriated by what he or she may encounter in these pages. (11) I could do without references to the LCMS as an old female dog (101), and unbecoming comments about J.A.O. Preus (104), Walther, Pieper, and others. Luther and Zwingli's disagreement at Marburg was far from nonsense, as von Schenk claimed. (126) Perhaps he may have seen things differently after a conversation with Hermann Sasse, or after reading This Is My Body. Then again, perhaps not. The topic of children's Communion (136) is again a topic of discussion in the LCMS. The author also was critical of what he called "Missouri Biblicism." Maintaining pure doctrine is not loveless legalism. It is not an end in itself, but as a book title teaches us, Theology Is for Proclamation. Personally, I would much rather have the sermons of Oswald Hoffmann and Walter A. Maier and the theology they confessed than those of Von Schenk's heroes, Norman Vincent Peale and Harry Emerson Fosdick. I agree with the author that the Reformation was unfortunate, but disagree with him in that it truly was necessary. (143)
The editors show common cause between von Schenk and his Atlantic district and the Wyoming district in opposing "church growth" techniques, which Von Schenk recognized as "none other than 'the New Measures' of the Old Frontier being readapted in the days of the New Frontier" (17)."Those living along the Willow Creeks have no sympathy for one who prophesied by the Streams of Babylon."
Commenting upon his seminary training, Von Schenk speaks about Theodore Graebner's opinion of liturgical theology. "His original judgment was that liturgical practices were adiaphoristic. There were many others who, like him, looked upon the liturgical revival only as a restoration of traditional ceremonies." (30). Why ceremonies? He answers, "The primary reason I introduced ceremonies, liturgical vestments, and so forth, was not because they were intrinsically important—their introduction had the purpose of bringing color and beauty into the lives of people who lived in the ugly environment of the slums. Why should the Church not be concerned about beauty? Most of my members belonged to the disinherited class. By nature I am not a ceremonialist and ritualist, yet there must be form. It was natural that I should give thought to the form of the liturgy. I had to give my people beauty of form and worship, but sadly, this was misjudged by others" (47). When he needed a new vestment, he thought, "Why not purchase a cassock an surplice with stoles?"
Walter E Buszin and Arthur Carl Piepkorn both appear on page 116. Both played significant roles in the worship life of the LCMS. (Piepkorn's gold cope was still in occasional use at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis when I graduated.)
Von Schenk had a passion for stewardship (64) and Evangelism (123). He saw leitourgia, missio, and diakonia as marks of the church. Consider "Do this in remembrance of Me," "Preach the Gospel of the Kingdom," and "serving all who need Him, especially the socially and economically disinherited" on pages 97ff and 124ff.
For an example of a "simple liturgy," see 128, what Von Schenk considered to be "the most important contribution which I made."
I am grateful to the ALPB for the publication of this book and welcome similar books in the future that highlight our Lutheran liturgical heritage as Christians, and those like Berthold von Schenk who retained, restored, and patiently taught others to love the gifts the Lord delivers to the people He gathers around Word and Sacrament. Even though not everything is said in the kindest way, this autobiographical volume is worthwhile, though a book to be read while putting the best construction on everything.
Disagree with von Schenk if you need to. Let's not be disagreeable about it.
Berthold von Schenk (1895 - 1974) was a gifted parish pastor of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. The Presence, originally published in 1945, brought to a wider audience what he had been meditating on and teaching his congregation for years about the meaning of Holy Communion for them and for all Christians.
More frequent celebrations of Holy Communion.
I have this strange idea that one can learn from the mistakes of others.
I also appreciated this book (having read his autobiography) as autobiographical. It has devotional language qualities not unlike Gerhard's Meditations on Divine Mercy. And he taught the LCMS to remember our closeness to the host of heaven, including our departed loved ones who died in Christ, at the altar of the Lor (cf. 121, 113).
The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a permanent member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.