FROM THE PASTOR

Published on November 16, 2016 by

 O Lord, look down from heav’n, behold And let Thy pity waken;

How few are we within Thy fold, Thy saints by men forsaken!

True faith seems quenched on ev’ry hand,Men suffer not Thy Word to stand;

Dark times have us o’ertaken.

 

Defend Thy truth, O God, and stay This evil generation;

And from the error of its way Keep Thine own congregation.

The wicked everywhere abound And would Thy little flock confound;

But Thou art our Salvation.

 

“O Lord, Look Down from Heaven, Behold,” TLH 260 stzs. 1 & 6

 

Greetings and a blessed Reformation and All Saints’ Tide to you!

 

Christian Funerals

 

The Christian funeral is a significant moment in the life of the Church and the life of the Christian’s family. Here loved ones, members of the Church, friends and acquaintances gather to pay their respects and condolences. But for Christian Funerals, the main purpose is to deliver the sure and sweet promise of the Gospel in the midst of the death that the Law and Sin make so apparent. All Saints’ Day brings this to mind annually as we remember those who have gone before us in the faith. It is so easy to preoccupy ourselves with the memories of the deceased alone, and not to be concerned with the preaching of Christ, the Lord of Life and Conqueror of sin and death.

Last year we released an updated funeral planning form to assist each member of the congregation in preparing for their Christian Funeral. Please make sure that you have a copy of these wishes on file. If you wish for any assistance in filling the forms out, please do not hesitate to contact me or Pastor Cholak or the elders. It always seems a bit premature to write down your wishes for your funeral. However, in fact, it is a great service to your loved ones to preserve your confession of faith in the readings and hymns of the service. As we remember the saints who have gone before us on All Saints’ Day (1 November) and the Sunday observed service (6 November), please look at the Funeral Service in Lutheran Service Book, pp. 278-281. This is the service used by the Church for the funeral. Like our confession of faith, the Funeral Service focuses on Christ crucified and his victory over sin, death, and the devil. Please make sure that you prepare these documents for the benefit of your posterity and the church. We hope that this worksheet will be a help in planning your funeral or the funeral of your loved ones’ for the purpose of boldly confessing your faith in Christ Jesus to the glory of God.

 

Status Controversiae: “Pastor, I’ve Got a Bone to Pick with You”

Divine Service: Ceremony or Show?”

 

Introduction (Reprinted from August)

It is inevitable that something I do or say will get the hackles up of someone in the congregation at some point in the time that I am here as your pastor. It has already happened, and surely will continue. It happens with every pastor. I am not unique. The arguments are different of course, but there will be differences between members of the congregation and her pastor. In light of this I’ve decided to dedicate a portion of the newsletter to status controversiae, or states of controversy. Here I hope to unpack some questions that have been brought to me in order to discuss publicly where others come from, where I might stand, what ought to be taught, and where we are in working through the various disagreements that will arise as long as more than one person is involved in Christ’s church.

 

NOTE: The point of this section of the newsletter is to discuss topics that may be on the minds of many in the congregation. The goal is to have a public forum in order to teach on these topics and to keep the Ten Commandments in doing so. This is not a venting place for me or for the congregation, but it is meant to be a healthy place to discuss what needs to be discussed and to teach what needs to be taught. Please talk to me about what you read here. My goal is to cover one at a time, because in order to give each topic the proper coverage a brief statement will not suffice. This month’s topic is: “acolytes (or the roles of men and women).” The following months will be: “Divine Service: Ceremony or Show?,” “Lutherans and Vestments: Meaningful Tradition or Catholic Costumery?”. Please see me if you have a suggestion for a topic of concern and I will attempt to work it in.

 

Divine Service: Ceremony or Show?

Just as Lutherans have been accused of being “too catholic,” so too does the Lutheran use of Liturgy often get many members of Lutheran churches concerned that the church is changing and not the way it used to be. “Adiaphora” is used as an excuse and a byword. But the Lutheran liturgy and the ceremonies that accompany it are not to be relegated entirely to the realm of adiaphora or “indifferent things.” In fact the Lutheran Liturgy preserves the best traditions of Western Christendom for the purpose of teaching the faith, that is Christ crucified, to the young and old and everywhere in between.

