Volume 29 November 2019 No. 11
The Vitality of the Church
It’s always tempting to assess things by their outward appearance. The old saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover arises from just such an awareness of that temptation. The temptation becomes all the clearer when outward appearances tell a very different story than the reality.
And that’s especially the case when one considers the vitality of a church, or of a congregation, on the basis of external appearances; specifically, the number of people attending on a typical Sunday, the amount of offerings, the congregation’s debts, or even the condition of the building.
While such things are sometimes necessary to consider, we ought not to think they are the way to assess the vitality of a congregation.
Vitality has to do with how alive something or someone is. How alive are we? That’s really a spiritual question, and so the manner of arriving at an answer must be made in a different way. For, as the Apostle Paul says, “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Spiritual vitality has to do with what the Lutheran Confessions consider the marks of the church: “The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered” (Augsburg Confession, VII).
And where these things happen, there is the life of the church. There is the vitality of the church.
And without question, by the grace of God the Gospel is rightly taught here, and the Sacraments are rightly administered here. Therefore the church is present here and its vitality is vibrant and unquestionably in evidence. The people of God are receiving the gifts of God.
Rejoice in that fact, dear members. Our Lord Jesus, who has given himself into death for us and risen from the dead as the first fruits of them that sleep, has also seen fit to plant his church in this very place; and because of this, we have heard and believed the Gospel, to the saving of our souls and the greater glory of God.
This is a good thing to remember when Thanksgiving is observed and celebrated. This year, Thanksgiving is on November 28th, and we will observe Thanksgiving Mass, as usual, the night before: Wednesday evening November 27th at 7 p.m.
+ Pastor Eckardt
94 Sunday night
$1170 early registrations
$1337 regular registrations
$ 809 Sunday night donations
$ 100 Monday donations
$3416 total received.
$104.41 paper products
$732.57 total expenses
(many items, including the beer, were donated)
Net Oktoberfest proceeds: $2683.43
Thanks be to God for another successful festival, and thanks to all who have been working tirelessly to help our congregation, volunteering time, donations, and effort.
Otis Anderson John Ricknell, Bill Thompson, Jim Hornback
11/5 Steve and Berniece Harris
11/10 Gayle and Phil Beauprez
11/19 Steve Kraklow
11/20 Jewneel Walker
11/30 Charlene Sovanski
Mary Hamilton has moved to Fort Wayne to live with her son John; Emmy Wear is at Williamsfield Home in Williamsfield; Emilie Ricknell is at home; Dick Melchin is at Hammond Henry extended care in Geneseo; Bea Harris is often homebound; Dale Baker is sometimes homebound.
First Tuesday moved to Second Week
November’s First Tuesday events are to be postponed until the second Tuesday, November 12th, because Pastor and Carol will be in Florida to visit her father the first week. Altar Guild at 6 p.m. Vespers is at 6:45, and Elders meet at 7:15.
As a minimum, when you rise in the morning and go to bed at night, repeat the invocation (In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen), say the Apostles’ Creed, and Say the Our Father. If you wish, you may add Luther’s morning or evening prayer.
It’s a good practice to set aside some time to read your Bible every day as well, at least a chapter.
You are encouraged to use your hymnal for a richer daily prayer. The order of matins (morning) or vespers (evening) is easily adoptable for personal use.
The hymnal is also a good resource for a schedule of daily readings. See page 161. These readings correspond with the material in Every Day Will I Bless Thee: Meditations for the Daily Office, my book of meditations for daily use); to purchase a copy, see me. – Pastor
November 1st, All Saints Day, will be observed on Wednesday, October 30th, at 7 pm.
Altar Guild News
The last Wednesday in October is red, to observe All Saints (which is November 1st). Then it turns to green for the all of November except for Thanksgiving, which we observe on Wednesday night, November 27th (color for Thanksgiving is white). The following Sunday (December 1st) is the first Sunday in Advent, for which the color is violet. The advent wreath must be prepared in anticipation of that.
November meeting is moved to the Second Tuesday, November 12th, at 6 pm.
