Friday, August 23, 2013

Flat or Folded?

Thoughts from Thunder Mountain
["Huachuca" - A Chiricahua Apache word meaning "thunder."]

Flat or Folded?   

When I was home last week, I was happy to be able to eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant one more time before they closed their doors for good, after 53 years. While I was sitting there waiting for my meal in the same room I had sat when I was 8 years old, I was contemplating an interesting change in the nomenclature of Mexican food, at least here in Yuma, AZ, over those years. What we used to call a "flat taco," was now being labeled a "folded taco." I wondered why the change. Was folded more accurate than flat? Did it sell more tacos? Was the change mandated by some politically correct food critic? Or was it just change for change sake? Turns out it was because of the tourists. You see in Phoenix and California and other places, this item was always referred to as folded, so our little corner of the world had to change so we'd be on the same page so to speak. But really, it all depends on one's viewpoint. If you're talking about what is done with the tortilla, yes, it is folded in order to hold the filling. But if you're comparing it to the round, rolled variety, then it is indeed flatter. You say tom-A-to, and I say tom-AH-to, eh?!

So, as I enjoyed my tacos and green enchiladas, it occurred to me that this is much like the argument over liturgy in the confessional Lutheran church. Is liturgy "adiaphora" or not?

Well, yes and no. If you mean is the liturgy necessary for salvation; that is, you can't get to heaven unless you sing or chant the Gloria Patri, Gloria in Excelsis, Sanctus, etc.... then yes, liturgy is a matter neither forbidden nor commanded by God. It must be adiaphora since salvation is not dependent upon it. So, believers who want to worship in what might be termed a "freestyle" manner, can most certainly do so. And while doing so may involve some bad theology or even false teaching, as it very often does, their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior can and will still save them. However they may abuse their Christian freedom, they are, in the end, still Christians. We should never proclaim them anything else.

But, if you want to claim to be a truly confessional Lutheran church, in the sense of a proper historic, orthodox, and evangelical church in a direct line of succession with Dr. Martin Luther, and the Reformers around him and Confessors and Formulators who followed, then the liturgy, again, as in what we know as the Western Rite, is most certainly not adiaphora. Therefore, believers in Christ, who claim to adhere to the Bible as their only rule and norm for faith and life, AND also claim to follow the Lutheran Confessions contained in the 1580 Book of Concord, as their guide in things ecclesiastical, will make regular, good, and proper use of the Lutheran Liturgy whenever they gather for worship. This puts into visible practice the faith we have by God's grace, and the understanding of God's will for worship that we glean from our Confessions. This is not a matter of law, or something we have to do, but a matter of our true confession, and something that by faith we want to do, and will do, whether it is a rule in our churches or not. In fact, it is something we will allow no one to take from us - not now, not ever!  

This is also a matter of simple honesty. If you call yourself a "confessional" Lutheran church, then you should have and use the liturgy in your worship, and it should be easily comparable to the basics of the Western Rite. If you don't want to use the liturgy, or you want to make up your own, and change it so much that it barely even resembles anything the Reformers would even recognize, then you should not call yourself a confessional church. Let the shoe fit where it may. Of course, whether you should even call yourself Lutheran is another matter for another time.

But the point is one of truth in advertising. The Apology says it best, "At the outset we must again make the preliminary statement that we do not abolish the Mass, but religiously maintain and defend it. For among us masses are celebrated every Lord's Day and on the other festivals, in which the Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other like things." (Article XXIV: Of the Mass) Certainly the Mass includes the liturgy, as does the term "other like things." This is what WE do. Others may do as they will. And if they will, let them do so somewhere else! We will still call them Christian believers, but, let's be honest, they are simply not confessional Lutherans. And that's the name of that tune!

Deo Vindice!

21 comments:

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

I recall reading aloud that section from Apology XXIV at an Arizona-California District pastors' conference back in May, 2012, and then I asked, "How many of these things does Crosswalk in Phoenix observe?" The answer was, "None." Then Dave Clark called me a legalist for asking such a question. One month later, Crosswalk was welcomed into the WELS with open arms at the district convention.

