"That's Roman Catholic!" they cry when they see moderate to little elevation of the elements, when they see bowing and/or genuflection, when they smell incense, when they hear chanting, when they spot a chasuble or cope, or when they see the Body of Christ on the cross. "That's Roman Catholic!"
Well is it? Is it Roman Catholic? Is it not Lutheran? Is it radical? Well no, it is very Lutheran. We confessional Lutherans didn't abandon these ceremonies at the Reformation. We didn't decide to throw away the tradition set forth from over 2,000 years of Christianity. In fact we were falsely charged with abandoning these things. We denied the charge and confessed that we "religiously maintain" them. So what does this mean for us today, for us who are confessional Lutherans who claim a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions, at least according to the constitution of your respective Synod (LCMS, WELS, ELS)? Simply put it means that we confess what the Lutheran Church has always confessed, namely, that we retain the Mass, celebrating it with the highest reverence, retaining most ceremonies, and retaining the vestments (AC XXIV, AC XXIV [XIII]). Ceremonies teach the ignorant, the heathen who comes in off the street who has no idea what we believe. If our actions outside of church are to reflect who we are and what we believe, then how we act during worship, our ceremonies and rites, should certainly reflect what we believe. This is why we bow towards the altar from we receive His gifts, chant to show reverence and put focus on the Word, use incense which symbolizes our prayers ascending and is a "sweet aroma" to God (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 8:3-4; Rev. 5:6-8; Luke 1:8-11; Lev. 2:1-2), elevate to proclaim the Lamb of God who bears the sins of the world, wear vestments to put focus on the Word rather than the man and his sinful nature (Ex. 28:15; 2 Tim. 4:13), etc. It all points to Christ, not man. It acknowledges the very Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament -- our very God with us tangibly! Once again, God stooping down to us sinners to deliver His gifts to us in the Sacraments, just like the manna and His incarnation. He always comes down to us, dirty, nasty sinners. These ceremonies are scriptural, traditional, and of course very Christian!
So why, why do we see many "confessional" Lutheran churches copying the false teachers? I've heard many things said to justify the use of sectarian forms of worship. A big one, among many which will have to be written about at a different time, is that it is all about "preference," "personal taste", and "adiaphora". Oh, but it's deeper than that. Aside from dividing the Church into age, race, and any other sociological statistic and departing from the unity of Ecclesia Augustana, it deserves deeper examination. There's a reason those heretical sects worship like they do! Their ceremonies confess what they believe! Are we so ignorant to think we can copy their practice without it undermining our doctrine? When we copy the sects' worship forms, we undermine our own doctrines of election and the bound will. We exchange it for tunes that are meant to pump up the audience into an emotional frenzy to make a decision for Jesus. We think by our efforts, our hard work, we can add to the number of the elect. We can't add to the numbers of the elect and the sinner's will is bound. What, then, does this mean? It means our ceremonies should then reflect and support the Gospel. Rather than man being the focus -- our tastes, our decision for Jesus, our good works of evangelism -- the Gospel and Sacraments are center. Christ's forgiveness of sins imputed to us by faith in Baptism, Confession-Absolution, and Holy Communion. Reverence for Who is present is shown. We show that we can't by our thinking or choosing come to Christ or change the number of those predestined to Heaven. We show with our actions, without ambiguity and without giving a false confession, that only the Word converts and that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist -- this is put on a pedestal rather than the musical flavor which can distract from the Word. If we understand these things we will worship with "reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28) -- our ceremonies reflecting this. The Gospel converts, music doesn't. We aren't the primary actors in the Divine Service. God with His gift of righteousness and forgiveness is.
About the author:
My name is Christian Schulz. I'm originally from Indianapolis, IN but currently reside in Mankato, MN while I pursue a B.S. in Law Enforcement. My favorite area of study in theology is justification, although almost all topics in theology are as interesting to me. As was stated in the very first post, I don't claim to be an esteemed theologian. In a time with many doctrinal debates, pastors suspended, etc., I find myself asking the question "who is right, who has the correct doctrine? Is it the WELS, LCMS, ELS, CLC, ELDoNA, or none of these?" I hope you'll stay tuned to my journey to investigate which Synod or Diocese is right, if any, on how the Lutheran, Catholic Church has taught and practiced. As was said in the very first post, I am more than open to constructive criticism and any disagreement. I'm still learning and find that sometimes "talking" or "thinking" it out works best (in view of Scripture, the Confessions, and Church Fathers of course). Many times I'll play devil's advocate. I invite challenge for the sake of edification.