Why the “I Did It My Way” Approach is No More Appropriate When Wearing a Chausable Than When Wearing Only Dockers and a Polo Shirt
That blog post title got your attention, didn’t it? Good! Now, let me say this very carefully: this is not about chasables, or however you spell that word, it is about the principle of the benefit of the greatest amount of uniformity as possible. If you refuse to understand this point, you don’t understand how Lutherans approach questions of ceremony and liturgy.
A confessional Lutheran pastor in Germany sent me these very informative, helpful and deeply thoughtful comments, and I’m passing them along to you. I have put in bold and underlined the comment that some of my friends who love to add ceremonies to the Lutheran service simply are failing to account for and, frankly, I am convinced they really just don’t want to hear this, because there is within every American Lutheran the “I did it my way” American love of freedom, liberty and “rights” to do what one feels is “best.”
The last days I watched the discussion on Facebook and in your blog concerning high church liturgy. Here in Germany there is also a High Church Association within the churches of the EKD. Its roots go back to movements after WW I which eventually found a leader in Friedrich Heiler, a Roman Catholic theologian who became evangelical without leaving Roman doctrines behind. Hermann Sasse wrote an article about him and his movement in 1944 which is now reprinted in Sasse (2011), In statu confessionis 3, 231-260. The main distinguishing features of high church theologians in Germany are their zeal to get the “apostolic succession” by the laying on of hands (mostly in Scandinavia or by sympathizing Roman Catholic bishops) and to restore the practices of the Roman mass especially in regard to sacrifice language to make the “lacking” Lutheran liturgy “whole” once more.
When I studied in Münster/Westf. in 1992, I had a seminar with Prof. Martin Brecht about Luther’s reform of the mass. There we compiled the main concerns of the reformer in regard to worship in consequently purging all allusions or references to sacrifice in the Last Supper. Since the EKD was preparing a reform of their main agendas in that time, we compared Luther’s goals with tendencies in VELKD Lutheranism to incorporate prayers for celebrating the mass right out of the post-Vaticanum II Missale Romanum in their new book of worship. Of course, Prof. Brecht was highly critical of theses tendencies.
A few weeks ago you mentioned the liturgy of XYZ Lutheran Church in XYZ. I have found their ordinary of the mass as PDF on their web site. This is a most disturbing text. We not only have here problematic allusions to the intercession of the departed saints which, in my opinion, are not in accordance with Apology XXI (IX) – this tendency of invoking the intercession of the saints also exists in German High Church circles as their breviary shows in the order of Compline -, in this ordinary there are parts which speak of the Last Supper as being our offering to God. This is pure heresy and should not be tolerated in a Lutheran congregation. It is disturbing how far some are willing to go in “rediscovering lost treasures of liturgy”. The Roman Mass is no way a role model for Lutheran masses.
Another point often overlooked in High church circles is the fact that not all Lutheran churches in Germany followed Luther’s Deutsche Messe from 1525. The Lutheran Church of Württemberg with Johannes Brenz reformed their worship after the model of the medieval Prädikantengottesdienst (a simple service of the word which contained the Last supper at least once in a month). This form is used up to this day. Luther knew about the Württemberg ordinary and approved it. He deemed it not necessary that all churches had to follow the form of the mass. (But I like Luther’s form better than the Württemberg one.)
As problematic as it is that some congregations abandon the service book in favor of contemporary worship, it is equally problematic if a congregation abandons the order of service chosen by a given church body (synod) in favor of high church liturgy because the consent of all congregations is lost. Luther pointed out that, though a congregation is free to order its worship as it seems fit, it should always seek the harmony with other congregations of a given area (Letter to the Christians in Liefland 1525). Since the LCMS gave itself four forms in the LSB, it is not appropriate when a congregation ignores them in favor of their own form.
So, these were just some ramblings and musings I had to ventilate after reading the ordinary from the congregation in XYZ.
And, let’s remind ourselves, once again, of Martin Luther’s extremely important and wise counsel:
In the first place, I would kindly and for God’s sake request all those who see this order of service or desire to follow it: Do not make it a rigid law to bind or entangle anyone’s conscience, but use it in Christian liberty as long, when, where, and how you find it to be practical and useful. For this is being published not as though we meant to lord it over anyone else, or to legislate for him, but because of the widespread demand for German masses and services and the general dissatisfaction and offense that has been caused by the great variety of new masses, for everyone makes his own order of service. Some have the best intentions, but others have no more than an itch to produce something novel so that they might shine before men as leading lights, rather than being ordinary teachers—as is always the case with Christian liberty: very few use it for the glory of God and the good of the neighbor; most use it for their own advantage and pleasure. But while the exercise of this freedom is up to everyone’s conscience and must not be cramped or forbidden, nevertheless, we must make sure that freedom shall be and remain a servant of love and of our fellow-man.
Where the people are perplexed and offended by these differences in liturgical usage, however, we are certainly bound to forego our freedom and seek, if possible, to better rather than to offend them by what we do or leave undone. Seeing then that this external order, while it cannot affect the conscience before God, may yet serve the neighbor, we should seek to be of one mind in Christian love, as St. Paul teaches [Rom. 15:5-6; 1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. 2:2]. As far as possible we should observe the same rites and ceremonies, just as all Christians have the same baptism and the same sacrament [of the altar] and no one has received a special one of his own from God…For if I should try to make it up out of my own need (an order of service), it might turn into a sect.” (emphasis my own) (LW, Volume 53, Liturgy and Hymns, pages 61 and 64)