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Messages - RogerMartim

Your Turn / Liturgical Uniformity, An Illusion?
May 05, 2010, 05:50:34 PM
I realize that there is no such thing as liturgical uniformity within the Lutheran Church, no matter which branch.

I relocated to the Midwest nine years ago after several years on the East Coast. In all this time, I am still church-shopping. Part of the problem is that I am looking for a church that was similar to the one that I belonged to back East and I don't think that I am going to find it. The closest thing that I've come to is an Episcopal Church but quite simply I do not see myself as becoming an Episcopalian.

I believe that good liturgy requires all five senses; to be sure, some senses are utilized less than others. The reason I believe this is that I have a deficiency in one of my senses and so I have to rely on the others to make up for it. But I am digressing.

Whether it be the SBH, THL, LBW, LW, ELW or LSB (am I missing any here?), liturgical resources of the two main branches of American Lutheranism, there is a prescribed liturgy which gives us an identity as Lutherans, not to mention an identity with many other non-Lutheran churches. It used to be that a person could go to almost any Lutheran church and it would be the liturgy from one of the worship resources listed above.

Recently I went to an LC-MS church here in my city that I had never been to. There was absolutely nothing recognizable about the service. The pastor did not wear any vestments and was only in a suit and tie (actually a sports coat and tie). The church had dispensed of its fine organ and in its place was a band with singers to accompany the completely unfamiliar hymns or songs as they are called. Some members of the "choir" looked they were wannabe entertainers each holding microphones. There were no pericopes assigned to the Sunday that I was there. There was only one reading which obviously was chosen by the pastor to preach on. He preached for about 45 minutes. There happened to be communion on that particular Sunday but it was merely a blip in the service, kind of like, oh, there's one more thing to do. Later on I found out from others that over half the congregation had left when this pastor started doing things the way he preferred. He was called to St. Louis for a hearing to discuss his unique style of worship but passed muster after a long and protracted review.

Then I went to my nephew's confirmation at an ELCA church. It was the same thing—completely non-liturgical. Decidedly it was a much more "liberal" church even within the ELCA for this part of the country. Although the hymnal was not used, as it rarely is, the hymnal that was in the pew racks (for lack of a better description as there are no pews) is that of the United Church of Christ. It looked remarkably similar to the LBW but its language is very inclusive. Again, there was no liturgy, the pastors did not wear vestments unless a suit and tie can be considered thus. My brother-in-law and several other people got up during the "Pastor's Talk" and went to the back to get a hot steaming cup of coffee to bring back to the seat. Again, there was the choir singing songs with its repetitive one-liners and splashed on a big overhead screen. It's almost not unlike reading Hallmark greeting cards. Again, communion was something like out of the ordinary but it is done anyway.

I could go on and on, but ironically there is a small church which is about ten miles from me. It holds the most promise as being faithful to the Lutheran liturgical tradition. It serves mostly the rural communities and many of the congregants there are farmers, even some wearing their bib overalls. On Ash Wednesday I went there for the noon service. I was intrigued to see that the pastor kept disappearing and I didn't know where he went, but as it turned out, he was jockeying back and forth between being the celebrant and the organist! As a poor church, it doesn't have the resources to "print everything out" in the bulletin. The hymnal is used to follow the liturgy and there was the communion liturgy which was followed in all its integrity and not at all hurried. To me, it was the proper distinction (or congruity) of Word and Sacrament.

I wonder if nowadays there isn't sort of a dependency on the bulletin that isn't overblown rather than the hymnal. In this way, it gives a "freedom" to do whatever. I know that the "Word" should be heard rather than following along in the bulletin, but I make an exception for that as hearing impairment is much more prevalent than realized, not to mention that the speaker doesn't always enunciate, and again, not to mention that some readers are drama kings or queens. But for goodness sakes, everyone is reading "The Lord's Prayer" rather than saying it. Why does that need to be printed? Does it take 50 or 60 years of your life that you need to still read the Apostles' or Nicene Creed? I see no heads uplifted in the proclamation of our faith. Rather I see noses buried in the bulletin.

Well, I better get off my soapbox but I'll be curious if any of you feel these same frustrations that I have been having.

