The Other Reason to Go to Church

Why do Pastors want you to go to Church every Sunday? We usually talk about our great need for forgiveness, about the edible nature of worship and sacrament–that is, liturgy and the Eucharist are like a meal: we may not remember every lunch, but we still need it an eat it every day. We talk about the command of the Lord to remember the Sabbath day, the Apostolic command to not neglect meeting together, and all of that.

You do not often hear another reason. Truth is, your Pastor misses you. You are friends, and when you only come every so often, we miss seeing you. And not just your Pastor. The people who share your pew or row, the ones who sit in front or behind you, they miss you too. Even if they never talk to you, they know who you are and that you are not here. The Church is Body of Christ, and if the little finger goes AWOL, we miss it.

If you have no sins to confess or be forgiven, if you are spiritually mature and strong, if you know all things, if you have no need for this meal–even if all these things are true, come to Divine Service for the rest of us. We miss you.

Parched for Belonging

The following first appeared in Grace Lutheran’s July newsletter

 

601px-Volkswagen_LogoWe are a people who want to belong, to have a identity among others, to be a member of a set, a group. Maybe a secret group, maybe not. We show our allegiance and membership with our Official Team Wear ™. With orange shirts on certain days, or with red license plate frames. Wearing the right color or team logos on your clothes and cars make you members of a club.

And of course there are more than these associations. Watch motorcyclists do the low hand wave to each other when they pass. It doesn’t matter if they’re Harley or Honda riders, they still have the same wave, the little signal of acknowledgment. “You are a member of my tribe,” it says. People who drive Volkswagens do the same, flashing a V sign to one another. To be honest, I don’t know if people who drive Jettas or Passats do it—but drive a ‘70 Ghia or a 64’ Beetle and you’ll see it. This tribe, this society of car drivers, of people “in the know” is compelling to humans. We long for this kind of belonging, for identity. We all want to have a place, and for others to know it.

Of course, in today’s compartmentalized, isolated society, flashing a V sign is the best kind of tribe or club to be in. No expectations, no meetings no commitments. You can be a member of this secret society without having to do more than make car payments and change your oil—things you are doing anyway. It’s a fleeting, transitory connection with a stranger, a self-chosen, self-determined, self-defined “belonging” to something that only amounts to a drop of water for the one who is parched for belonging.

This marks the greatest departure of belonging to the Church, to the Body of Christ. When you were baptized, you were inducted into the most exclusive society ever imagined, with the strongest ties, with the most ancient of founding, with the deepest connection between its members, known and unknown. It is a Society that is a Body, that connects members not based on temporary joys and delights (My other car is a….) but on the eternal identity of us in Creation and Redemption. A baptism is more than initiation. It is death and rebirth, being made a member of the mystical Body of Christ, as our funeral liturgy calls it.

It is the most secret of societies, for we cannot see the Spirit with eyes of flesh. It is the most open of societies, accepting everyone regardless of Team and language, race, and past associations. It it the most exclusive of tribes, as it demands greatest place and bears no competition. The Christ is Lord of all and trumps every other association, interest, tribe or club which claims ownership of even a part of us. It is the most free of all associations, as your belonging is held by the Creator of all, and is not based on your keeping the rules. You can sell your bike or car or switch loyalties to a Texas team (God forbid), and still belong to Jesus.

So why isn’t it enough? Why do we who call upon Him seek belonging with teams and vehicles and clothing and everywhere else the world calls to us: “Join us! Be like us!” Why do those rebels and teenagers who reject “labels” and “cliques” and those scenes join together with other rebels and outsiders and dress and talk and hang with them? Why is Christ and His Church not enough?

Christ and His Church demand change. It welcomes us as we are, but rightly says that who we are is not who we will be. God has larger plans for you. God is making you like His Christ. God is giving you even a share in divinity! This is a painful process as we repent all those cracks and thorns and worms that keep us from being sons and daughters of the King. Jesus eats with sinners and welcomes them. But sinners repent in the presence of Christ and “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11). Our flesh fights against this. It is hard. And we know not where it ends. Christ and His Kingdom and His righteous to be sure. But what does it look like for me? What Christ is changing in us and where we are headed is seen with faith, and not with our eyes.

Who you are is not who you will be. This is true regardless of faith, regardless of religion. We are all moving targets, all going through change. I no longer flash a V sign at Beetles. Even team loyalties can change over time. Who you are is not who you will be. But this becomes a promise and a hope and a fervent joy for us who belong to Christ. Who you are now is not who you will be. God is at work in you giving you His divine life. He is making you into more than who you are already. He is taking you and refining you, making you more purely you. This is His work in His Church. Through His Word and Sacraments, you belong to the most precious, coveted society there is: the Society of Heaven. The People of God. The Children of the Father. Sons and Daughters of the King of Kings.

Who do the Worms Eat?

jar1A jar of dirt. A pickle jar filled with dirt from your back yard, sitting on your desk or mantle, reminding you of your origin as animated dust, as organic matter which has received the breath of God. As it stands, a good reminder. A speaker at a conference I attended recently made this the climax of his speech. Keep this jar of dirt in your study, he told us pastors.

