Come To A Common Decision About These External Matters

Now even though external rites and orders—such as masses, singing, reading, baptizing—add nothing to salvation, yet it is un-Christian to quarrel over such things and thereby to confuse the common people. We should consider the edification of the lay folk more important than our own ideas and opinions. Therefore, I pray all of you, my dear sirs, let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder—one thing being done here and another there—lest the common people get confused and discouraged.
For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at any time, yet from the viewpoint of love, you are not free to use this liberty, but bound to consider the edification of the common people, as St. Paul says, I Corinthians 14 [:40], “All things should be done to edify,” and I Corinthians 6 [:12], “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful,” and I Corinthians 8 [:1], “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Think also of what he says there about those who have a knowledge of faith and of freedom, but who do not know how to use it; for they use it not for the edification of the people but for their own vainglory.
Now when your people are confused and offended by your lack of uniform order, you cannot plead, “Externals are free. Here in my own place I am going to do as I please.” But you are bound to consider the effect of your attitude on others. By faith be free in your conscience toward God, but by love be bound to serve your neighbor’s edification, as also St. Paul says, Romans 14 [15:2], “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him.” For we should not please ourselves, since Christ also pleased not himself, but us all.
But at the same time a preacher must watch and diligently instruct the people lest they take such uniform practices as divinely appointed and absolutely binding laws. He must explain that this is done for their own good so that the unity of Christian people may also find expression in externals which in themselves are irrelevant. Since the ceremonies or rites are not needed for the conscience or for salvation and yet are useful and necessary to govern the people externally, one must not enforce or have them accepted for any other reason except to maintain peace and unity between men. For between God and men it is faith that procures peace and unity.
This I said to the preachers so that they may consider love and their obligation toward the people, dealing with the people not in faith’s freedom but in love’s submission and service, preserving the freedom of faith before God. Therefore, when you hold mass, sing and read uniformly, according to a common order—the same in one place as in another—because you see that the people want and need it and you wish to edify rather than confuse them. For you are there for their edification, as St. Paul says, “We have received authority not to destroy but to build up” [II Cor. 10:8]. If for yourselves you have no need of such uniformity, thank God. But the people need it. And what are you but servants of the people, as St. Paul says, II Corinthians 2 [1:24], “We are not lords over your faith, but rather your servants for the sake of Jesus Christ.” [Luther, “A Christian Exhortation to the Livonians,” LW (AE) 53:47-48
[Timotheos]
Advertisements

Until We Can’t Even Hear How Much Fun We’re Having

[T]he just, please note, are not stuffy religious types with yard-long lists of good works, but simply all the forgiven sinners of the world who live by faith–who just trust Jesus and laugh out loud at the layoff of all the accountants.

And the unjust?  Well, the unjust are all the forgiven sinners of the world who, stupidly, live by unfaith–who are going to insist on showing up at the resurrection with all their record books, as if it were an IRS audit.  The unjust are the idiots who are going to try to talk Jesus into checking his bookkeeping against theirs.  And do you know what Jesus is going to say to them–what, for example, he will say to his host [in Luke 14:12] if he comes to the resurrection with such a request?  I think he will say, ‘Just forget it, Arthur.  I suppose we have those books around here somewhere, and if you’re really determined to stand in front of my great white throne and make an ass of yourself, I guess they can be opened (Rev. 20:12).  Frankly, though, nobody up here pays any attention to them.  What will happen will be that while you’re busy reading and weeping over everything in those books, I will go and open my other book (Rev. 20:12, again), the book of life–the book that has in it the names of everybody I ever drew to myself by dying and rising.  And when I open that book, I’m going to read out to the whole universe every last word that’s written there.  And you know what that’s going to be?  It’s going to be just Arthur.  Nothing else.  None of your bad deeds, because I erased them all.  And none of your good deeds, because I didn’t count them, I just enjoyed them.  So what I’ll read out, Arthur, will be just Arthur! real loud.  And my Father will smile and say, ‘Hey, Arthur!  You’re just the way I pictured you!’  And the universe will giggle and say, ‘That’s some Arthur you’ve got there!’  But me, I’ll just wink at you and say, ‘Arthur, c’mon up here and plunk yourself down by my great white throne and let’s you and me have a good long practice laugh before this party gets so loud we can’t even hear how much fun we’re having.’  [Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment, 283-284

St. John Chrysostom on Scripture Reading

But many in these times, even when they come to church, do not know what is read; whereas the eunuch, even in public and riding in his chariot, applied himself to the reading of the Scriptures. Not so you: none takes the Bible in hand: nay, everything rather than the Bible.

