Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Walking Together Sunday" - The Service (Updated!)

The specially created Order of Service offered as a resource for the WELS Walking Together Sunday is outlined below. I’ve noted in parenthesis how Law and Gospel are used throughout the service.
  • Hymn: CW#556 – (Gospel, Law – 3rd Use)

  • Invocation (Gospel)

  • Opening Litany: Isaiah 60:1-6, read responsively (Gospel)

  • Confession and Absolution: Ps. 51:1-4 and 1 Pet. 2:9-10, read responsively (Gospel)

  • Hymn: CW#64 (Gospel)

  • Prayer of the Day

  • First Lesson: Daniel 7:13-14

  • Psalm of the Day: Psalm 67

  • Second Lesson: Revelation 14:6-7

  • Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

  • Hymn of the Day: CW#570 (vv. 1-2) (Law – 3rd Use)

  • WELS Connection Video

  • Hymn of the Day: CW#570 (vv. 3-4) (Law – 3rd Use)

  • Sermon: Revelation 14:6

  • Creed (not specified)

  • Offering

  • Responsive Prayer of the Church

  • Lord’s Prayer

  • Hymn: CW#394 (Gospel)

  • Responsive Prayer

  • Blessing (Gospel)

  • Hymn: CWS#778 (Law – 3rd Use)

Observation #1: The Use of Law and Gospel

As noted above, there are several proclamations of the Gospel in one form or another, and some proclamation of the 3rd Use of the Law (Guide) in some of the hymns.

The proposed service itself does not proclaim the Law in its Second Use (Mirror). This is not a criticism of the service, but a simple observation, the point of which will become clearer in the post on the sermon. A regular liturgical service doesn’t usually proclaim the Law in its Second Use, either, except at times in the Scripture readings for the day, or in an occasional hymn.

I’m not referring here to the result of the Second Use, that is, the contrition of the sinner or the sinner’s prayer of confession or supplication to God. I’m speaking only of the actual proclamation of the Law that "afflicts the comfortable," either from the pastor to the people or from the people to the people. Again, just an observation that will be clarified in the next post.

Observation #2: The “Confession and Absolution”

The “Confession” in this service consists in the congregation reading Psalm 51:1-4. That’s not a bad confession of sins, and it’s by far preferable to a “new” confession crafted for this particular day.

But the “Absolution” is not really an absolution. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10). At best, it’s an indirect and impersonal absolution in which the pastor quotes a Scripture verse to the people, speaking to them as if he had applied the loosing Key, without actually applying the loosing Key. 1 Peter 2:9-10, in context, reminds Christians of what we are by faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The Absolution is intended to be more than a reminder, but to actually apply Christ’s atoning sacrifice to us and give the forgiveness of sins to the penitent.

Observation #3: A Non-liturgical Service

A synod that wants itself to be known as a confessional Lutheran synod would do well to promote a service that retains at least the basic structure of the historic Lutheran (i.e., Christian) Liturgy, which the Lutheran Confessors retained and devoutly celebrated.

[Update! This paragraph has been added since the original post.] Part of being non-liturgical is setting aside the Church Year in order to preach on a topic of choice. The Gospel for the day in this order of service is the Epiphany Gospel, Matthew 2:1-12. This illustrates the point about swapping in "special service" readings for the regular Lectionary readings. The Church has known for centuries that the Festival of the Epiphany - January 6th - has a special "missions" emphasis. Why bring the Magi into the Proper of the Pentecost season three months before Christmas? Why insert this Gospel artificially in September when it fits into the Church Year so naturally three months from now? Speaking of the Proper...

One could say that the service includes a sort of Proper (in the hymns, prayers and Scripture lessons), but since it’s disjointed from the liturgical calendar, it’s a Proper without an anchor, and if having hymns, prayers and Scripture lessons qualified a service as liturgical, then practically any Christian denomination could be considered liturgical.

But the Liturgy includes more than this. It also includes the Ordinary. The Ordinary, however, is almost entirely missing from the WT service. Of the five historical parts of the Ordinary (the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Nicene Creed, the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei), only the “Creed” remains, and since it’s not specified, the Apostolic Creed will likely be used in many cases, thus leaving none of the historic elements of the Ordinary.