A jar of dirt. A reminder that we will end up there as well, once the chemicals dissipate and the water enters the vault. With time and time again, back to dirt and dust we will go. It’s the call to repentance of Lent, from dirt to dirt. It’s the order of things after the Fall, after the primordial days of old. It’s all we knew.

And if that it were it, then the cry of the hedonist sounds loud: eat and drink! It would be worth the stress and worry and concern of hanging onto this life, if it were only dust and ashes punctuated by these brief days of light and joy. It would be worth the lust of gold and pleasures of the flesh. It would be worth stabbing your friend in the back with steely knives if it were all darkness at the end. Pass the bottle and stoics be damned. The worms will win in the end and I’ll at least die with a smile.

But there is one whom the worms did not receive. There is the one who defeated decay and death and worms and corruption. He is my Lord. He defeated the worms and nitrifying processes of aerobic bacteria. He defeated the power of the grave. For me, the worms do not win. The water and bacteria and destruction and thermodynamic heat death of the universe does not win. My Lord broke that system and I belong to Him.

This jar of dirt or flies has no bearing on the Christian. Yes, we should memento mori and dust to dust, but not to dwell. There is more. There is forever.

A Reminder of our True Enemies

….there is nothing which troubles, incites,irritates, wounds, destroys, distresses and excites the demons and the supremely evil Satan himself against us, as the constant study of the psalms. The entire holy Scripture is beneficial to us and not a little offensive to the demons, but none of it distresses them more than the psalter. In public affairs, when one party sings the praises of the emperor, the other party is not distressed, nor does it move to attack the first party. But if that party begin reviling the emperor, then others will turn on it. Thus it is that the demons are not so much troubled and distressed by the rest of holy Scripture as the are by the psalms. For when we meditate upon the psalms, on the one hand, we are praying on our own account, while, on the other hand, we are bringing down curses on the demons. Thus, when we say Have mercy upon me O God after your great goodness; and according to the multitude of your tender mercies, do away with my transgressions and Cast me not away from your presence: and take not your holy spirit from me and Cast me not away in the time of age: forsake me not when my strength fails me, we are praying for ourselves. But then we bring down curses on the demons when, for instance, we say: Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him, and again: Let him scatter the people that delight in war, and I myself have seen the ungodly in great power and flourishing like a green bay-tree: I went by and lo, he was gone; I sought him, but his place could nowhere be found and Their sword shall go through their own heart….”

Taken from The Spiritual Meadow, by John Maschos

HT: Again and Again

Victim and Victor

Christians, to the Paschal victim
offer your thankful praises!

A lamb the sheep redeemeth:
Christ, who only is sinless,
reconcileth sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended
in that combat stupendous:
the Prince of life, who died,
reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring
what thou sawest, wayfaring:

“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
the glory of Jesus’ resurrection;

“Bright angels attesting,
the shroud and napkin resting.

“Yea, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he will go before you.”

Christ indeed from death is risen,
our new life obtaining;
have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen.

Instead, Pray

This was taken from a talk entitled, “On Becoming and Remaining an Orthodox Christian” (from Emily’s Blog) but it pertains to all of us.

[A]void what is called the temptations from the left and the right. Temptations from the left are laxism, weakness, compromise, indifference. Temptations from the right are censorious judgement of others, the stuck-up zeal of the Pharisee, ‘zeal not according to knowledge’. These temptations are equally dangerous and equally to be combatted. Both waste an enormous amount of time and energy on sideshows like the discussion of irrelevant issues like ecumenism, rather than praying. Being in society is the way in which we can get to know ourselves, see our failings and avoid being sidetracked into theoretical concerns.

Historic, Sacramental Worship: Tradition and Scripture

This is part two of the sermon series. As it turns out, it is not as full as I wanted it to be on the relationship between the tradition and scripture. Nor is it as strong in the sense of Law/Gospel proclamation, though I fine-tuned that a bit in proclamation.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

The early Christian church must have been a homey affair. New believers baptizing and sitting and hearing the apostle’s teach, like a small group in a living room. You read the New Testament and what do you see? Paul teaching in homes, people gathering in homes for worship. The Lord’s supper mentioned here and there. And the story continues—the myth continues—when the Christian church was legalized, the Romans got their hands on it and really messed things up and made it more formal and institutional and so forth.

Have you heard that version of the story? It’s familiar among fundamentalists and restorationists of many types. They look at the New Testament and do not see assigned readings or responses. They look at the New Testament and do not hear about graduals and  set prayers.

But they are there. We just don’t always have the eyes to see them.

It’s like when you buy a new car, or a new-for-you car. As you drive across town you suddenly start seeing hundreds of tan Suburbans or Volkswagens. They were always there, right in front of you, but you didn’t look for them. God’s Word works the same way, but in this case it is our sinful flesh that covers over our eyes. It’s our habits and stubbornness that keeps us from seeing what God would reveal. If you’re like me, you’ve experienced the opposite, when a passage suddenly opens up to you and you ask yourself, “How could I have read that or heard that so many times and never noticed it??”

