Friday, January 20, 2012

Love & Hate

Editorial Comment

[Caution: The following is an editorial, that is, in literary terms, an opinion piece. As such it has no points to prove or sources to cite, but seeks only to provoke thought and from thought, perhaps action. Some readers may find it somewhat acerbic and perhaps even a bit caustic in places. Rest assured it is written in love and hope.
Pastor Spencer]

I love email. I love email because I can see what I'm saying, run spell and grammar checks, and thus not sound foolish when I speak, though some might find that debatable. I love email because I can read and answer when I want, any time, day or night – on MY schedule. I love email because I can send a "read receipt" as soon as I turn on my computer after my devotions – usually around 5:30 AM or so – and know that some will say when they see the time stamp – "Wow, that guy sure starts work early!" (Cue the sound of one hand clapping!)

I hate the telephone and I always have. The telephone has always seemed to me to be like a Western Union telegram – seldom bringing good news. It interrupts sleep, dinners, romance, movies, and family time. Plus, a lot of people don't know how or when to stop talking on the phone – and thus waste countless hours with inane prattle. I especially loathe cell phones which interrupt all the events mentioned above and numerous others, not to mention causing distracted driving. And don't even get me started on texting!

I despise all phones so much and adore email do much that I think of people who are the opposite as backward fools and dolts. I do not and cannot understand why anyone would use a phone when they could email, and I reserve my special ire for all those who don't check their email at least a half-dozen times each and every day, and reply within the same day!

So, why should you care, and why am I boring you with this? Very simple. I believe this is exactly the way many feel about sectarian worship forms being used in otherwise professing confessional Lutheran churches! Some love it. Some hate it.

But in addition, those who love sectarian worship forms being used in what should be confessional Lutheran churches seem to think that those who hate such and refuse to use them are backward cretins who don't give a fig about sharing the Gospel. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth!

As a confessional Lutheran Pastor, I love the liturgy. I love the liturgy because it proclaims the Gospel from beginning to end. There is hardly a sentence throughout that is not permeated by the message of God's love in Christ! And all this has already been done for me by believers from Adam to Augustine. I don't need to add a thing. Even my sermons are sometimes a rather poor addition. From the Invocation to the Benediction, all the elements of the historic liturgy, and even the titles these elements have acquired down through the centuries, speak volumes about the undeserved love and kindness of God to the world in and through Jesus Christ. In addition, each part is designed and built by the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles to feed the faith of believers in every time, place, and culture. Simply translate the words into any language, and BINGO, the liturgy will still function perfectly! Indeed, in my humble opinion, the liturgy IS the Gospel in all its grace and glory!

As a confessional Lutheran, I hate sectarian worship. Is that too strong? Sorry. I hate sectarian worship because it is, in the final analysis, man-centered, not Christ-centered. I hate sectarian worship because, as someone born into a sectarian (Baptist) family, and surrounded by this errant branch of Christianity for most of my life, I have seen up close and personal the long-term spiritual damage done to souls by such aberrant man-centered, emotion-based, so-called worship, and the theology that created and feeds it.

Yes, Jesus is sometimes there in sectarian worship, but He is disguised as much in sectarian services from the authentic Christ of the Scriptures as He is in the abomination of the Roman Mass! In both cases the service is built around human emotion, and that emotion for the most part is fear. You'd better be dunked – or else! You'd better make your decision for Jesus – or else! You'd better be joyful – or else! What's the matter, why aren't you happy?! What are you, some kind of back-sliding reprobate?! (Just like, you'd better say your rosary, etc... – or else!)

So, the question is – why in the world would anyone who already has the historic, comforting, beautiful liturgy in the truly Gospel-centered, orthodox confessional theology from which it flows and which it supports and proclaims, substitute such for the mostly empty, law-centered, Christ-hiding, and fear-filled sectarian pseudo-worship?!? That's just plain crazy! Kind of like not turning off your cell phone in church!

Deo Vindice!

Pastor Spencer


Dale Reckzin said...

Pastor Spencer:

Ardin Laper is a prophet. When I was associate pastor at Peace Lutheran in Sun Prairie, he said that I reminded him of one of his vicars - you. He was right. I love email and hate phones. Ditto for that whole worship thing, too.

Dale Reckzin.

Anonymous said...

Why? Because it is more fun [or relevant *shudders*] to have Jesus as the Church's boyfriend, rather than her Bridegroom. Some sectarians don't realize that the Church is not some vapid teenage girl.

Jerod Butt

Anonymous said...

I agree in that some WELSians don't care because "we're already saved, so who cares what our worship practices are."

But through these worship practices false doctrine can start to take root (in my opinion the false teachings are already there if these are implemented to "reach the lost," for example, a lack of trust in the efficacy of the Word to call the Elect).

For others who are visiting, they may say, "Oh this is just like Joel Osteen, I love the Joel Osteen stuff I see on TV"(50 minute+ sermons [coaching speeches] and praise songs). So in reality it says there is a unity and common confession between Lutherans and people like Joel Osteen. All I'm reminded of is of what St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians, "Don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers..." Also, in the Formula of Concord, Epitome (and Solid Declaration), Article X. Please correct me if I'm misquoting and therefore misinterpreting what Paul and the Concordists have said.

Mitch Forte

Joe Krohn said...

As one who has been on both sides and is safely back in the liturgy fold I would answer your question thus, Pastor.

