Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fiction Based in Reality

This story is purely fictional.  Let the reader understand.  

After serving a number of years in a rural country setting, a young pastor received a call to serve a large urban parish in a major American city. The young pastor prayerfully considered and accepted the call and a date for his installation was set. The outgoing pastor arranged to install the new pastor in a special Service on a Sunday afternoon; the outgoing pastor would in turn celebrate the Divine Service one last time in the morning.

When the young pastor and his family arrived at the urban church on the Sunday morning of his installation, he was taken aback. The parish’s sanctuary represented the height of Lutheran orthodoxy, with intricately detailed stained glass, extensive statuary and artwork, and a high Altar that would make even the papists blush. The parish was also blessed, unlike most urban parishes, with a large number of parishioners. The outgoing pastor had trained his parishioners well in the realm of liturgical music, so they were well versed in Lutheran liturgy and hymnody. The congregation belted out the opening hymn in such stunning four-part harmony that the incoming pastor was overwhelmed to the point of tears.

In essence, the parish seemed like a dream come true. The organist was phenomenal. The congregation sang all the hymns and canticles - they even sung the plainchant for the Gloria in Excelsis in tempo and harmony! But then something odd happened. The outgoing pastor finished praying the Collect of the Day, “...ever one God, world without end,” the people sang “Amen,” and rather than sitting down, they started chanting the Nicene Creed. Now, lest the reader misunderstand, the new pastor was immensely impressed that the congregation could sing the Credo. But it was out of order! After the Collect comes the reading of the Sacred Scriptures. Even more bizarrely, the Credo ended and the congregation sat for the singing of the Chief Hymn. 

 “Something really weird is going on here,” the new pastor whispered to his wife.

The Chief Hymn ended and the outgoing pastor began praying the General Prayer, moving into the Liturgy of the Sacrament, after which he concluded the Service - with no Scripture readings and no Sermon. 

 “He is getting on in years” the incoming pastor’s wife pensively quipped. “That’s why they called you, after all - perhaps he just forgot.”

“But a Lutheran pastor does not simply ‘forget’ the Sacred Scriptures and preaching of the Gospel!” the new pastor angrily thought. Being a pastor, he knew what the Scripture lessons for the day were supposed to be. He had desperately needed to hear the Words of his Lord that morning working together with the rest of the Liturgy for the renewing and revitalizing of his faith. But it never came.

After the dismissal, the new pastor angrily confronted the outgoing pastor. “What kind of operation are you running here!?” he demanded. “What kind of Lutheran pastor doesn’t read from the Bible or preach in the Divine Service?”

The outing pastor calmly responded: “Due to the size of the congregation, we only read Scripture every other week. I only preach on the first Sunday of the month.”

The new pastor was stunned: “How can you deprive your people of the Gospel like that!?”

“They have the Gospel in Christ’s Body and Blood every week!” the outgoing pastor retorted. “Besides, they still hear the Scriptures every month.  Who are you to judge? The parish you left to accept this call only celebrates the Sacrament once a month. What concern is it of yours which Means of Grace I choose to deprive my people of?”