In Our Prayers
To update the list please inform the pastor.
in our parish:
Mary Beth Jones
and beyond our parish:
Anna Rutowicz [granddaughter of Harrises]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter]
Pastor Kenneth Wegener
Elizabeth Godke, Sharon Field’s mother
Brandt and Oneda Hendrickson [Ricknells’ relatives]
Helen Woods [Sue Murphy’s sister]
Janice Hart [Judy Thompson’s sister]
Caleb Cleaver [Ricknells’ grandson]
Dennis Hoag [Adam Shreck’s father-in-law]
Sue Harris [Steve Harris’s sister-in-law]
Nancy Callahan [Don Murphy’s sister]
Rachel Smith [Emmy Wear’s cousin]
Yvette Baker [Dale’s daughter-in-law]
Warren Williams [relative of the Kemerlings]
Kenneth Baker [Derrick’s brother]
Bud Harfst [Sue Murphy’s brother]
Tony Stoner [friend of the Murphys]
Dylan Harden, Chris’s grandson, bad migraines
in the military:
Donny Appleman [at request of the Ricknells]
Richard Heiden [at request of the Eckardts]
Luke Van Landigan [grandson of Dick Melchin]
Jaclyn Alvarez [daughter of Kris Harden]
Eli Wetzel [at request of Kris Harden]
Traven Wetzel [at request of Kris Harden]
Eric Verplaetse [Sandra’s grandson]
any unborn children in danger of abortion
those suffering from unrest, persecution, and imprisonment in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, China, Vietnam, North Korea, and elsewhere
Council Meeting Date
The Council meeting is set for Wednesday, November 20th, at 5:30.
Pastor and Carol to Visit Her Father
Current plans are for Pastor and Carol to spend part of the first week in November in Florida to visit her father who is in a skilled care home. This will mean there will be no activities scheduled between November 5th and 9th: no Tuesday class, no Wednesday mass, and no choir practice. Also, first Tuesday meetings are postponed until the second Tuesday, November 12th.
As usual, our Thanksgiving Mass will be held on Wednesday evening prior, which this year is November 27th, at 7:00. All come!
The choir begins rehearsing again: Wednesdays after mass, about 8 p.m. All singers come!
Leave It Alone, You’ll Break It.
This review of Pastor’s book (available here for $20.00) was published earlier this year in the newsletter of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bayside, New York. A lengthier version of it is soon to be published in The American Organist.
This pithy title belongs to a recently published book by one of our great Missouri Synod pastors, Rev. Dr. Burnell F. Eckardt, Jr. As clarified by the subtitle, “Liturgical Observations,” the 500+ pages therein comment on the present state of liturgy in the American church. Coming from the Lutheran perspective, Eckardt’s thoughts could well apply to many liturgical churches and Christian worship practices in general. Briefly stated, things are not good. Keeping in mind that his analysis does not apply to every congregation (definitely not to Redeemer, for example), the problems are nevertheless widespread and deep rooted.
Underlying the matter are several basic principles. One is the inseparable connection of liturgy to theology. As the saying goes, lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief). That is, as we pray, so we believe, or, further, we need to do liturgically what we say theologically. Thus, changes in the words or actions of liturgy, however small, may impact belief and faith. On current liturgical practice, Eckardt concludes that “we have arrived at liturgical chaos,” characterizing contemporary worship as “liturgical shipwreck.” How is “liturgical chaos” manifested? Pandering to the culture figures largely here: “praise teams” offering pop/rock, complete with drums, sound mixers, and amplifiers occupying the chancel; or the commercially slick “Christian rock.” (One should ask here how “praise teams” improve on the ample stock of hymns of praise found in standard Lutheran hymnals.)
Closely related is the dumbing down of worship content: trading in hymnals or prayer books for user-friendly service folders, insertion of spoken directions into the liturgy (which Eckardt likens to a stewardess giving seatbelt instructions), and a living-room or coffeehouse atmosphere. For the gurus of “contemporary worship,” everything must be basic: keep it simple, remove big words, shun serious hymns, use only “upbeat” tunes. Changes enter the Christian lexicon incrementally, such as the switch from the specific term “hymn” to the generic word “song,” intended, perhaps, to sound more “relevant” to modern youth. Today, compilers of hymnals must count “singability” (read: five-note tune, third-grade English) as a criterion; by such standards, “A Mighty Fortress” would not make the cut. Given the unbreakable link between liturgy and theology, it is folly to think that worship style doesn’t matter. Liturgy cannot be a matter of taste or personal preference.
