21 February 2008

A big, hearty "Thank you"...

...to Pr. Rick Stuckwish for his incisive and much-needed comments about the recent language from and direction of the LCMS Commission on Worship and its foray into American Evangelical lingo, practice, and theology! Please read his comments here.

It certainly appears that the current Commission on Worship wants to distance itself from Lutheran Service Book and its growing, salutary concordia (harmony, oneness) in the Church's liturgy as it, the Commission, clamors for the pottage of Methodistic and Revivalistic forms of "soul winning" worship. In fact, I would push the point and say that the current Commission appears to be distancing itself, and the LCMS, from a bona fide Lutheran understanding of the liturgy and God's service to us in His Gospel and Sacraments altogether! Compare the comments given by the Commission (as cited in Pr. Stuckwish's blog post) with what the Apology of the Augsburg Confession says:
We cheerfully maintain the old traditions made in the Church for the sake of usefulness and peace. We interpret them in a more moderate way and reject the opinion that holds they justify…. Among us many use the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day. They do so after they have been first instructed, examined, and absolved. The children sing psalms in order that they may learn. The people also sing so that they may either learn or pray…. Nothing in customary rites should be changed without a reasonable cause. So to nurture unity, old customs that can be kept without sin or great inconvenience should be kept. In this very assembly we have shown well enough that for love’s sake we do not refuse to keep adiaphora with others, even though they may be burdensome. We have judged that such public unity, which could indeed be produced without offending consciences, should be preferred (Apology XV:38-52, emphasis added).
Our Lutheran forebears would certainly strive to win souls, however, they would do so by means of the Gospel and Sacraments of Jesus Christ handed down and practiced via the Church's liturgy through the centuries. In other words, according to our Lutheran forebears, proper worship and true "soul-winning" both occur within the catholicity of the Church and the Church's life in the liturgy, that is, the Gospel proclaimed and the Sacraments given out as they have been through the 20 centuries of the Church's life. After all, these same forebears - our sage fathers in the Faith and in proper "worship" - would also trust and confess that the Holy Spirit "works faith, when and where it pleases God, in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake" (Augsburg Confession V:2-3).

Pr. Stuckwish is exactly right: the Holy Spirit is the One who "wins souls." Our task is simply and faithfully to hear, learn, and proclaim the love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. I for one would much rather trust the gracious work of the Holy Trinity, however unpredictable it may be by my finite standards and understanding, than place my confidence in man-made strategies and "methodisms" for ensuring some statistical quota of "souls."

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