Say, what are the Scriptures for? For as much as in you lies, it is all undone. What is the Church for? Tie up the Bibles: perhaps the judgment would not be such, not such the punishment: if one were to bury them in dung, that he might not hear them, he would not so insult them as you do now. For say, what is the insult there? That the man has buried them. And what here? That we do not hear them. Say, when is a person most insulted—when he is silent, and one makes no answer, or, when he does speak (and is unheeded)? So that the insult is greater in the present case when He does speak and thou wilt not hear: greater the contempt. “Speak not to us” (Is. 30:10), we read, they said of old to the Prophets: but ye do worse, saying, Speak: we will not do. For there they turned them away that they should not even speak, as feeling that from the voice itself they got some sort of awe and obligation; whereas you, in the excess of your contempt, do not even this. Believe me, if you stopped our mouths by putting your hands over them, the insult would not be so great as it is now. For say, whether shows greater contempt, he that hears, even when hindering by this action, or, he that will not even hear? Say—if we shall look at it as a case of an insult offered—suppose one person to check the party insulting him, and to stop his mouth, as being hurt by the insults, and another person to show no concern, but pretend not even to hear them: whether will show most contempt? Would you not say the latter? For the former shows that he feels himself hit: the latter all but stops the mouth of God. Did ye shudder at what was said? Why, the mouth by which God speaks, is the mouth of God. Just as our mouth is the mouth of our soul, though the soul has no mouth, so the mouth of the Prophets is the mouth of God. Hear, and shudder. There, common (to the whole congregation) stands the deacon crying aloud, and saying, “Let us attend to the reading.” It is the common voice of the whole Church, the voice which he utters, and yet none does attend. After him begins the Reader, “The Prophecy of Esaias,” and still none attends, although Prophecy has nothing of man in it. Then after this, he says, “Thus saith the Lord, and still none attends. Then after this punishments and vengeances, and still even then none attends. But what is the common excuse? “It is always the same things over again.” This it is most of all, that ruins you. Suppose you knew the things, even so you certainly ought not to turn away: since in the theatres also, is it not always the same things acted over again, and still you take no disgust? How dare you talk about “the same things,” you who know not so much as the names of the Prophets? Are you not ashamed to say, that this is why you do not listen, because it is “the same things over again,” while you do not know the names of those who are read, and this, though always hearing the same things? You have yourself confessed that the same things are said. Were I to say this as a reason for finding fault with you, you would need to have recourse to quite a different excuse, instead of this which is the very thing you find fault with.—Do not you exhort your son? Now if he should say, “Always the same things!” would not you count it an insult? It would be time enough to talk of “the same things,” when we both knew the things, and exhibited them in our practice. Or rather, even then, the reading of them would not be superfluous. What equal to Timothy? tell me that: and yet to him says Paul, “Give attention to reading, to exhortation. (1 Tim. 4:13.) For it is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom. “I said,” saith the Preacher, “I am become wise: and then it departed from me.”—(Eccles. 7:24.) Shall I show you that the things are not “the same?” How many persons, do you suppose, have spoken upon the Gospels? And yet all have spoken in a way which was new and fresh. For the more one dwells on them, the more insight does he get, the more does he behold the pure light. … but now we will hold our peace. For if what has been spoken has done you no good, much less would it, should we add more. We only pour water into a vessel full of holes. And the punishment too is all the greater for you. Therefore, we will hold our peace. Which that we may not have to do, it rests with yourselves. For if we shall see your diligence, perhaps we will again speak, that both ye may be more approved, and we may rejoice over you, in all things giving glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: to Him be glory and dominion now and ever, and world without end. Amen. –Homily XIX on the Acts of the Apostles

The more things change since AD 407…

Timotheos

Luther on Frequency of Eucharist

To the prudent and wise Lazarus Spengler at Nürnberg, etc. my friend and lord, who is so favorably inclined toward me


Grace and peace in Christ! Prudent, dear Lord and Friend! I received your letter, together with the document concerning the mass, and studied it diligently. Although I arrived at the conclusion that you do not need my counsel since God himself has provided you with such people in Nürnberg [who can advise you on this matter], yet at your request I shall willingly also add my voice.