Your Turn / Re: The God of the Old Testament
April 16, 2010, 03:47:49 PM
Thank you all so very much for your responses. They have really sharpened my understanding that there is not a dichotomy between the seemingly disparate views of God in the OT and the NT. Although I am not quite there yet, I will continue to study so that I will be able to better articulate that God is God and that his ways are indeed those that direct us to the cross. I hope that this discussion continues.

Thanks again, Roger
Your Turn / The God of the Old Testament
April 15, 2010, 07:15:58 PM
I used to hang around here a lot and recently I've come back and have been enjoying "catch-up."

I peruse a site in which "recovery" from a cult is the main focus. Not that I was a member of the cult, but I have two dear friends (Lutherans) who have been "lost" to it.

Many, if not most, who leave the cult go on to become atheists or agnostics rather than joining a Christian church body. Their new world view is often rabidly anti-Christian not to mention that there is much derision to those who decide to remain believers. All the problems of the world are often applied to Christianity itself.

The biggest point of contention is the God of the Old Testament. They view him as a violent and bloody God demanding vengeance at every turn of the corner. In one sense, they are probably right in that he isn't the most compassionate guy around. On the other hand they ignore the gentle and forigiving side of God found elsewhere in the Old Testament. Of course, these same folks see the sacrifice on the cross as something nothing less than sinister.

I am at a loss at how to contribute to this forum in counteracting this distorted view of God. I know that I will  probably never will sway minds but at least I would like to know for myself how to reconcile the two divergent views of God.

I've gone through over two-thirds of the available posts here and have yet to see this addressed. I know that there are many issues in Lutheranism that need to be addressed here in this Forum, but I am wondering if anyone would care to help me out in terms of resources, book materials, etc.