Ironically, the WELS still claims to be a confessional Lutheran church body. Go figure.

Pastor Spencer said...

It seems to me that a "legalist" demands that certain and various outward actions and accouterments be observed in order to be saved, or to have sins forgiven, such as works of penance or baptism by immersion, etc.... Again, and for the record, I for one have never ever said that congregations or Pastors that don't follow Augustana XXIV are not Christian believers and thus not saved; not at all. I recognize that the Word of God is proclaimed in such churches, albeit sometimes somewhat muted or mangled, and that therefore there are believers there and part of the Holy Christian Church. The same is true of Billy Graham and the Southern Baptists, but they are not confessional Lutherans. I'm not trying to beat a dead horse here, but again, let me repeat, this is about honesty and integrity and accuracy in labeling, and NOT about who is a Christian or not.

Now, if certain Lutherans want to re-define Lutheranism and remove Augustana XXIV from the Lutheran Confessions, or remove the Confessions from the unalterable sections of our synod and church constitutions, or change our confessional subscription from a "quia" to "quatenus" one, then fine, let's have that discussion and debate - may the better argument win. All I'm saying is that if a pastor or church doesn't want to be confessional Lutheran, that's ok, but then they should form their own group, and frankly shouldn't really even call themselves Lutheran at all.

To me, being Lutheran is more than just a word or a label. It is a way of life, and yes, a way of worship; a way of devotion, a way of doctrine, a way of religious practice; it defines who I am theologically and ecclesiastically, and it guides me in how I receive God's gifts, and in my life of service to God. Those who don't want to worship as I do - go in peace, no hard feelings; but go. Either that or we need to change what it means to be Lutheran. Then it will be confessional Lutherans who will have to go.

Time to call a spade a spade, boys and girls - and a Lutheran a Lutheran . . . or not, as the case may be.

My opinion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the definition of a "legalist". In my experience most people don't have the faintest idea of what a "legalist" is. To them a "legalist" is someone who doesn't tell them what they want to hear.
Scott E. Jungen

Pastor Spencer said...


Good point, Scott.

However, it seems that in our circles, someone who champions for a certain worship activity is often labeled a legalist. Well, OK, using this much more broad but inaccurate definition; Perhaps our readers can tell us which is the real legalist in the example below?

a.) The Pastor who has taught his congregation to offer the Lord's Supper on every Lord's Day, so that those who wish to commune with their Savior can do so, while others present are not forced to do so if they choose not to, or

b.) The Pastor who refuses to instruct his congregation or even bring up the subject, so that they only offer the Lord's Supper once or twice a month, so that those who wish to partake of Holy Communion are forced to refrain on those Sundays when it is not offered?

Hmmmmmm . . . . I think it would be 'b.' wouldn't it? Seems so to this observer. In 'a.' everyone has a choice - to commune or not, as they see fit. In 'b.' those who would like to commune during the worship service are given no choice, but are basically told they can't partake of the Lord's Supper during that day's service.

So, who's forcing whom to do what, eh?

But y'all feel free to chime in and vote.

Joel said...

I take it quite seriously when the Formula of Concord says this:

30] 5. We reject and condemn also [the madness] when these adiaphora are abrogated in such a manner as though it were not free to the congregation [church] of God at any time and place to employ one or more in Christian liberty, according to its circumstances, as may be most useful to the Church.

31] Thus [According to this doctrine] the churches will not condemn one another because of dissimilarity of ceremonies when, in Christian liberty, one has less or more of them, provided they are otherwise agreed with one another in the doctrine and all its articles, also in the right use of the holy Sacraments, according to the well-known saying: Dissonantia ieiunii non dissolvit consonantiam fidei; "Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in the faith."

--Joel Lillo

Bryan Lidtke said...

Joel,

The Epitome of the Formula of Concord says this:
5] 3. Nevertheless, that herein all frivolity and offense should be avoided, and special care should be taken to exercise forbearance towards the weak in faith. 1 Cor. 8:9; Rom. 14:13.