First of all, it is proper and prudent not to compel anyone to come to or abstain from the sacrament, or to appoint particular times or places for it, thus trapping the consciences. Since St. Paul teaches, however, [in] I Corinthians 14 [:40, that] among Christians all things should be done in an orderly fashion, it seems good to me that the Provosts and ministers should get together and decide on a common and free procedure for this matter. The honorable city council should then see to it that this procedure is used, and thus preserve unity and uniformity. If I were asked for advice regarding such a procedure, I would suggest the following:

First, that all masses without communicants should be completely abolished; it is only right that they should be abolished, as their brief itself announces.

Second, that one or two masses should be celebrated on Sundays or on the days of the saints in the two parish churches, depending on whether there is a great or small number of communicants. If there were a need for it, or if it were considered desirable, the same could be done at the Spital.

Third, during the week mass could be celebrated on whatever day there is a need for it, that is, if there are some communicants present who ask for it and desire it. In this way no one would be forced to come to the sacrament, and yet everyone would be served [with the sacrament] in an orderly and sufficient way.

If the ministers complain about this, however, alleging that they are thus forced [to celebrate the Lord’s Supper], or lamenting that they are unworthy [to celebrate the Lord’s Supper], I would tell them that no one compels them except God himself through his call. For since they have the office, they are already obliged and compelled (on the basis of their calling and office) to administer the sacrament when it is requested of them; thus their excuses are void. This is the same as their obligation to preach, comfort, absolve, help the poor, and visit the sick, as often as these services are needed and demanded.

It also does not matter that someone may pretend to be unworthy because of his weak faith, shortcomings in his life, or coldness in devotion. He ought to look at his vocation and office, or even [better], at the Word of God which has called him. He may be impure and unworthy, yet the office and the call, or the Word, is sufficiently pure and worthy. And if he really believes he has been called, then he himself is, through this faith, worthy enough. For whoever believes he is called to the office of the church definitely also believes that his office and his work, and he himself in such an office, are acceptable and just before God; if he does not believe this, then it is also certain that he does not believe that his vocation and office are entrusted to him by God. …

Such an innovation may cause quite some commotion among the common people, but this is a risk which must be taken and put into the hands of God. But one must do everything to quiet any such commotion. This could be done in the following way: The undertaking of the visitation provides a good opportunity to admonish [the people] from the pulpit and to impress upon them that, as they themselves and the whole world well know, there have been many abuses in the worship, which we intend to correct.

Therefore they should be calm and not so outraged when some things are changed. Also in things which are of concern to all, no one should consider his own opinion to be the best. Rather all should devoutly help [and] pray to God, who does not wish anything in his church done according to man’s opinion, work, or word, but according to God’s Word and work (as St. Peter teaches), so that through His Spirit all things may be arranged in a blessed and good way. …

August 15, 1528

LW 49:205-210.

Notice that Luther assumes that the Sacrament will be celebrated at least weekly.

Timotheos

What is Clericalism?

It seems the ugly Stephanite beast has reared its head in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  From all the letters, blog posts, and Facebook comments in the past six months, you’d think that a cabal of clergy in cope and chasuble had stormed the International Center, thrown out every layperson, abolished voters’ assemblies, and made it a crime for non-clergy to talk about Jesus or even be in His presence.  But now a popular rebellion has arisen from the very roots of the grass [led, oops, by a bunch of clergy] to tear down the clerical elite with their bishops and Article XIVs.