This does not make the service “sinful.” But it does make it non-liturgical, together with the following observation…

Observation #4: Where is the Sacrament?!?

The Liturgy includes the Sacrament. This, to me, is the most glaring omission from the proposed service. We all know that most congregations in the WELS do not celebrate the Sacrament every Sunday. And no one is suggesting that the Synod ought to compel a congregation to celebrate the Sacrament on Walking Together Sunday.

But would it be too much to ask the Synod to at least encourage that a congregation include the Sacrament with the Word, or at very least offer an option for including the Sacrament in this “special service”?

Instead, the service suggests showing the WELS Connection Video between stanzas of the Hymn of the Day! This is not an improvement.

WELS president Mark Schroeder recently defined well what the essence of Lutheran worship is:
“Lutheran worship is primarily the proclamation of the gospel in Word and sacrament. As we gather together for worship, God speaks to us in his Word. Through the preaching of his law he crushes us with the stark and painful reminder of our own sin and unworthiness; he causes us to tremble at his holiness and justice; he speaks to us his urgent call to repentance. But in that same time of worship, a gracious God speaks to us words of full and free forgiveness. He points us to Christ and to the cross where his sacrifice paid the price of our sin, removed our guilt, and opened the door to heaven itself. In that same time of worship, we poor miserable sinners kneel side by side and receive the same body and blood that were given and shed for us. We commune with our God and with each other."

If only the Order of Service published by the WELS that promotes Walking Together Sunday in the WELS reflected the same Word-and-Sacrament emphasis that WELS President Schroeder describes! Wouldn't a service with Holy Communion reflect and inspire a much more real "Walking Together" with our brothers and sisters in the faith than any video ever could? United together as “one loaf” around the Lord’s Table, proclaiming together the Lord’s death until he comes, singing the ancient texts that the saints have been singing on their walk together for centuries, and giving thanks to God for the Gospel that he has graciously placed into our trembling hands in the WELS – wouldn’t that make for a truly “special service” on Walking Together Sunday?

Maybe next year?


Daniel Baker said...

Thankfully, my pastor did not utilize this . . . "service" at our church.

On a different tangent - I cannot express to you how much I hate the WELS connection. The very notion that we have enough time to sit in the sanctuary and watch that waste time and money, but we don't have time to partake of the Sacrament on a weekly basis, sickens me. And the fact that they actually integrated it into the "service" in this instance is literally nauseating.

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Pastor Spencer says . . .

Thank you, so much, Mr. Baker for your comments, especially regarding WELS Connection! This does not belong in the service. While many churches do not use it there, far too many do!

Unknown said...

I agree that WELS Connection does not belong "in the service". Our congregation has been showing the WELS Connection after the service. They have value for keeping our rural congregation informed about what is happening in synod ministerial education and missions. We show the WELS Connection only on the weeks we partake of the Sacrament.

As to the "recommended service", our pastor does not like using them and the elders concur with using the Divine Service and not these pre-arranged service.

Anonymous said...


I agree that the choice of lessons is a bit odd. It doesn't bother me, per se. It just seems strange brining up Epiphany texts this time of year.

But this blog posting raises a question I've had. Would you consider Christian Worship's Service of Word and Sacrament non-liturgical? It substitutes another song (O Lord, Our Lord) for the Gloria. What about the Service of the Word, which not only excludes many of the five historical songs, but also the Sacrament? And if it is non-liturgical, would you say it leans more toward sectarian worship? Or is it possible to have non-liturgical, yet orthodox Lutheran worship, in your opinion?

Daniel Kastens

AP said...

No, the WELS video has no place as part of the Divine Service. Personally, I think it is a poor use of synod resources and time in general. Why, in the age of the internet, do we need this?