6] 4. We believe, teach, and confess that in time of persecution, when a plain [and steadfast] confession is required of us, we should not yield to the enemies in regard to such adiaphora, as the apostle has written Gal. 5:1: Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage. Also 2 Cor. 6:14: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, etc. For what concord hath light with darkness? Also Gal. 2:5: To whom we gave place, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might remain with you. For in such a case it is no longer a question concerning adiaphora, but concerning the truth of the Gospel, concerning [preserving] Christian liberty, and concerning sanctioning open idolatry, as also concerning the prevention of offense to the weak in the faith [how care should be taken lest idolatry be openly sanctioned and the weak in faith be offended]; in which we have nothing to concede, but should plainly confess and suffer on that account what God sends, and what He allows the enemies of His Word to inflict upon us.

Pastor Spencer said...

Thanks, Bryan.

Once again, just as the Holy Scriptures can be quoted to prove just about anything, so also the Confessions. Po-tA-to, Po-tAH-to. Take the entire Book of Concord in context and see what you find.

Some just refuse to get the point. Nowhere to I CONDEMN anyone for anything! I simply say that it is incorrect and misleading to say one is a "Lutheran" when one worships like a Baptist (and I ought to know, since I was a Baptist at one time - and most of my extended family still is, thus I know of what I speak.), or like a community church, or non-denominational church, or whatever.

Again, not condemning anyone here - just looking for truth in advertising, eh!

People need to quit changing the bloomin' subject and stick to the point.

Also, how about my question: who's more legalistic, the one who permits folks to commune or not as their conscience directs, or the one who removes this choice two or three Sundays a month? Come on, folks, take a chance and answer!

Joel said...

So, can you be a Lutheran if you worship like a Roman Catholic Father?

Bryan Lidtke said...

It goes both ways, Joel. Can you be a Lutheran if you worship like a Methobapticostal Televagngelist?

Bryan Lidtke said...

*Televangelist

Daniel Baker said...

Abrogating the Divine Liturgy may not be a sin ipso facto, but hypocrisy and lying surely are. One should not claim to be Lutheran - much less subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions by virtue of one's ordination vows and/or constitutional charters - and turn around and live otherwise. It is a lie. And if you're a liar, you're going to have a bad time (cf. the Apocalypse, 21:8).

Daniel Baker said...

By the way, the old "worshiping like a Roman Catholic" argument is growing stale, Joel. Do try another. (Besides, you may not have noticed, but the average "Roman Catholic" parish looks a heck of a lot more like a CoWo Protestant congregation than anything historically Catholic.)

Pastor Spencer said...

Yep, we sure do worship like a catholic - absolutely - an historic, apostolic, orthodox, world-wide (small 'c') catholic. Just like a certain Father Martin of blessed memory. And at Trinity Orthodox Lutheran Church what you see in the name on the sign is what you get in worship on Sunday - every Sunday!

Now - answer the everlovin' question or stop talking!

Joel said...

I knew everyone would miss my point on this. EVERY form of worship can have a negative conotation for someone. When I first arrived in this area, I was about to conduct my first chapel for the Lutheran Elementary School at a sister congregation that my congregation supported. I was told that the order of service was the Morning Praise service from Christian Worship. I'd been singing the pastor's parts from that service for a couple of years at that point and planned on singing them in this service. I mentioned this to the organist for the service in the hallway of the school as the pastor of that congregation was coming toward us. As he got up to us, the organist said to him, "Guess what, Pastor Lillo is going to sing his parts of the service this Friday." This very old school WELS pastor said, "NO HE'S NOT! There are a number of members of this congregtion who came out of the Cathlolic Church and they would associate the chanting with the errors of the Catholic Church. Oh, and don't even think of wearing anything but a black robe, either!"

Now, 17 years later, they do have the pastor chant in that congregation and it hasn't caused a mass exodus. They also are beginning to use contemporary music in their service as well and it isn't causing offense either. (By the way, I'm not talking about St. Peter's in Appleton. I think I have to mention that in case Greggy Jackson is listening in.) My point is that this congregation has accepted both kinds of worship in their services. Why? Because the doctrine hasn't changed.