The latest salvo aimed at priestcraft in all its forms comes from a former president (down with bishops!) of the LCMS (which, technically, makes him more bureaucrat than clergy).  Since the moderator is a little slow to approve comments, I post my response here:

President Kieschnick, with all due respect, I think this ought to be retracted. It is unproductive and divisive, especially following a convention that was perhaps the most unified we’ve seen in decades. You smear, by implication, every pastor who wears a clerical collar as wanting to dominate and be served, rather than to serve. I confess that my old sinful flesh would rather be served, but I doubt that temptation comes more easily to one in a collar than it does to one who wears a suit and tie, or jeans and a t-shirt.

Did you speak to any of those pastors in clerical collars? Do you know them? Or are you assuming the worst of them, because this is an easy card to play?

I have seen this “clergy-focused” canard thrown around recently, but I have yet to see any real evidence of it. The fact that seven of the ten Concordias have clergy as presidents doesn’t really tell us anything, nor does the fact that our president and vice-presidents are clergy. What about Boards of Regents? The laity are always represented, according to our bylaws. Voters at Synod conventions are equally divided between clergy and lay, and voters at district conventions are equal, as well (despite recent attempts to increase lay voters at conventions).

But those things are really beside the point, since the one standing out front is, as you say, to be a servant, rather than to lord it over those in his care. Therefore, if you have evidence that those in leadership positions have been lording it over those whom they ought to be serving, you should speak to them, rather than making vague accusations on a blog.

Further, the idea that we might somehow return to a sort of “Herr Pastor” culture in the Missouri Synod is laughable. If, after Stephan, such an LCMS existed, it certainly does not exist now. In what congregation of the Synod could a pastor, abusing his authority in the Gospel, ram his opinions and his way down the throats of his congregation, and not be run out of town on the slickest rail? Pastors don’t even have the authority to implement evangelical, Scriptural practices such as communion every Lord’s day without the fiercest opposition.

For every example of clergy attempting to exercise an unbiblical and unevangelical power, I could give you two of unbiblical and unevangelical lay domineering. But what does that prove, except that we’re all a bunch of damned sinners, pastors and lay alike?

Please don’t increase the unnecessary strife between pastors and people; each member of the Body has his or her own vocation, and it does not help to tear down the pastoral vocation in order to elevate the vocations of the laity.

I went searching for actual examples of clergy dominance, and the Facebook had this to say:  fb comments

I don’t know how the first person counts, but from this page, it looks to me like there are 35 lay people to 34 pastors (LCMS career missionaries).  Of the 1-2 year and other short-term missionaries, I highly doubt that they are even primarily clergy.  And if lay people have been removed from serving as missionaries, where is the evidence that it was because they weren’t pastors?  The above are not concrete examples; they are vague insinuations that require hard evidence.  Without such evidence, they just serve to stir up division and distrust between pastors and people.  And where is a degree needed for deacon or lay minister?  The LCMS doesn’t even have uniform language for these positions, let alone required degrees.

Further, cops who don’t wear uniforms don’t want people to know they’re cops.  I doubt that’s what the commenter wanted to say about pastors not wearing collars.  And I categorically deny that there is a special class of person called “theologian.”  Everyone who talks about God is a theologian, whether informed or uninformed, good or bad.  To preserve a class of theologian, above and apart from every Christian, is to denigrate lay people who study the Scriptures and give articulate and well-formed witness to Christ.  Not only that, but I find it hard to understand how a shepherd is supposed to shepherd the flock of God if he is not a theologian.

I don’t know about anyone else, but what I, as a pastor, want more than anything else is a theologically well-educated laity.  No, I don’t mean a seminary education.  I mean knowing the Scriptures and the Confessions, in order that they might do exactly what the above commenters want: to present the Gospel clearly and succinctly to their unbelieving family, friends, and neighbors within their vocations.  I want that.  And guess what?  They don’t have to be pastors to do it!  The cry of “clericalism!” (besides coming, strangely, from clergy) often comes from those who are, in practice, the most hyper-clerical of all.  Because they seem to think that lay people who are living out their vocations as Christians in the world are somehow not enough.  Instead of bearing witness within the places where God has put them, these anti-anti-clericalists want lay people to be “ministers.”  We’ve had this modernization of medieval monasticism feuchted on us for long enough.  (That is, unless you’re engaged in “ministry,” you’re not doing “Christian” work.)  If everyone is a minister, no one is.  And I wonder if that’s not what the end goal is.  There are more than a few people in the LCMS who think that the role/goal of pastors is to “work themselves out of a job.”  In other words, from a false translation of Ephesians 4 (see here, here, and here [as well as another essay by Hamann: “Church and Ministry: An Exegesis of Ephesians 4:1-16,” Lutheran Theological Journal 16:3 (December 1982)] for the technical evidence) has come a false idea of what a pastor is and is for.