On the Service of Word and Sacrament, I personally do think it is a liturgical service (broadly defined). I view it as just a different version of the historic (again broadly defined) Western Rite. However, I have never really cared for it, and much prefer the traditional (i.e. not the one in CW) Common Service.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


Let's start with a general definition of "The Liturgy" (aka "The Divine Service," aka "The Mass"). Very broadly, the Liturgy is the Western Rite that centers on the saving work of Christ, the life of Christ, and the Supper of Christ. At the 2005 Worship conference, Professor Tiefel summarized the Liturgy as "Ordinary, Proper, Meal." In the Ordinary are contained those basic texts that speak of Christ's saving works. In the "Proper" is included the Church Year - the annual review of the life of Christ. And in the Meal, of course, the saving benefits of Christ are administered individually to all who partake in it.

So is the CW W&S service liturgical? Yes, I think it clearly is. It includes 4/5 of the traditional Ordinary texts (even though it removes the Benedictus from the Sanctus, but so does Luther's "Isaiah, Mighty Seer"). One might argue that the Gloria in Excelsis surpasses "O Lord, Our Lord" in quality and historicity, but to be fair, "O Lord, Our Lord" does recount many of the same saving truths that the Gloria in Excelsis recounts. W&S assumes the use of the Proper for the Church Year, and most importantly, it includes the Sacrament. Although one may not consider this his preferred version of the Liturgy, I think it undeniably should be categorized as "liturgical."

That leads us to Service of the Word. Objectively speaking, this service includes 0/5 texts/parts of the Ordinary. Of the Proper, it does assume the use of the Church Year in the Lessons and hymns that are chosen and in the Prayer of the Day. And of course, it does not include the Meal.

So, no Ordinary, yes Proper (minus the proper surrounding the Meal), no Meal. Is that liturgical?

I would have a hard time defining it as such. Its only connection to the Divine Service, albeit an important one, is the Church Year Lectionary and the reverent praise and proclamation it retains. That makes it, in my opinion, far better than a disposable choose-your-topic-for-the-day service. But still, I think it would better be called a "preaching and prayer service" than a "liturgical service." But I don't pretend to be the definitive voice on this matter.

(continued in next post)

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

(continued from previous post)

Lutheran Service Book has five settings of the Divine Service, all of which assume Communion, although in three of the five, the rubrics allow for ending the service without Communion. I think this is more consistent with the historical definition of the Liturgy.

I don't mean to knock Service of the Word. If a congregation is not celebrating Communion, this is a fine service to use. The Ordinary in the first part of the liturgical service points in the direction of the Sacrament. If there is no Sacrament, then to use the rest of the Ordinary would seem like preparing for something that isn't there.

Service of the Word is a concession to the reality that we have wandered away from the historical practice of Communion as part of the weekly celebration of the Liturgy. I'm only speaking objectively here, not as a condemnation. The reality is what it is. I would like to reshape the reality in our synod so that it more closely resembles the reality our forefathers confessed for very evangelical reasons.

Even then, it's good to have a service designed for use "when there are no communicants." Service of the Word (or something like it) will always have a place, I think.

But I believe our synodical paradigm should continue to shift toward "Communion as the normal Sunday practice" rather than "Communion as the every-other Sunday practice." It was certainly moving in that direction for awhile, but, in my experience, we seem to have grown very content with the every-other mentality. In 33 years of being in the WELS (my first 4 years of life were in the LCMS and I was too young to know the practice where my parents attended), I haven't personally seen any movement from the "every-other" paradigm, except for a few isolated instances. Maybe they're out there and I'm unaware of them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pastor Rydecki. Good stuff.

Not sure if you guys saw it yet, but for my personal study, I'm reading the papers presented at the Seminary Symposium. I'm halfway through the first one. It looks like these papers will deal with much of what you guys want to discuss here.


Intrepid Lutherans said...

Pastor Spencer says . . .