I don't think that traditional liturgical worhip is Roman Catholic. I don't think that contemporary worship is "Methobapticostal." I think that both forms of worship can be Lutheran if the DOCTRINE is Lutheran.

Personally, I don't think that most people think of contemporary worship as belonging to any one particular denomination or theology. I think most people think of it as the way a lot of Americans worship.

Oh, and as far as my congregation is concerned... We use the liturgies from CW and CWS. I still chant. We haven't had a praise band and probably never will. And I use the NIV 2011 for the worship service. Make of that what you like.

AP said...

This idea of worshiping like Roman Catholics is a scarecrow argument. Worshiping like a Roman Catholic would entail a priest, standing in the place of Christ, performing a miraculous and meritorious sacrifice in the Eucharist. No Lutheran pastor does such a thing, because we know that salvation does not come from the works of man but from the work of Christ. Our worship properly places emphasis on the things--the only things--God uses to bring his salvation to us, which are the Word and Sacrament. We treat them with the reverence and respect they are due.

Sectarian worship places emphasis on the works of man and the flashy personality of the preacher. The praise band is set up where the altar should be, placing the works of man literally in front of the means God works through.

So really, who is worshiping in a Roman way here, meaning a way the places emphasis in the works of man rather than the works of God? And yes, I know, we are merely "spoiling the Egyptians" when we borrow "cool" worship formats from the sects. Well, I seem to remember the Children of Israel, having spoiled the actual Egyptians and wanting to be more like them, worshiping a golden calf in the middle of the desert, thus invoking God's wrath.

You can keep your Egyptian spoils, your flashy preachers, and your cool praise bands. I'm reminded of something Oliver Cromwell said once: "I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a Gentle-man and is nothing else." Put another way, I'd rather have the plainest church, the most boring sermon, and the least-flashy pastor in the world just so long as in that church the Word and Sacrament are rightly taught and administered and not watered down or pushed literally to the side by the drum-kit and guitar amp.

A.P.

Joel said...

I knew everyone would miss my point on this. EVERY form of worship can have a negative conotation for someone. When I first arrived in this area, I was about to conduct my first chapel for the Lutheran Elementary School at a sister congregation that my congregation supported. I was told that the order of service was the Morning Praise service from Christian Worship. I'd been singing the pastor's parts from that service for a couple of years at that point and planned on singing them in this service. I mentioned this to the organist for the service in the hallway of the school as the pastor of that congregation was coming toward us. As he got up to us, the organist said to him, "Guess what, Pastor Lillo is going to sing his parts of the service this Friday." This very old school WELS pastor said, "NO HE'S NOT! There are a number of members of this congregtion who came out of the Catholic Church and they would associate the chanting with the errors of the Catholic Church. Oh, and don't even think of wearing anything but a black robe, either!"

Now, 17 years later, they do have the pastor chant in that congregation and it hasn't caused a mass exodus. They also are beginning to use contemporary music in their service as well and it isn't causing offense either. (By the way, I'm not talking about St. Peter's in Appleton. I think I have to mention that.) My point is that this congregation has accepted both kinds of worship in their services. Why? Because the doctrine hasn't changed.

I don't think that traditional liturgical worhip is Roman Catholic. I don't think that contemporary worship is "Methobapticostal." I think that both forms of worship can be Lutheran if the DOCTRINE is Lutheran.

Personally, I don't think that most people think of contemporary worship as belonging to any one particular denomination or theology. I think most people think of it as the way a lot of Americans worship.

Oh, and as far as my congregation is concerned... We use the liturgies from CW and CWS. I still chant. We haven't had a praise band and probably never will. And I use the NIV 2011 for the worship service. Make of that what you like.

--Joel Lillo (a father, but not a Father)

Joel said...