Every “ritual” in human existence has its rites and ceremonies. Baseball games have their “rites.” There are nine innings. There is an order to the game and how it is to proceed: the National Anthem, the “Seventh Inning Stretch” and so on. Baseball games also have their “ceremonies”: the uniforms, the positions infield and outfield, the umpires, coaches, players and fans. They all have their part in the “rites” of the game and in the “ceremonies” that attend them. The ceremony of the Lutheran church accompanies its rites. Rites are the services themselves (the Divine Service, Matins, Vespers, Evening Prayer, Compline). The ceremonies are the vestments, the paraments, the candles, the body movements, etc.

When we attend Church, as when we attend sporting events or other organized rituals with ceremonies, there is a certain level of expectation that the rituals and ceremonies will be followed. From the time of the Augsburg Confession onward the Lutherans were clear in their church books and hymnals to preserve the liturgy and traditions handed down to them. They did not do this because it was required, but because the liturgy (taken from the Scriptures) and the ceremonies (informed and taught by the Scriptures) taught Christ crucified and could be used for the sake of good order.

The term adiaphora, meaning “things neither commanded nor forbidden” or “indifferent things,” came into use because Lutheran territories were being required by Roman Catholic bishops to force the restoration of certain un-Biblical ceremonies and rituals. It was argued that these Roman Catholic practices were merely adiaphora and could be adopted without a problem. However the Lutherans stood firm against such relativizing of ceremonies and rites. Since these ceremonies (public parades with the body of Christ, required papal recognition for the validity of ordinations of pastors, etc.) taught against the Gospel, they were not indifferent or adiaphora, and so the Lutherans needed to stand against them (For more information see Formula of Concord X in the Lutheran Confessions and “Confession and Ceremonies” by Rev. Kurt Marquart).

Thus this term isn’t simply an allowing or forbidding term depending on feelings, history, or local customs. It does not give anyone license to do anything in the liturgy or forbid anything in the liturgy. All things are to be done in good order. Ceremonies in the Lutheran church are for good order and for the sake of the Gospel. They are not for show neither are they smoke and mirrors. The liturgy itself is not adiaphora. Worship is commanded by God. The Lord’s Supper is instituted by God. The texts of the Divine Service are the Word of God. These are not indifferent things. Certainly some ceremonies may be indifferent, but all ceremony retained by the Lutheran Church as been retained for the purposes of teaching the Gospel and clearly confessing the Christian faith.

 

One ceremony will stand as example of those not universally received today but both Lutheran and significant in their practice: the Elevation.

The Elevation is that part of the service when the celebrant lifts up the host (bread) and then separately the chalice after the Words of Institution are chanted or spoken for the congregation to see and acknowledge. This practice at first glance may wreak of showmanship. However this practice and ceremony, the Elevation, even though it fell out of practice in many American Lutheran churches was retained in the Lutheran churches for concrete reasons. In the Elevation the congregation sees Jesus. No longer mere bread and wine, the speaking of the Words of Institution do what Jesus has said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” When the bread/body and wine/blood are elevated the members see their Lord Jesus present in, with, and under bread and wine for them to eat and to drink and receive the forgiveness of sins unto life everlasting. Earlier traditions even encourage communicants to speak the words of Thomas at this time, “My Lord and My God.” Thus this practice teaches concretely that Jesus is bodily present for you and for the forgiveness of sins. It is not merely show, but a ceremony which teaches what we firmly believe teach and confess.

It is not necessary for every church throughout the Lutheran church to observe precisely the same rites and ceremonies. But it is meet, right, and salutary that we strive to believe, teach, and confess with our forbears in the faith. When we do this, our rites and ceremonies tend to match with those who have gone before us, because we confess the same faith. The liturgy of the Church delivers Christ crucified. It is a serious and solemn affair to be celebrated with all joy and reverence, and I am very glad that with Pastor Cholak and with each of you we are able to receive the Lord’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation through the Liturgy.

 

Blessed Reformation and All Saints’ Tide!

 

In Christ,

 

 

Pastor Paul

 

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