Monday, December 29, 2014

Meet the LIMO

I honor the state's emperor (once they were called "presidents"), sure, but my true allegiance can only be to my Lord Christ, who saved me by His merits and bitter suffering and death ... and who continues to preserve me for all eternity.  Still, something of use can be learned from politicians and their rabid political party followers.

There is, for example, the salvifically drenched in red (blood), baptized and Evangelical Catholic, or true Lutheran (to adjectively say "confessional," as in reference to the Book of Concord, would be redundant); and then there is the LIMO ... the Lutheran in Mind Only.  Generally they are given to compromise, like the enfeebled, blue-nosed crypto-Calvinists who certainly resorted to mind, of a sorts.  Even the serpent had a mind, one nuanced and advanced above that of all the beasts of the field.  Including even that of a Seminary professor or two.

A dominating subspecies of the LIMO is the "stretch" LIMO, who 1) stretches the meaning of justification, so that the crucifying work of God needs to be augmented by the works of men ... without saying how much we are to sweat out our dynes of energy, which makes me anxious and cranky; or who 2) stretches out the Christly iconic nature of the Holy Office of the Apostolic Ministry, to include Eve's daughters, school-teachers and the un-ordained business-suited; or who 3) freely abandon or mutilate the Mass's sacramental eating and drinking, so that supposedly we poor sinners have to stretch out to attain an audience with a spatially-localized Christ, by soaring to heaven through means of our praise-band propelled emotions.

Your (unworthy) servant (and diagnostician),
Herr Doktor

Pine for Your Two Front Teeth ... But All I Want for Christmass is HIS Body and Blood.

The instructional folder of Zion Evangelical-Lutheran (Detroit), entitled "The Church Year: Advent," has recently fallen into your (unworthy) servant's hands, and the double-sided, triptych production is to be both cherished and commended.  The catechetical device discusses the history of the Adventide reverencing, the three-fold coming of Christ which the true Lutheran celebrates at this occasion, and its liturgical nuances and hymnology.  Conspicuously, it employs the term Christmass throughout, to make reference to that great Festival of the Nativity of our Lord which is observed on December 25.   I like this.  I hope this trend catches on and spreads, epidemically in fact.  The term allows us poor Christians ... we retain fallen flesh ...  to separate more easily from the cheap and seductive "eat, drink and go bankrupt" superficialities of the world at large, which will seek any reason to party and seek rest from its anxieties through numbing excess.

More deeply than this, though, the term "Christmass" focuses our attention, firstly, on Lord Christ; and secondly, on His loving, last-word-and-testamental provision of the Means by which His Presence is made known to us not only in the past, or in the Age to come, but among us today.  You see, the Lord visits His people today, in both Word AND Sacrament of the Liturgy of His Church.  In the Eucharist, we of His Body receive and maintain an intimate attachment with Him, in sanctified forms we humans can eat and drink.

But this has not always been faithfully professed by Lutherans of the past.  Only some 30 years ago, for example, a Children's Program published by the "conservative" Northwestern Publishing House had the Lord's little lambs give discourse on the acronym C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S, with a short devotional message based on each letter.  The spelling lesson went no further than the first six letters, however.  This interruption was not because of a fear that the treat-bagged oranges and peanuts were going stale;  but rather because ... so it was piously recited ...  "Christ is all we need."

Of course, one can safely presume that within a few short hours of the resounding declaration of this creed, both the preaching kiddies and the receptive adults were enthusiastically ripping the tissue from their begged-for gifts.  Even their church's brown-bagged health-foods would not be enough booty for them.  You see, stolid Lutherans can be a hilarious as well as a "peculiar people", as humorist Garrison Keillor would firmly prove to no little profit, a mere two decades or so later.

It's true, though.  Christ is all we need.  That is why we fear, love and adore Him, and put our bodies where our mouths are by showing this love by obeying His Word.  His clear instructions are to DO that which the Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions refer to as the "breaking of bread"/the Mass/the Lord's Supper so that we come to remember and treasure His Passion which freed us from bondage to sin, Death and the Devil.   And to eat and drink His very Present Body and Blood, for the remission of sins.  By following and cherishing our Lord's "This do," we imitate what the growing ancient Church did at least every week, according to the Book of Acts; and we imitate what our Lutheran forefathers boasted, without sense of irony or facial "wink-wink," that they did with greater fervor, intensity and reverence than did the papal party.  Because the Mass clearly propounds the blessed Incarnation [2; p. 168] and just as surely, the comforting belief that our bodies, "when they share in the Eucharist ... are no longer subject to corruption but possess the hope of the Resurrection [2; p. 169]."   And finally, because the Mass, of course, teaches the real coming and presence  of our dear Lord in our Divine Service, now.  Today. 