I knew everyone would miss my point on this. EVERY form of worship can have a negative connotation for someone. When I first arrived in this area, I was about to conduct my first chapel for the Lutheran Elementary School at a sister congregation that my congregation supported. I was told that the order of service was the Morning Praise service from Christian Worship. I'd been singing the pastor's parts from that service for a couple of years at that point and planned on singing them in this service. I mentioned this to the organist for the service in the hallway of the school as the pastor of that congregation was coming toward us. As he got up to us, the organist said to him, "Guess what, Pastor Lillo is going to sing his parts of the service this Friday." This very old school WELS pastor said, "NO HE'S NOT! There are a number of members of this congregation who came out of the Catholic Church and they would associate the chanting with the errors of the Catholic Church. Oh, and don't even think of wearing anything but a black robe, either!"

Now, 17 years later, they do have the pastor chant in that congregation and it hasn't caused a mass exodus. They also are beginning to use contemporary music in their service as well and it isn't causing offense either. (By the way, I'm not talking about St. Peter's in Appleton. I think I have to mention that.) My point is that this congregation has accepted both kinds of worship in their services. Why? Because the doctrine hasn't changed.

I don't think that traditional liturgical worhip is Roman Catholic. I don't think that contemporary worship is "Methobapticostal." I think that both forms of worship can be Lutheran if the DOCTRINE is Lutheran.

Personally, I don't think that most people think of contemporary worship as belonging to any one particular denomination or theology. I think most people think of it as the way a lot of Americans worship.

Oh, and as far as my congregation is concerned... We use the liturgies from CW and CWS. I still chant. We haven't had a praise band and probably never will. And I use the NIV 2011 for the worship service. Make of that what you like.

--Joel Lillo

Anonymous said...

Sorry Pastor Lillo, if it "walks like a Methobapticostal, quacks like a Methobapticostal, it's a Methobapticostal". Pastor Spencer's point is simple in my estimation: have any contemporary worship form you like, and that's fine. Just don't call yourself a "confessional" Lutheran. I believe he called for "truth in advertising." If that makes me a "legalist", so be it. Won't be the first time, probably won't be the last.

Scott E. Jungen

AP said...

Method and practice are not neutral, most especially not when we start adopting wholesale the slogans (real, relevant, relational) and actual sermons of the sects who are most assuredly not Lutheran. We have more in common with Roman Catholics than we do with the Reformed and Arminian sects. At the very least, if we act like them, I wonder how long it will be before people think we really are just like them. When I walk into a Lutheran church, I want to know I'm in a Lutheran church, and the historical and confessional worship of the Lutheran church is the reformed Mass.

Now I will readily admit that liturgical worship alone does not make one orthodox. There are plenty of liturgical ELCA churches out there. I would argue though that their liturgical practices reflect their doctrine, which is probably why no one in WELS would start using the ELCA hymnal for worship.

If method and practice were really neutral, then maybe we should just start following the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. It most assuredly reflects Eastern Orthodox doctrine, but what does it matter? We can just follow the form, maybe even ape some of their phrases, and poof--instant Lutheranism! Stupid is as stupid does a wise man once said. Maybe church is as church does too. Let's see how long orthodoxy can last when it is every day challenged by sectarian practices and methods.

A.P.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Spencer spoke about truth in advertising. I recently was reading a website for a WELS congregation which included a paragraph about why they were called Lutheran. The answer was simply that they wanted to honor the work of Martin Luther. I don't think this answer gives a clear and unambiguous confession of where the WELS stands on doctrine. The congregation could be in fellowship with ELCA with that answer. A better reason to give for why we are called Lutheran would be because we follow the exposition of the Bible as presented by the Lutheran reformers.

Shelley Ledford

Donald Tilbury said...

Sorry Pastor Spencer but perhaps you should read the introduction to these articles (it's right before xxII or page 59 of the Concordia Triglota).

It's about context, the introduction "Articles in which are reviewed the abuses which have been corrected."

In this case rumors which needed to be corrected or explained.

Yes, Article XXIV does say the "mass is retained among us" but he also goes on to say "ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ]."

Now does that open doors in worship styles? Does it have to follow certain worship services found in CW? Or does it need to teach people of Christ?

Opinions are opinions and should be kept as such, to say that someone isn't confessional lutheran because their worship style is different (yet still educates the worshiper of Christ) then perhaps I would be happy not to call myself a "confessional lutheran."

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