My take on this is why is this such a passionate subject matter. Homosexuality is here to stay. It will be until Kingdom come. It seems that this subject matter provokes the most comments. I can think of many other problems that need our attention: The recent killings at NIU is a case in point. And yet we fret over who sleeps with who. The homosexual issue is not going to go away. Perhaps the Church should come up with a well-thought out theological position whether it be for or against. This would be much better than the worn-out cliche that God made Adam and Eve and not Steve and leave it at that. Despite how many of us weave the issue using biblical sources, the Bible is still quite unclear how this should be handled. Again, this is a very difficult subject matter.
Your Turn / Re: Christmas Cheezyness
January 03, 2008, 12:39:13 PM
Dave Poedel, forget that it was Gaudate Sunday. My LC-MS parish beats the shopping malls in decorating the church for Christmas. Advent really gets way-sided here. An insipid Christmas cantata gets "performed" on the Second Sunday of Advent in front of the whole congregation and we are supposed to clap afterwards. (In my hey-day, the choir sang from the balcony in soothing Gregorian chants appropriate for the Sunday.) So, all in all, I am not surprised by the "Chirstmas Cheezyness," and of course I am always sorely disappointed.
Your Turn / Re: The Mormon Church and Current Politics
January 03, 2008, 12:19:45 PM
I think another consideration should be made about Mitt Romney. How, as a "conservative" Republican, did he ever get elected to be the governor of Massachusetts, decidedly the most liberal state in the Union. As I understand it, Mitt Romney himself "accommodated" in taiiloring his views initially on liberal social views that are expressed in that state. Now he has changed his tune big time in Iowa and New Hampshire.
My brother who is a "dyed in the wool" Republican (read: hardcore) and who could care less about who belongs to what religion, distrusts Mitt Romney for that very reason. Mitt Romney emulates his own religion: it's all about accommodation pure and simple.
Again, and not only that, Mitt Romney is so culturally Mormon, and despite the special underwear and whatever, could he ignore the powers that be in Salt Lake City to determine what direction our country should go in? With billions in the LDS empire, and we are not talking about Vatican art and buildings, but pure cash, can an independent judgment call be made without the influence of Salt Lake City. Let's hope so as I am thinking now that the guy just might have a chance to reach the White House.
Your Turn / The Mormon Church and Current Politics
December 13, 2007, 01:55:01 PM
Should a Lutheran or any other Christian who ascribes to the basic tenets that we all share be concerned about the candidacy of Mitt Romney who is a member of the Mormon faith? I have been doing lots of online research lately on this particular and unique American religion and I have not been liking what I've been reading.
Coincidental to my research, Mike Huckabee got himself in hot water yesterday when he commented that in the Mormon faith, Jesus and Satan are "brothers." He has had since then to apologize for his intemperate remark and the LDS church put out a statement that it is a mis-reading of their official belief. And in checking back again, it is indeed one of the tenets that it subscribes to: "Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both." (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163). ..."to them both" is reference to the Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Mother (an unofficial goddess) who actively engage in sexual intercourse to beget the spirit babies since we are all pre-existent.
I am not sure if Mitt Romney is aware of how different his faith is from the rest of Christendom. I think that would be the case with most Mormons who do not see themselves as unique but quite within the mainstream of Protestantism (although officially the Mormon church views everyone outside of Mormonism as apostates) and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Handel's Messiah notwithstanding.
Mitt Romney is so attuned culturally to his faith and it would be extremely difficult for him to question anything. The same is true for most Mormons and so in a way, I understand they jealously guard their faith. I feel the same way about my German Lutheran upbringing.
Although Mitt Romney separates his private faith in the public square, in a way he does have to answer ultimately (and pat responses do not work here) to the LDS church. The "Prophet" in Salt Lake City has more say than the Pope in Rome does. The two great "accommodations" (polygamy and blacks in the priesthood) have undone the original subscriptions of the founder, Joseph Smith, and which were most likely done under societal pressures.
Maybe we can hope that there are more accommodations that would bring this peculiar religion within the mainstream of Christianity but until then, I don't think that I would like to see a Mormon in the White House.
Your Turn / Re: Benedict XVI and Islam
October 04, 2006, 04:23:44 PM
From the newspaper accounts of this particular incident, it hardly described this person as being an uppity wife. But even so, when do we throw uppity wives out the window to their death?
I don't claim to understand the nuances between Sola Scriptura and Biblicism, but I do think that one is used to rationalize the other.
I never did understand Sola Scriptura anyway in light of a Church Council deciding the Canon of the Bible a couple of centuries afterwards.
Luther thought that the Epistle of James was straw because of that one certain verse which indicated that it just might be more than the faith alone which he so propounded. Luther got it right in the end in not questioning the canon, but he was certainly willing to let it go the wayside. It took a more than a few sit-downs together with our brothers and sisters from Rome to come to an understanding where we are at with justification, but as someone who watches EWTN, we are still a long ways off. We still do talk in very different languages.
So, what I see as a discrepancy in these canons issues between Rome and the Reformation, again, we still have a lot of talking to do with each other.
In this same way, it is the current problem with Islam. It has not reconciled itself to interpretations that might best serve them in this modern age.
But Islam is also in a peculiar situation. There is no "authority" that speaks for all. The "Imam" in Egypt talks very differently than the "Imam" in Baghdad and of course, we now know the consequence of that. Islam may depend on the Koran, but with no one clarifying anything, it is all up for grabs to their own interpetation. Bin Laden is a sad example of that.
And I mgiht add, Christikan Fundamentalism operates pretty much the same way.
Enough said.
Your Turn / Re: Benedict XVI and Islam
October 04, 2006, 01:17:03 PM
Bottom line is that Islam has not kept abreast of the times. I used to live in a condo in Northern Virginia that was replete with Middle Easterners and most of them professed the Islamic faith. There was a grocery store across the street from us and it would concern me, that on a 90 degree day with 90 percent humidity, there would be women who carried all the groceries, including the baby, dressed in the full traditional Islamic garb, including the chador, while her husband walked in front of her dressed accordingly to the heat, shorts and sandals. At one point in time, there was a woman who was thrown out of the 16th floor apartment by her husband at this same condo that I lived in because he was enraged that she didn't do something that he had asked her to do.
Islam claims to be a religion of peace but its subjugation of women leaves much to be desired, and to be accepted by the world at large, it must change its ways, the Koran notwithstanding. In certain parts of Africa, female circumciision is the norm which is nothing more than control of men over the women denying them of their God-given right to enjoy the sexual union between men and women that he created to begin with.
In a way, the Koran claims "Sola Scriptura" which makes it so beholden to the prescriptions within.
As Lutheran Christians, we have managed to read between the lines of the "Sola Scriptura" but if we took this "Sola Scriptura" seriously, would we as Christians be any better off than those who profess the same in the Islamic faith?
"Sola Scriptura" needs a modern definition, but with the tendency of churches nowadays to white-wash, I don't anticipate any solution soon.
OK. I am admitting to you that "sola scriptura" doesn't suffice with all the abuse that has occurred under it.
In this same admission, Pope Benedict XVI probably wasn't too far off the mark in what he said. He is in the inenviable position of bespeaking all Christians, but once he touched on something outside of that, he became in deep "s..." I admire him in a way for telling like it is, but as we all know, political correctness has the upper hand these days.
Forum Blogs / Re: The Seven Deadlies
October 03, 2006, 04:16:02 PM
As a church administrator for 19 years, I kept myself abreast of theological matters. One day the assistant pastor came up to me and asked what were the seven deadly sins. I tried to list them all but I was lacking one or two of them. I then asked the senior pastor if she could enumerate them better than I could and she said there weren't any such things as the seven deadly sins. I said that there were of course in the traditional manner according to Dante. She cussed at me and said that I didn't know what I was talking about.
The following Sunday she preached a sermon on the seven deadly sins and wrote an article in the church newsletter about the same. Of course, she didn't give any acknolwedgement to where she got this new-found informaton. She treated it as if this was something that she always knew. It was then that I was aware that I knew more than she would ever would. I no longer work for her, thank goodness, and in time, she got fired from the church for her blatant use of plagarism.
Forum Blogs / The New Missouri Hymnal
October 03, 2006, 03:54:08 PM
Dear Friends,