Christmass without the Mass is Christ no mas, is a Christ "no more" ... to use the translated, 1980 surrender language of welter-weight boxer Roberto Duran against "Sugar" Ray Leonard [3].   At least, not a Christ the true member of the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, including the patristic father Irenaeus [2; pp. 168, 169], would recognize. 

Apparently the WELS youths of the 80's learned their programmed scripts all too well.  Dynamically, as Freud once argued, the child is father to the man.   Now the synod's grown-up pastors, once upon a time professing little kiddies but now learned moderators of and contributors to the Institute of Worship & Outreach [1], are counseling the churches of their "conservative" denomination to drop the Mass from the congregational celebration of Christmas(s), as an evangelistic maneuver.  Apparently, the IWO concludes, Christmas(s) ... and Easter and even the High Church Festival of Mother's Day) ... are  big draws for the restless seeker; and the exclusivist nature of the Mass ... which gift does carry pastoral responsibility and a divine judgment if eaten without adult comprehension and faith ... carries a certain risk of shaming and angering the outsider.  Not to mention the "counselor" himself being fingered by the enraged 21st century skeptic, as being artlessly intolerant or at least cluelessly delusional.  This happened to the Lord Jesus Himself, as recorded in John 6 when He challenged His listeners with some very uncomfortable truths about Himself.  At that time, even a lot of perturbed "disciples" fled from His holy presence; and not all the blame can be placed on the Christ's failure to organize a rockin' praise-band to embellish His weekly synagogue visits and a lesson or two from Isaiah.

The personal fears of appearing foolish or a stumbling-block aside, the logic of the IWO does NOT follow the teachings and uncompromising practice of our Lord (including that teaching found in Mt 28; cf.  "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you"), or the behavior of the early Church ... which grew and turned the world upside down by the power of the Holy Spirit, and not by a resort to the cleverly devised "bait-and-switch" tactics of man, to better snare the uninformed inside the nave.

Moreover, if the Mass were an encumbrance to the evangelical proclamation, and if "Christ [localized physically to heaven] is all we need" were true according its rank protestant understandings ("A sermon's enough!"), then why bother with the Lord's Supper on Father's Day (evidently something of a second-class liturgical holy-day, in WELS-think and Hallmark Card surveys, compared to that of Mother's own) ... or on any Sunday for that matter?

Maybe that logical step is to be left for the third or fourth generation, to follow the fathers' advice sowed in the 1980's.  

[1]  J. Schroeder  "Worship and Outreach:  A Lutheran Paradigm,"  The Institute of Worship & Outreach; posted 7 September 2011
[2]  M. Chemnitz "The Lord's Supper (De coena Domini)," Part X.G: The resurrection and salvation of the flesh are demonstrated by our participation in the Lord's Supper; Concordia Publishing House (St. Louis), 1979.  Translation from the Latin by J.A.O. Preus   
[3]  Leonard-Duran Championship Fight II

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Questions for Troubled Ladies and Their Husbands

At Facebook, the gifted Lutheran essayist and poet Chad Bird observes that the first recorded words of God directed at man on the spot, in Genesis and Luke's Gospel, share a distinctive similarity.  They are both in the form of questions ("Where art thou?" and "How is it that ye sought Me?," respectively).  They are hauntingly demanding, unsettling, and with a pinch of disappointment thrown in the mix.  What's this all about?

God is all knowing, and fills heaven and earth.  The first question, addressed to Adam and Eve, is not the whine of a befuddled old man or a buffoonish Zeus.  And, it has nothing do with precise latitude or longitude.  In my clinical opinion, this is a brilliant probe of creaturely man's spirit and mind; the perfect opener for a knock-down, brutally honest 50-minute session on the couch.  It is an invitation to bare all (pun fully intended) and sequentially participate in the first quasi-Private Confessions of all time.  But you know the script:

V "Where are you?"
R:   "Here's where we're at, LORD.  Our situation is desperate.  We are poor miserable sinners.  We thought we could freely abandon You, and do without You.  We spurned the "DO THIS" food You commanded for our blessing, and much preferred instead our own thoughts and wisdom as to procedure and matter.  Truth be told, our transference feeling is one of total sympathy with the evil Serpent, and a totally murderous hatred towards You.  In fact, we'd hoist You on a tree if opportunity presented itself.  But we're weak and scared.  We need help, therefore; we need You.  For we deserve nothing but annihilation and death.  Have mercy on us, Three times over."