Someday I would like to see some historical research done on exactly how [that is the exact process - it's type, manner, and length] it happened that communion went to once a month, or every other Sunday, or even - a was the case at one time in my first WELS congregation - four times a year. I would venture to say, indeed, I would be willing to bet a good number of dollars, that it was done rather quickly. What I mean is this - it looks to me from my reading of the history of this subject, that some Lutheran Pastors, and maybe with the concurrence of his lay leaders - if there were such - seem to have simply decided and dictated that the congregation will not observe the Lord's Supper every Sunday. I doubt very seriously that there was the same kind of hand-wringing, debate, discussion, and introspection about removing the Sacrament from the majority of the Sunday services, as there now is for putting it back! I may be wrong about this, but I would be surprised if I was. This does not mean we should be tyrannical about forcing the Holy Supper upon our people. I only find it somewhat ironic, amusing, and more than a little disturbing, that while removing the Sacrament seemed to have been done with little consideration for theological and historical precedent, putting it back in its rightful place seems to take months, years, and even decades of agonizing, chest-beating, questioning by our Pastors and lay leaders. What is wrong with this picture? Why is it we cannot simply admit - "We goofed!" and then immediately apply the fix?! Odd, to say the least! Simply put - what in the world is so frightening, intimidating, and un-nerving about putting the Lord's Supper back where it belonged for nearly 1700 years!? This is just incomprehensible to this poor parish Pastor.

Unknown said...

AP -

I wish every person in our congregation has Internet access, but they do not all have high speed Internet and some avoid the use of the net. Nothing wrong with people living life without total absorption into technology. WELS Connection is available online as you suggest, but showing WELS Connection "after" the service seems reasonable. We reach all those in attendance at the worship service and do not intrude on the Divine Service itself.

Blessings all.

Scott E. Jungen said...

Pastor Spencer,
I have a theory concerning the lack of offering the Lord's Supper. Time. When I was younger the Communion service took about fifteen extra minutes. As people have allowed their lives to become busier, that fifteen minutes was just too long. Besides, for me the Redskins kicked off at 1:00 PM and you had to be back from church for that! Solution, of course, was to cut the number of times the Lord's Supper was offered.
Pastor, come on, you know the WELS is not good at saying "We goofed!" and fixing the problem. That is shown by the need for this blog!

Scott E. Jungen

Timothy Buelow said...

Pastor Spencer--
In regard to your question as to the "when" of monthly or less frequent communion observance coming into the church, I'd like to mention a partial, yet important and most often unmentioned bit of historical background.
There are many congregations and large portions of congregations in old Synodical Conference parishes that were originally made up of the people commonly referred to as "Germans from Russia"
During the 1700s German farmers were invited by Catherine the Great, German ruler of Russia, to come in to the territory known as Wolhynia, today largely in Ukraine, to develop the good land there, turning it into what became known as "The Breadbasket of Europe." Lutheran pastors came also and established congregations in many of the small farming villages. These German speaking congregations also had small one-room schools. The church and school together were led by a "Kantor" who despite the title was primarily a schoolmaster, who conducted services on Sundays, conducted funerals and performed baptisms, etc. But only when the ordained Circuit Pastor, who was overseer of many of these congregations came around, at most quarterly, were actual communion services conducted (and weddings, etc.).
After a couple of generations, this was considered not only normal, but also orthodox, Lutheran, historical practice.
Shortly before WWI, and in connection with the Russian Revolution, many such Lutherans were rounded up and killed (including my great-grandfather Julius, a Kantor, after whom my second son is named) or exiled to Siberia. Many others fled and found Nebraska, the Dakotas, Saskatchewan and Alberta to be similar, good, wheat-raising territory with relatively similar climate and appearance. Others fled and sought industrial jobs in cities like Milwaukee, joining congregations like the old mother-church of the Wisconsin Synod, St. Johns on 8th and Vliet, as members--in droves. A number of them also found their way to Benton Harbor and Stevensville, Michigan (Pastor Rydecki's home territory), and to many other parts of the country, including some surprisingly large German settlements in Texas.(A second wave of flight from Wolhynia took place before and after WWII, and since American immigration policy had changed, a higher proportion of those emigres went to Canada and even Australia). They came to the west, urged specifically by their pastors to seek out a congregation that had U.A.C. engraved in the cornerstone of its church building.
So while infrequent communion celebrations is often blamed on pietists, and while there were certainly aspects of pietism to be found among such folks, the actual history of quarterly or even annual is far more nuanced and less sinister than most acknowledge.
This is just a very "grob" overview. There are other nuanced aspects, such as time spent in Germany on the way from Wolhynia to America that could be brought up.
But this is a reminder, as people consider Pastor Spencer's historical quest, not to paint with too shallow or broad a brush or without recognizing the breadth such research should involve.
Pastor Timothy Buelow

Timothy Buelow said...