A pastor is indeed given to the Church for the equipment of Christ’s saints, but not for the purpose of making them into little ministers.  He equips them for their life in the world (to do what they’ve been given to do) by doing what he’s been given to do: preach, teach, baptize, absolve, and give them Jesus’ Body and Blood.  This has nothing to do with pride, arrogance, or lording it over the flock of God which the pastor has been put there to serve; nor is it even about ability or education (but why would any congregation want a pastor who does not have the aptitude to teach and who can go no further in the Scriptures than the latest English translation combined with his feelings?).  This is simply about an Office, which–Lutherans confess–Jesus Himself has established, for the giving out of the forgiveness of sins.  Can lay people forgive sins?  Absolutely: within their vocations.  Can lay people preach the Gospel (as they clearly do in Acts 8:4)?  Absolutely: within their vocations.  Can lay people baptize?  Absolutely: within their vocations, as emergencies arise.

The whole “clergy-focused” argument is a denial of vocation and a return to what Luther vociferously opposed: the elevating of a certain vocation above all others.  It says to pastors: don’t do your vocation, we want to do it.  It says to lay people: don’t do your vocations, do the pastor’s.  When I as a pastor insist on doing my own vocation, it is exactly the opposite of clericalism: it is the upholding of every vocation as holy in Christ, including the pastor’s.

Is it clericalism to insist that the correct interpretation of the Scriptural Office of the Ministry is found in Articles V and XIV (as well as XXVIII) of the Augsburg Confession?  Then every single pastor in the LCMS and every single congregation of the LCMS is “clergy-focused,” because it is exactly these articles pastors vow to uphold in their ordinations and which congregations uphold in their constitutions.

Is it clericalism to want, as far as possible, the best trained pastors for every congregation in the Synod?  Then what is it to insist on giving congregations (who could otherwise have a fully trained pastor) pastors who don’t know the Biblical languages?

Is it clericalism to ask that our congregations abide by the Confessions they claim to, well, confess, and for them to put lay people who are publicly preaching and administering the Sacraments into the Office which was created by God for that purpose?  How would this deprive them of anything?  In fact, it would assure them that the man who is giving out the gifts of God in Christ is indeed put there to do exactly that.  No further degree necessary (although, again, is learning the Scriptures more deeply a bad thing?), no further cost.  Simply prayer and the laying on of hands to signify that this man is put into the one Office by God.  Instead of making up new terms, such as “licensing,” why not simply do what the Church has always done, and ordain them?  (And what is ordination, but a “license” to preach and teach according to AC XIV?  What’s with the neologisms?)

Is it clericalism to ask that churches that are planted have a man in the Office to do the AC V things?  How does this limit the missionary activity of lay people?

Vocation, vocation, vocation!  If we could get this straight, the struggles over and between pastors and lay people would essentially dry up (except, of course, for the peccator that remains in every pastor and every lay person!).  Pastors, you have a vocation partially outlined by your ordination vows and your Diploma of Vocation(!).  Do it.  If you don’t want to do it, don’t be a pastor.  Laymen, you have a vocation outlined by your relationships and what various people require from you.  Do it.  If you want to be a pastor, go through the process and be put into the Office.  Live your vocation.  It’s holy in Christ.  You don’t have to be a “professional church worker,” or even a non-professional church worker.  God has put the Body together in the way He wants it, and all the parts work together.  Let’s stop tearing down certain parts of the Body to elevate others, and let’s stop implying that certain members of the Body are less important because they’re not “doing ministry.”

Timotheos