Of course, while the fate of Creation itself hung in the balance ... remember(with Jonah) wicked Nineveh's sparing, upon its donning of sackcloth and ashes ... NO such confession was forthcoming.  That's the tragic history.  While the couple was frightened and embarrassed as to their shocking vulnerability and dependency, there was no despairing remorse or a spoken recognition of their -- not God! -- being absolutely lost.   God resolutely sought the truth from them; but what He received was excuses from Eve, and a slap in the face from Adam.  The great name-giver of every living creature of God,  was tongue-tied and resistant when it came to identifying his own depravity.  "Somebody else is to blame, certainly not me."   This creed continues to be a universal scream of our age; and perhaps accounts for the scandalous decline and conscious avoidance of Private Confession, although our Book of Concord stoutly insists "Oh, yes, yes; among the Lutherans, we do keep and treasure such." Our own dogmas judge us, as a people.

The little Lord Jesus ... steadily growing in wisdom, strength, and favor with both God and man ... challenges His parents in a way quite similar to that in which He probed our first parents.  Jesus' parents had been caught in a spot, too, losing sight of God and faith-based expectations of His behavior.  "Examine yourselves," He confronts the Best Parents the world has seen.  "You who tabernacled Me in the womb, doing My Father's business:  "Why did you not expect to find Me safely tabernacled in My loving Father's House, doing His business?"  Significantly, Luke records no satisfactory response for the lapse in understanding and indeed,  I maintain, of faith.    They had frantically sought Him among kin and acquaintances, and spent three additional days of agony and fear of Jesus' death in the vicinity of Jerusalem ... a rehearsal for the Passion to come.  But they sought in anything and everything but the established, earthly abode of His Father.  See, the Scriptures are razor-sharp in exposing the failings and frustrations of the heroes and heroines of our merciful God.   They are not less heroes in God's sight, through Christ His Son, for all that.

"Oh come all ye unfaithful" ... to worship and bless our Incarnate Lord, as Chad Bird brilliantly phrases it.  So true! The Lord is a compassionate physician to the ill, not the self-satisfied self-deluded.  Bird is dangerous, and if he keeps this up, could potentially put the entire psychiatric community out of business.  But I digress.     

I have nothing but the deepest respect and love for our Lady St. Mary, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God.  Again, in this episode of the 12-year old Jesus' life, we have dear Mary giving us an example to ever ponder and keep in our hearts what her God-man Son says, and does.  To me, this memory from Dr. Luke also underscores why I love and treasure her so.  She too was fully and really human, no plaster-cast Santa, but a human subject to the same fears and frettings associated with a perceived loss.  But she also possesses a heart's attention which  fixates once again, solidly, on Jesus ... her self-professed Savior.  My attention is more scattered, and unlike hers, outrageously cowardly among men.  But He is my Savior, too, and for this grandness, tonight, I rejoice with her my Lady; dear St. Joseph; all my brethren; and all the hosts of Heaven.  Gloria in Excelsis!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Farewell, Salutation.

Of course, the Salutation of the Church's Divine Service is a high point of many stirringly enriching moments, pulsating and surging with meaning and ... dare I say it ... thrillingly tense drama, too (peruse the picture above; I'll explain below).  It's something grand, something which the riff-raff cacophony of the "praise-band" simply can't match.   The Salutation (which in this posting, is understood to include the laitical Response) shouldn't be treated lightly, or carelessly eliminated from the liturgical flow so as to de-emphasize the tender relationship existing between shepherd and flock.

According to the 1908 "An Explanation of the Common Service"[1; pages 30, 50, 66], the Salutation:

1.  is prayer invoking a Divine blessing, voiced sequentially between the pastor and his congregation, on behalf of the other.
2.  is a shared acknowledgement of God's serving and saving Presence, in the "now" setting of the Divine Service.
3.  was employed by the Medieval Church to "introduce every main part of the Service."  In other words, the Salutation for centuries has ordered the Divine Service, and usefully directs the attention to critical moments of intercession, blessing, grace, and joyful thanksgiving.