American Historical Society of Germans From Russia

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Thanks, Pr. Buelow. Very informative!

David Jay Webber said...

This essay discusses some of the historical influences that led to a less frequent offering of the Lord's Supper in the Lutheran Church.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Webber,

Thank you for linking that essay. I first read it a couple years ago, I think, and I think I've referenced it in a couple blog posts here on Intrepid Lutherans. Anyway, I've found it very helpful, and worth rereading on occasion -- and recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Pastor Spencer,

You noted: " I only find it somewhat ironic, amusing, and more than a little disturbing, that while removing the Sacrament seemed to have been done with little consideration for theological and historical precedent, putting it back in its rightful place seems to take months, years, and even decades of agonizing, chest-beating, questioning by our Pastors and lay leaders. What is wrong with this picture?"

I wish I could answer that question. The irony is that if the situation was reversed, i.e., that the vast majority of WELS congregations celebrated the sacrament weekly, the reasons to go from a weekly celebration to an every two week schedule are so much weaker and less compelling (I’d actually suggest even virtually non-existent) than those for going from an every two week schedule to a weekly schedule.

With best regards,
Harvey Dunn

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Dear Harvey et al,

Pastor Spencer here.

This is what I was talking about - not the "when and how and why" historically, or theologically, but the actual process "on the ground" if you will. Again, I imagine it was done rather quickly, not even taking as long as Constitution and/or Bylaw changes in our congregations today. In other words, what I'm trying to point out is simply this: In the vast majority of cases where fellow Pastor have said to me things like, "Oh, I'd love to have every-Sunday communion, but, you know, it takes time to 'educate' the people and 'prepare' the folks, and it needs to be clearly understood, and besides, it should come from the members, not me, and the Ladies' Aid will have to re-do their little glasses washing schedule (don't get me started on "Common Cup!"), and, . . . and . . . . and . . ."; in plain fact, only two or three of these men have even ever begun the "education" process at all. Most never start it. A couple who did - I think it took maybe a year to complete, and then they went right into the practice. The rest continue to say its something they would "like" to do, but that's as far as it goes. Again, the point is that we in the WELS - even otherwise confessional men - talk a good game, but when it comes right down to it, we can find dozens of excuses for not doing something so obviously good, right, and salutary!

On the other hand, we can make all kinds of other decisions and changes in practice in a few weeks or months, with very little "education." Chucking the old TLH and bringing in CW, for example, comes to mind. There are any number of other example, from using offering envelopes, to the Common Cup, to "continuous distribution," to fiscal year accounting, and so on. But, all of the sudden, when it comes to celebrating this wonderful, holy, and faith-strengthening Supper, the brakes are applied, committees are formed, discussion go on - maybe for years - meetings are held, votes are taken, and even then much fear and trepidation still takes place. Boy, it's a good thing the First Council of Jerusalem didn't operate this way, otherwise we wouldn't be able to enjoy a good bratwurst while watching the Packers! Come on, my fellow orthodox, confessional Pastors - get with the Biblical and true Lutheran program, and stop procrastinating!

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

I agree, Pastors do often talk a good game.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are pastors who say, "I would like to do more outreach, but I don't know if canvassing would work in our area... but we don't have enough money in our evangelism budget... but it really should be done by the laypeople." They don't even follow up on worship visitors!

BOTH - those pastors who are slow to educate regarding the Sacrament AND those who relegate outreach to the last possible thing on their "to do list" - need to relieve their Baptism through contrition and repentance. As do we all!

Daniel Kastens

Post a Comment

Comments will be accepted or rejected based on the sound Christian judgment of the moderators.

Since anonymous comments are not allowed on this blog, please sign your full name at the bottom of every comment, unless it already appears in your identity profile.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License