Wish Dreams and Lutheranism: Part III

What follows are a series of posts regarding the possibilities of taking “Weedon’s Wish Dream” and making it reality. Remember (especially my members), that while I am very sympathetic to 99% of what the Wish Dream was, I’m just talkin’ right now.

Regarding comments:

  • DO feel free to make suggestions of pros and cons that I may have missed.
  • DO NOT dismiss an option until I have outlined all of them. Remember that I am not finished yet!
  • DO offer suggestions for a different name than “Weedon’s Wish Dream,” as what he described could well be a generic description of the ideal Evangelical Catholic/Confessional Lutheran congregation.

Option #1 Stay where you are and bring the Wish Dream to your parish.

This honors the divine call and prevents schism. Our theology states that God has called pastors to their congregations, and they are to stay until God calls them elsewhere. This is most apparent when pastors receive another divine call to serve a congregation. However, there are other options, all more subjective, like when “God is calling” to retirement. Staying and working the Wish Dream where you are honors the call and seems most natural.

However, it can be nigh impossible. Most of us don’t like change. Most of us think of our congregations as our heritage, our refuge, and to a more sinful extent, our club and bailiwick. Pastors are outsiders to the existing group and the people see them this way for years, if not decades. Insiders sometimes can change things, outsiders have much more work to do.

Second, we have the ghosts of Christmas past haunting our pulpits and classrooms.

Third, the great cry of pedagogy (teach ’em) only works for people willing to learn. Sadly this can be an overwhelming problem. And even for those who wish to learn, who will open themselves to the teaching authority of the pastor, it can years for the lessons to soak in. Complicating this, new members will constantly be joining who have various degrees of catechesis under their belts.

Fourth, it takes so long. Sure, many things can be done quickly, or relatively so. I introduced the chasuble by simply wearing them. I introduced chanting by just doing it from day one, not asking permission. Certainly the chanting has caused some grief, and consequently, I don’t chant everything, and sometimes don’t chant at all. However, I know that it may take further decades for the practice to be cemented. If then.

Wish Dreams and Lutheranism: Part II

Since I called Pr. Weedon’s idea a “wish dream,” I thought I should provide a definition of what this is.

In my first term at Concordia Seminary we were required to read Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. It’s a pretty good book, though I haven’t looked at it in 13 years (13!!). The following passage seized the imagination of my friends and I, and ever since we have identified the “what-if’s” and “if onlies” of ministry and parish life as the “wish dream.”

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusonment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough: brothers, who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of His grace? Is the divine gift of Christian fellowship anything less than this, any day, even the most difficult and distressing day? Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship. (Quoted from Downshore Drift)

However, as I hinted in the previous post, I don’t think a Wish Dream is always bad. Calls for repentance, for recapturing, for a return to orthodoxy, for reform (not transform) are necessary and real.

The distinction before is: if we desire a change, is it only a wish dream, or are we willing to do something about it?

Wish Dreams and Lutheranism

My friend Pr. Weedon has an interesting “wish dream” post at his blog. For the sake of convenience, here it is (my comments below):

IF I Could Start A Mission Congregation…

…here’s what it would look like:

A single Divine Service Sunday a.m., with Matins preceding it (no sermon). Additionally, I’d have Saturday Evening Vespers with opportunity following it for Confession and Absolution each week.

The people would be encouraged in a life of prayer – so we’d offer Matins and Vespers at regular set times during the week, employing material from Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Eucharist would be celebrated on every Sunday and every feast and festival in our LSB calendar.

Sunday afternoons from September through Easter would offer the Catechism Service.

We’d get together for the joy of sharing food and friendship no less than once a month.

No individual cups.

Bible Study/Sunday School would follow refreshments and visiting after the Sunday Divine Service.

It’s name would, of course!, be St. Mary, Mother of God, Lutheran Church.

We’d make rich use of the artistic traditions of the Christian Church, but especially of our Lutheran forebears in adorning the nave and chancel.