According to the Rev. Fr. Burnell Eckardt  [2; pp. 34-35], the Salutation:

1.  is an adaptation of the risen Christ's blessing of peace, lovingly addressed to His crest-fallen followers, cowering in their fearfully "secured" room; and faithfully messaged again by today's ordained ambassador of Christ.  Says Fr. Eckardt, the "pastor is repeating the pattern set by Christ Himself."
2.  is a preparatory maneuver for the heart's hearing of God's Word.  Fr. Eckardt has noted that in the ceremony of the Mass, "these are the first words (the pastor) speaks to the people as pastor."    This is because the Common Service's "Service of Preparation," which includes the General Confession, is in a liturgically technical sense not part of the Mass proper.
3. includes the laity's fervent prayer (i.e., "and with thy spirit") that the Holy Ghost will rest on the pastor, as a ritely and rightly-established bearer of the Spirit's own Holy Office.  This concrete Office entails solemn, serious and significant responsibility; and as Fr. Eckardt stresses in his book, it is a responsibility for which great divine "grace is required."  We add:  Those who think not, and prefer instead to entertain the poor laity with their clever jokes, or conduct sports-polls in the nave, should recall the toasted fate of the nonchalant duo Nadab and Abihu.  As St. Paul solemnly reminds the Corinthians and us, the very angels of God take interest in our chosen behavior, in the course of worshiping their Master.  One presumes they have long memories.

According to Professor Luther Reed [3; pages 262-263], the Salutation:

1.  is "a form of greeting" capturing the reality of the Hebrew expression Emmanuel ("God with us").  God is here, now, in the Mass.  Does your mind and body's behavior attend to and reflect this remarkable Truth?
2.  takes origin from several Old and New Testament pronouncements (e.g., Ruth 2:4;  Jdg 6:12; Lk 1;28; and, perhaps (sic), the Pauline benedictions (e.g., 2 Th 3:16; 2 Tm 4:22; etc.).
3.  has from the earliest times been constituted "as a significant responsive introduction to new and different parts of the Service."  In other words, the Salutation acts, then and NOW, as a marker of place, phase and progression in the course of God's Service to us.  It reminds us poor laymen:  "Watch!  Be alert!  Is your lamp of faith and wisdom filled, for what lies ahead?"
4.  is, in an extremely powerful sense, a holy and liturgical "endorsement" of the pastor to converse with God, and to indeed speak and act on behalf of the Almighty, to the benefit of the gathered believers.  It is a recollection of the congregational call, and the ecclesial ordination, of the presiding shepherd-servant.  Here, Prof. Reed quotes the French theologian Fernand Cabrol (1906) to splendid effect:  "The people answer 'And with thy spirit' as though commissioning him (the priest) to speak for all."

This ... this is powerful stuff.  The Salutation surely recalls the events occurring at the foot of Mt. Sinai, where at the rightfully quaking Israelites ... caught in the stupendous and over-powering presence of the Holy, Holy, Holy of their fathers ... pleaded with Moses the man, specifically and personally, to entreat the Tri-Personable Transcendent for them (Ex 20:18-21).  Yes, the Israelite Sinai of Law has now become the Lutheran Altar of Grace and Salvation.  Hallelujah!  But God Himself is no less Holy than when He chose to meet with Moses, millennia ago.  God does not change.  He still uses properly chosen and vested ambassadors of Christ.  Christ, the Incarnate LORD ... "like unto [Moses]," but immeasurably greater ... urges His sheep:  "Unto these My men, you shall hearken."   Pray for these My men, all ye saints.   Pray that the Spirit will descend on and enliven their spirits, so as to speak (and administer) the Truth which leads to salvation.  Pray, pray without ceasing.

And this we do, in the Salutation.

By the way, the beautiful distinction ... and responsibilities ... inherent in the orthodox Salutation is utterly lost with the Romish conciliar-inspired travesty of a Responsory i.e., "and also with you."  It's polite enough.  But a more complete leveling of shepherd and flock cannot be conceived by human gray matter, although experience teaches it's best not to under-estimate the fallen neuron's ability for conceiving additional mischief.   Through language and cognitive changes of our times, the Salutation has become less of a renewing, or recollection of Godly commissioning and ordination, than a time-consuming and potentially disposable exchange of pleasantries.  This is no small threat.   Be aware that doing the wave in the nave/"auditorium" is far more in tune with the prevailing religious sensitivities of America's true place of worship (the Super Bowl).  As evidence supporting the contentions here, consider this sorry circumstance existing among the "conservative" Lutherans.