It is because the liturgy is rightly balanced with Law and Gospel. Today with all the demigods running around in society, no one wants to be told they are sinners; no one wants to have to ask for forgiveness on a regular basis. They don't want to hear the Law...but the Gospel is not the only part of God's Word and this is what has given birth to upside down evangelism and a peculiar view of justification. And many pastors have sold out to this kind of thinking because they don't want to offend. They are circumventing the Law which renders the Gospel useless. So what's left? Secular bait and switch. So if your band/music stinks, or the pastor has a bad sermon on a particular Sunday, you're sunk...because people vote with their feet, so the saying goes. Faith has been lost in the power of the Word and man thinks he has the better idea.

Joe Krohn

Anonymous said...

Amen, Pastor Spencer.
I appreciate this article a lot. I hate man-centered worship in all its forms, from the Catholic side or the Evangelical side. It's good to know there are other who feel the same way. Unfortunately, as long as man-centered worship draws crowds, it will always defended and excused.
Paul Jenkins

Pastor Spencer said...

Hello Pastor Reckzin,

Thank you for your comment. I means a lot to me coming from a former Pastor at my old vicarage. If there are saints on earth, Ardin Laper is one. A kinder, sweeter, more truly evangelical - in the best sense of the word - man and Pastor you could never find. Sometimes I wish I had just one tenth of his patience! If we could keep our passion, but add his quiet humility, we would be better ministers ourselves. Thanks again!

Pastor Spencer

Pastor Spencer said...

Jerod, Mitch, Joe, and Paul -

Thank you all for all your comments.

This all goes together with the comment recently made by Pastor Jim Schulz regarding the Marquart post.

The problem in a nut shell is that the WELS very slowly, subtly, and almost imperceptibly - at first anyway - began buying into Church Growth theology without even realizing it, regarding things like "building bridges," and "friendship evangelism," and so forth. At first, it didn't sound all that bad or wrong to very many. Those that saw the problem were either told they were mere traditionalists and worse, legalists, or simply ignored altogether. Little by little these false and misleading theories caught hold and spread throughout the ministerium, the administration, mission boards, and the seminary.

Unlike some, I'm not so sure the blame falls on the NIV, or UOJ, or anything that deep. As I have said all along, I think it was a combination of a good, sincere, and very well-meaning desire to share the Gospel and be the best tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit for the saving of souls, along with a simple fear of not having enough bodies in the pews to pay the bills and preserve the institution in the manner to which all had become accustomed. These two things - especially the latter one gone unchecked - are a disastrous combination for a confessional church body. I will admit I could be wrong and it could be more nefarious than that. But I tend to like simple answers, and this one fits the bill in my book.

As for an antidote, well, admitting we HAVE a problem in the first place would be a huge first step. More on that another time - soon.

Again, thank you all for your comments and for being readers of Intrepid Lutherans.

Pastor Spencer

Norman Teigen said...

Thank you Pastor Spencer. My mother-in-law is in her last days on earth. My wife and I receive great comfort from the Liturgy. In our ELS congregation we regularly sing #34 "Kyrie Gott Vater in Ewigkeit" where the words: "Do Thou our last hour bless; Let us leave this sinful world with gladness. E-lei-son, e-lei-son!" bring us great reassurance.

Luke said...

Dear Pastor Spencer:

I would find it a much better article if you had defined what "sectarian worship" was. I also could offer my thoughts on the subject. Were I do so now, I'd be assuming what "sectarian worship" meant.

I mention this because I could see someone who isn't using the historic liturgy in it's entirety or is substituting portions of the historic liturgy with something less historic and defending such practice saying, it is not "man-centered, fear-based, or emotion-based."

Respectfully submitted,

Luke Hendricks
member, Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church (WELS), Fayetteville, NC

Pastor Spencer said...

Thank you for your comment, Luke.

Please check the list of posts on Intrepid Lutherans. You will find a good number on the historic liturgy and what we see as "sectarian." I think you'll find them very informative.

In short, no, I don't consider any and all "replacements" of historic material in the liturgy as "sectarian." It would depend greatly, of course, on what the replacement is. For example, I have put together worship services replacing such things as the "Gloria in Excelsis" with solid Lutheran hymns. Martin Luther himself was one of the first to do this. I found it a good exercise, but have used such very sparingly. Again, check our past posts on the major problems with sectarian worship and I'm sure you will understand what I was talking about in my editorial.

Again, thank you for your comments and question. And thank you for reading Intrepid Lutherans!

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

Pr. Spencer, I do think the problem stems from faulty definitions/understandings of so-called "Objective" and "Subjective" Justification. A faulty definition of "Objective Justification" leads to faulty worship practices as can be seen in the differences between Lutheran and Sectarian worship.

Prof John Pless defines why this is and identifies the distinction between Lutheran and Sectarian worship in his essay: "Delivering the Forgiveness of Sins." In summary:

"...the crisis over the liturgy stems from confusion regarding the forgiveness of sins."

Here's a longer quote:

"The real presence of Christ the forgiver of sins in His words and with His body and blood has shaped the cultus, the liturgical forms of confessional Lutheranism. At the present time, Lutherans are being invited to trade off a liturgical form shaped by real presence of Christ the forgiver for another form. The form that we are invited to make our own has its roots in American Evangelicalism. The forgiveness of sins has no real presence within the theology of Evangelicalism. At best, troubled sinners are pointed back to Calvary (Objective Justification?). The problem is as Luther has reminded us - that forgiveness was acquired at Calvary but not delivered there. Calvary is back there in time almost two thousand years ago. At its worst, Evangelicalism turns the troubled sinner inward to his own conscience....This subjectivism is embodied in the hymnody and liturgical practices of Evangelicalism. The cultus of Evangelicalism exchanges the absolution for assurances of grace, the Gospel as the efficacious Word of salvation for a gospel that invites and requires a human decision, and the supper of the Lord's body and blood for a symbolic recollection of the upper room. Where is the forgiveness of sins?"

- Rev. James Schulz

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