The High Church Danger to the Lutheran Church – A Fraternal Warning
I have read, in many places, and at various times, that there are those who wish to imply, suggest, or even say outright, that there is in fact a certain form of the Lutheran liturgy to which all should aspire in order for the Lutheran liturgy to be conducted most appropriately and most properly. Such claims, while well intentioned, are wrong. In our age when the Lutheran Church has, in many places, sold its liturgical birthright for a porridge of non-denominational, non-sacramental, sensationalist entertainment style “worship,” it is understandable that a reaction to this will be letting the pendulum swing far in the other direction, but…we must not do this. Here are some prophetic words from Hermann Sasse against the high church danger. And a friend just wisely pointed out that we need to be very careful to distinguish between the liturgy, per se, and the ceremonial, that is, the customs and practices that accompany the liturgy. It is about the “ceremonial” where I’m noticing the most concern and false impressions being given, as per Sasse’s warning.
Even the Pope has reminded his bishops that the Masses that are secretly celebrated in prison camps, without any pomp, in utter simplicity, come very near to the Mass of the ancient church and are not inferior to a pontifical Mass. In Lutheran Germany, however, one can today hear theologians — even some who come from unliturgical Wuerttemberg — say that there is a form of the divine service that belongs to the essence of the church, even that Gregorian chant belongs essentially to the Christian liturgy. It is high time that the liturgical movement in the Lutheran church wakes up from its romantic dreams and subordinates itself to the norms to which the whole life of the church must be subject: the norma normans of Holy Scripture and the norma normata of the church’s confession. And this applies to all the Lutheran churches in the world, for the Scandinavian, in which the Anglican influence is so great, and for the American, in which the ideas of the European liturgical movement have now gained a footing. If this serious reflection does not take place, then the liturgical movement will become what it has become already for many of its adherents: the end of Lutheranism and the road to Rome.
from Hermann Sasse, “The Lutheran Understanding of the Consecration”, Letters to Lutheran Pastors No. 26, July 1952, in We Confess the Church (pp117-118), Concordia, 1985.
HT: Gnesio blog.