In 1941's The Lutheran Hymnal, the Salutation occurs in three places within the "Order of the Holy Communion" (p. 15ff).  Firstly, at the Collect of the Day (an extraordinary encounter of God and all His people, where the pastor gathers the prayers of congregation, the entire orthodox Church, and indeed the orthodox Church of all time ... and  relates it to the theme of the liturgical week).  Secondly, at the Preface to the Eucharistic Mass, which precedes the pastor's handling and distributing the very Body and Blood of our Lord.  Lastly, its third occurrence  is found at near the post-Communion Benedicamus and Benediction, in which the human ambassador of Christ calls again on the Trinitarian God.  This, to entreat the LORD to lovingly and protectively send His people off to engage an oft-hostile world, in the abiding Presence and countenance of their Savior.  These are three liturgical encounters of great blessing, and great promise.  They truly merit the introductory convocation of hearts, embedded in the liturgy's Salutation.

Indeed, in some gatherings of the saints, like that routinely found at Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church (Detroit), the Ordo used allows for even more Salutations to be expressed, as occurs prior to the reading of the Scriptural Lessons of the day, and at the Post-Communion Collect.     

Inside the pages of the WELS' Christian Worship (1993), in contrast, its self-described "version" of the Common Service has stripped the Salutation from the closing Benediction.   Moreover, within the synod-endorsed alternative to its "Common Service" (viz., the "Service of Word and Sacrament," p. 26), the empowering Salutation has been stripped away from the Prayer of the Day (i.e., principle Collect),  and thence diverted to the commencing Service of Preparation, at the very start of things.  Here, the WELS' neighborly Greeting (sic) is exchanged between pastor and laity, coming at the expense of the august and abandoned Invocation of the TLH (and the ancient Western Rite, more generally, and even the WELS' idiosyncratic version of it, self-designated as "The Common Service").

Since the WELS is in the first stages of formulating a new hymnal for itself, there is no little cause for concern about a further vanishing of the Salutation, among a segment of the Lutheran community (with an established penchant for innovative red-lining of catechism, no less than  hymnal).

But it remains a mystery of group-psychology theorizing as to why the Salutation is treated in such loose fashion by Lutherans.  Maybe there is need, by a small minority, to be regarded as ever-trendy in the busy-busy world around.  Perhaps Dr. Adler was a right; there is a strong drive to flex a threatened self-identity's muscles, in order to seem assertive and to appear competent.  And yes, the WELS too often was type-cast in the role of little brother, for years, in that Synodical Conference which produced TLH.  Now on its own, it's rustling the head-feathers; or arching the back; or wielding the shovel and throwing the stuff found in the sandbox, among the other kids.   It's making a statement, an independent one, although the quality of the sandbox's material can at times raise the eyebrows and the nose.  

Or maybe ... given the high sacred meaning of the Salutation as perceived by Lutherans over one hundred years ago, and Eckhardt and Reed ...  a public exposure of the WELS' limited grasp and appreciation of the concrete Office of Holy Ministry and God's Service (Gottesdienst)  only becomes something inevitable and sorely evident, in its worship pages. "Lex oralis etc.." Verily, though, the endangered status of the Salutation in the Mass is NOT arising from synodical impatience with repetition or inefficiency.  After all, Christian Worship has chosen to introduce periodic refrains into the very midst of the Psalms it provides to be chanted.  Then again, with these intrusive "improvements" to God's Word, comes a simultaneous paring down of the absolute number of David's songs and too often of verse, found in the pews' same bound volumes.

So then, who can fathom these things?  Sometimes the blot of a Rorschach exercise remains only a blot.


[1]  F.E. Cooper et al. (1906) "An Exploration of the Common Service," United Lutheran Publications House, Philadelphia PA; Reprint: Emmauel Press (2006), Grand Rapids MI

[2]  B.F. Eckardt Jr. (text: 1998-2005) "Why? A Layman's Guide to the Liturgy," Repristination Press, Malone TX

[3]  L.D. Reed (1947)  "The Lutheran Liturgy," Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia PA