Importantly, liturgy functions to create a sense of awe and the sublime, as well as to foster the dignity attached to the Gospel and the Sacrament. The church is a Holy Place where we encounter God. How to do this? Moses took off his shoes (Exodus 3:5), Peter, James, and John fell on their faces, and Isaiah’s vision of God (right, Isaiah 6:1–8, in which the seraphim cry: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory”) was not a “Kum Ba Yah” moment. Thus, the rituals of the Mass convey that something important is taking place, something that demands respect and reverence. The Anglican Breviary defines reverence as “not primarily a matter of feeling pious, but rather of taking pains.” In this regard, liturgy also tends to make people behave by banishing the pride of self-expression. Behind the Mass lie centuries of history. The Western rite goes back to A.D. 600, much of it derived from the Gregorian liturgy; the (Lutheran) Mass represents the accumulated wisdom of history. Celebrated throughout Christendom for hundreds of years, it has inspired thousands of musical settings. “Contemporary Worship,” on the other hand, seeks to change all this for the sake of freedom of worship: “[O]ut with reverence, solemnity, and formality; in with casual, comfort, and familiar. Out with majesty; in with warmth. Out with vestments; in with jeans,” etc.
Not to be discounted, liturgy serves as the glue that holds the church body together. That is, the historic liturgy, more than organizational structures or official authorities, identifies a Christian community. Eckardt shows that, from as early as the first century, a uniform liturgy, carried out at stated times and in proper order, was considered necessary. The search for variety, novelty, and “relevance” has no place there. Indeed, variety and “diversity” (to use the current lingo) is already richly present in the Mass by the combination of the constant (the Ordinary) with the changing (the Proper, such as the Introit). The historic liturgy, the author says, is the key to the church’s survival, rather than “church growth” and other such programs.
Fearlessly, Eckardt takes on the “language police,” who have been busy for decades enforcing bad grammar for the sake of social engineering. Unfortunately, liturgical language has not escaped the ravages of such linguistic crimes. The feminist movement launched a “full frontal assault” on the word “man,” meaning “mankind,” with collateral damage on the masculine pronouns (he, him, etc.), not to mention nouns like “father” and “son.” This is a slippery slope: not long after the “fixing” of numerous hymns and liturgical texts, “femspeak” began to infect the creeds, even in Lutheranism. So, there are Lutheran hymnals that quietly omit the word “men” in the phrase “who for us men and our salvation.” Hardly a harmless edit—for dropping the word “men” transforms the entire meaning. By itself, the phrase “who for us” could denote nothing more than “for us in this room.” Going down the path of gender neutrality has even led to God being a female (goddess?). Thankfully the LCMS resisted the temptation to give in to such wanton tinkering, although the clinical “for us humans” was apparently once proposed to replace “men” in the Nicene Creed.
Noting that ecclesiastical authorities were “hellbent” on removing, once and for all, the English of the King James Bible from our liturgical vocabulary, Eckardt characterizes the achievement of this goal as a tragic loss. The argument that the language of the KJV and related liturgical texts was “outdated” for modern use does not hold up, for, in fact, this language has been archaic for over 300 years. It long provided, in beautiful poetic form, a unique idiom reserved for addressing and speaking of God.
Interestingly, it remains the best-selling version of the English Bible. (I would add that without the once-universal English-language Bible, people brought up on a “diversity” of translations are much less likely to memorize Scripture, as study and public readings no longer reinforce a single version.)
So, how did we get to the state of “liturgical chaos”? Pastor Eckardt says it happened through abuse of “adiaphora” (things neither commanded nor forbidden), a concept mentioned in several places in the Lutheran Confessions. Article X of the Formula of Concord explains that “adiaphora” refers to ceremonies or usages introduced into the church in the interest of good order and general welfare. Such usages may be changed according to circumstances and what may be edifying to the church. In making changes, however, all frivolity and offenses are to be avoided. For the contemporary-worship crowd, “adiaphora” provided a loophole that quickly progressed to total freedom. Style of worship, then, became utterly indifferent. Finally gained was “freedom from liturgy.” From there it was a short leap to “liturgical chaos.”
Jane Schatkin Hettrick
Director of Parish Music
Redeemer Lutheran Church, Bayside, New York
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443