We’d make clear from the get-go that the parish has but one mission: to BE the Church of God in this place, a colony from the future, a haven of rest for an exhausted world.

We’d implement a catechumenate from the start as our normal way of outreach and bringing folks into the parish’s life.

We’d only form committees as needed on an ad hoc basis and evaluate each year if they should continue or if we can do the work better another way.

Above all else, we’d try to foster a community at prayer, in the Word, and feasting sumptuously on the Eucharist and so empowered to love and serve the unbelievers around us, bringing them into our joyful communion.

It’s a beautiful dream. I think it captures the spirit of Lutheranism quite well…at least what the spirit was. (Ihre Geist ist heute ganz anders…)

In a sense it is a “wish dream,” a fantasy, idealistic. Escapist. One can sit in the chancel and dream about the ideal. Problem is, this world is not ideal. We have what is, what we have been given, and dreaming about the Other can be hopeless, if not sinful.

On the other hand, “Stop dreaming and get back to work!” can be a faithless command. It can mean “Nothing can change, nothing will change and you (and God) are powerless to do a durn thing.”

There is much more to this. Stay tuned.

Saying of the Day

Keep a careful watch over yourself, and do not allow yourself to be swept away by external obsessions. The tumultuous movements of the soul, in particular, can be rendered quiet by stillness (hesychia). If, however, you keep encouraging and stimulating them, they will start to terrorize you, and can disorder your whole life. Once they are in control, it is as hard to heal them as it is to soothe a sore that we cannot stop scratching.
– Abba Philemon

Directions: Repeat this until you stop obsessing about the president, economy, HDTV and drill presses.

(HT: Mind in the Heart)

My Weekend Wedding

This weekend I performed a wedding at First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa for Marjorie’s nephew Curt, who is also Jack’s godfather. Working out the details with the pastoral staff was a breeze. They wanted to make sure I was doing something dignified and appropriately Christian. They also didn’t want to make it a joint service of some sort. I assured them I didn’t want that either, and after looking at the rite of marriage from LSB, they agreed.

The church was impressive, to say the least. I was struck by the traditional Presbyterian architecture. A massive raised oak pulpit dominated the center of the chancel area, with a low, long table in front of it. Behind the pulpit there was a vestige of a rood screen, and ranks for the choir were behind that. All the wood was oak, the floors were slate–very tasteful and beautiful…and very non-sacramental. The architecture made it clear that the place gave greatest honor and place to the sermon. While the stained glass on either end was exquisite, there were no other images or decoration in the sanctuary. It is clearly a place to hear and sing.

The church provided a weeding coordinator for the couple, which proved invaluable to me, being a guest there. She arranged for all the details before, during and after the wedding, allowing me the luxury of concentrating on what would happen from the invocation to the benediction. Since most traditional protestant weddings share similar entrance and exit procedures, I found that everything she had arranged fit in nicely with what I usually do as a Lutheran pastor.

All in all, it was the best experience I could hope for. They even had a kneeler available for the couple–something my church doesn’t have. I am grateful for the presbytery at the church to allow me to come and “borrow” their building.

The 100 Songs: Wax on the Slippery Slope

The Commission on Worship of the LCMS has released a list of 100 “contemporary songs” that LCMS congregations can use for “contemporary worship” if they so desire.

This list was created in response to the last Convention’s resolution “[t]o Provide Guidance and Direction for Use of Diverse/Contemporary Worship Resources.”

Strangely, this caveat is included in the their press release:

The songs listed in the chart have not been subjected to the same in-depth process that selected hymns receive before being included in a synodically approved hymnal. The rapidly changing scene of Christian contemporary music requires constant attention to evaluate emerging songs in a timely manner.

Why not? Making the excuse that the “contemporary scene” moves too fast to evaluate these songs is bogus. They’ve had a year and half to look at 100 songs. Second, if contemporary worship is just as valid and appropriate for the Divine Service as its practitioners say it is, why wouldn’t those songs be evaluated to the same in-depth standard? This paragraph gives the impression that contemporary worship doesn’t care about synodical approval, that they are going to do their thing keeping up with the scene (or the Joneses).