I wrote an e-mail this afternoon to a friend of mine commenting on the new Missouri Synod Hymnal. I am quite pleased with it. I thought it would be interesting to share my e-mail with you all, but I will maintain my friend's anonomynity.

Dear A.

This all crept up on me so fast and so I was pleased when my mother ordered two hymnals for herself and me to be picked up this week at her church office.

Compared to the LW, this new hymnal is light years beyond the LW. A few observations, however:

1. The page numbering system is interesting and I am not sure how that is going to wash over.

2. Perusing through the different liturgical settings, I am still not sure what Missouri's hang-up is about the use of the word Christian versus catholic in the creed. It is a given fact that "catholic" is the more integral expression to its original intention of the creed. To me, it still indicates that there is an anti-catholic sentiment being expressed here. Get over it, Missouri. It was also interesting to note their rationalization of "for us men" and "for us" as a footnote alongside the catholic versus Christian. Should the creed have footnotes at all?

3. I was so surprised that there were so many different Holy Communion settings.

4. Missouri is still inimical to any kind of "foreword" or "postscript" to the Verba, but this time, it looks that Luther's bare-boned approach was just not enough for the most sacred moment in the liturgy. Where did these words come from? Is this part of any historic liturgy or was this made up to suit the new hymnal?

5. I was happy to see that many of the hymns were restored to their original key schemes. It was always so strange to play the hymns on the piano in a key that just wasn't meant to be, including many of Bach transcriptions of those same hymns.

6. Since I am a language student extraordinaire it was good to see some aspects of the different languages were restored, not least of which was Latin or its Latin roots. What's so wrong with the word Vespers as opposed to Evening Prayer? Of course, that translates to the new tendency to describe the Liturgy in functional terms and that hardly cuts it. As my mother and I were paging through the new hymnal, I ran across "Müde bin ich..." and she got teary eyed. And my mother is not an emotional type of person. Her mother sang this to her and the other children every night when they were growing up.

7. The new calendar of commemorations surprised my  mother. She raised eyebrows at St. Patrick. Even St. Joseph on March 19 surprised her although he had been the most neglected of the saints in light. She understood when I explained to her that no one has monopoly on St. Joseph but that he was a progenitor of Christian beginnings after the resurrection.

8. Anti-catholic sentiments have always been largely at play here, but with the new hymnal, Missouri seemed to have gotten passed that, but only by bits and pieces. In personal devotions with my father when he was dying, both my parents had recaptured the significance of the "Sign of the Cross" although my father always projected rather than doing it upon himself. But as someone who was raised by a Seventh Day Adventist, one cannot expect any more than that. At least he understood the power of the cross and that is all that is important.

9. Bottom line: I am very pleased with the new hymnal. There are expressions that are typically Missouri and there is a still a long ways to go ecumenically speaking, but then we know that Missouri tends to do things a bit more hesitantly than Lutheranism in general.

10. I am anxious to get a hold of the new ELCA hymnal and of course, you will get my take on that.

Take care, and let me know your thoughts.
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