The press release also included the following paragraphs:

It is imperative to note that songs are not hymns.

The words of songs frequently convey simple scriptural thoughts that are wedded to stirring rhythmic melodies. Multiple songs can be sequenced in a medley to draw together several ideas and may be connected with scripture readings, liturgical responses, extemporaneous prayer, praise, and witnessing. Recording artists and song writers collaborate with lyricists, musicians, and publishers to hone their craft audibly first, seeking to inspire individuals, assemblies, audiences, and worship communities.

Hymn texts, in their role in Lutheran worship provide sequences of poetic stanzas that expound on the life of Christ and the life of the Church. The life cycle of a hymn potentially spans centuries. The life cycle of a song spans weeks, months, perhaps years.

In other words, they realize these songs are not about teaching the faith, are not focused on transmitting doctrine, about providing a lasting generational foundation to the faith, but are on par with silly pop songs that give you a movement of some kind and then forgotten. Or when they are remembered, they’re like listening to Duran Duran when you mentally go back in time remembering your thoughts and feelings of long ago.

I wanted to ask the question: if people realize what these songs are about, then why are they using them? But I know the answer. For them, church is an experience among many experiences. It is something to consume. It is a taste, a style, an affectation. The songs and readings and sermon and so forth are crafted together to provide something for the audience to consume. It may be a spiritualized consumption of the experience, but it is consumerism anyway. It is an experience they are offering.

It is not the eternal truth.

It is not the rock.

It is not the pillar of truth.

It is not the body of Christ.

And this is my denomintion.

Lord have mercy…

Starbucks Makes Me See Dead People

Well, not really. But a 16 oz. cup of Starbucks drip does contain enough caffeine to cause hallucinations in some people:

People who drink at least 330 milligrams of the stimulant a day were three times as likely to have hallucinations as those who consumed less than 10 milligrams a day, Durham University researchers found in a study of 219 college students published today in Personality and Individual Differences.

The amount of caffeine linked to hallucinations in the study would also be equivalent to about seven 8-ounce cups of brewed black tea or about 3 1/2 8-ounce cups of brewed black coffee, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site. One 16-ounce Starbucks Corp. drip coffee also has 330 milligrams of caffeine, according to the Starbucks Web site.

Starbucks spokeswoman Tara Darrow declined to comment in an email, saying the Seattle-based company was aware of the research but hadn’t been able to review how it was conducted.

The U.K. researchers used surveys to assess daily caffeine intake and past experience with hallucinations. Cigarette smokers, known to be more sensitive to caffeine, weren’t allowed to participate, and volunteers’ stress levels and proneness to hallucinatory experiences were taken into account.

Nine of the 22 people in the highest-caffeine group reported hearing disembodied voices, compared with three of the 22 people in the lowest-caffeine group, Jones said. Participants also reported seeing things that weren’t there and sensing the presence of dead people.(From Bloomburg.com)

HT: Christopher Orr

Superior Scribbler

Christopher Orr (Orrologion) has given me this award. I agree with his feelings about it, but am still humbled that he recommended me along with blogs like Energetic Procession and, well, it also humbles me that the Famous Actor and Incredibly Smart Orthodox Person Mr. Orr reads this blog. Thank you.

Here are the rules I must post upon receiving such an award:

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

And so I nominate some of my favorite blogs:

Confessional Gadfly –a solid Confessional LCMS blog by my neighbor.
Rev. Mason Beecroft: Wayfarer in the Desert — Evangelical Catholicism in Tulsa. Good guy.
Father Hollywood— another solid Confessional LCMS blog–with a New Orleans/Canadian agrarian/economic twist.
Ad Orientem — Orthodox Theology and Conservative agrarianism(?) who doesn’t read here, but I nominate him anyway.
rants and ramblings: on life as a literary agent –by Rachelle Gardner. If you’re interested in writing and agents, this is a terrific blog!