Hear again our very, very short sermon text: And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Did you hear it that time? Apostle’s teaching and the prayers. And the Greek is quite clear on this. It is not just “prayer” or “some prayers” but “the prayers,” specific terminology for specific prayers, the same used for the liturgical Jewish synagogue prayers that all of them would have used their whole lives. And we know what those prayers were like, for the Jews preserved them from generation to generation and in writing.

The Early Church was a liturgical church. Hippolytus, writing in 150 years after the time of Paul described the traditions of the Apostles in an effort to preserve their ancient tradition which was being threatened with change, so he thought. From him we learn saying things like, “The Lord be with you; and with your spirit; Lift up your hearts; we lift them up unto the Lord; Let us give thanks to the Lord our God; it is meet and right…”150 after St. Paul this was already considered an ancient text and prayer and liturgy, as those forms date from Synagogue prayers and Jewish household prayers and were being given Christian expression by the Apostles and their followers who died in mid-to-late 150s, and Hippolytus who learned from them. Think about this for a moment. St. John the Apostle sat at Jesus’ feet. He died in 100 AD and taught many who lived into the late 100s and early 200s. 150 years sounds like a long time, but it’s just two or three generations from Jesus and the Apostles.

Christianity is a liturgical religion, using formal prayers and special conduct because of the presence of God in us, as Temples of the Holy Spirit, and in His sacramental presence in His sanctuary.

But where do the traditions come from? Why some and not others? For example, the use of a gradual, or short song between first and second Scripture readings comes from the Synagogue. Why do we have it, yet not some other things? Why not all Roman Catholic traditions? Why not our own? Why don’t we beg, borrow and steal, mix in our own traditions or others? Where do we go to know what liturgy to use?

Luther faced this problem and faced it head-on. We are heirs of those who came before us. We stand on their shoulders and have received the church from them. We are not alone. We are, as we heard last week, in the company of saints and angels. As Hebrews 12 began, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, the prophets of old and apostles and martyrs and saints gathered with us even today, even here, even now. We are not alone, and we didn’t sprout from stones.

The Apostles handed down the teaching and tradition: “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” In fact, the word translated “tradition” means “giving or handing over.” Those traditions were passed from generation to generation. They were taught and adapted and expanded at times. So we do not reject them and what they passed to us. GK Chesterton said it best, “

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of their birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”  Or this “Tradition does not mean a dead town; it does not mean that the living are dead but that the dead are living.

So Luther kept the Tradition which had been passed down, handed over to him. But with one important thing: our worship and tradition cannot contradict Scripture. Where Scripture speaks, tradition must be silent, or agree. If there is conflict, the witness and teaching of Scripture rules the day.

So what do we do here? We worship according to the Lutheran heritage we have received, according to the tradition passed onto us, and according to the tradition of the ancient church, as we have received it in the West of Europe. We do little that is modern. That makes us neanderthals, doesn’t it?

No. It makes us Lutheran. It makes us Reformers. It makes us Catholic and Christian. It makes us Apostolic. It makes us mindful of our dead saints and prophets and apostles and teachers who are living, living in Christ. It joins us with the saints of old, it joins us in the same worship as the martyrs, with the apostles, even. It joins us to the Church, the Body of Christ, spread out over space and time. One in Christ, one in liturgy, one in spirit. Amen.

Historic, Sacramental Worship: Who We Are and How We Got Here

This is the first sermon in the sermon series. Just a word of warning: sermon manuscripts are always different than how they are proclaimed.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Today we begin a sermon series on Worship and Liturgy, looking today at Who we are and how we got here. Our text is Hebrews 12:22—29, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,  23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,  24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.  25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.  26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken–that is, things that have been made–in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.  28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,  29 for our God is a consuming fire.

 “We don’t do that at Grace.” I’ve heard you say it. I’ve said it myself. We say it friendly-like most of the time, but we say it. We don’t do screens and rock bands, no drum sets or clowns. No girls in leotards prancing around calling it “liturgical dance.” No, our dance is the dance of standing and sitting, kneeling and page-turning, call-and-responses, God leading, us following, God giving, us receiving, Him forgiving, our Amens.

So…why? Why don’t we do crazy clowns and contemporary music and fog machines and light shows and walking around with object lessons and coffee cafes and the what’s-happening-now scene? Is it because of our building? I mean, how could you do praise band in this fortress and relic from the 15th century? How, with Jane Austin’s father’s lecturn right over there? No, that’s not our “style.”

Is that it, though? Is it the case that if circumstances had changed and we were somehow in a modern-looking building then all that would be game? We could do it? Is it because of the building? Probably not. So what is it? Why don’t we do that at Grace? Is it because it’s our personal, corporate style? Is it because we like liturgical, sacramental, reverent historical worship? Is it our choice, like choosing a radio station?

Shouldn’t be. So what should it be? Why do we do it? Why should we be worshiping like this?

Hear what our text says, “You have come to the city of the living God, to innumerable angels in festal gathering.” What does that mean?

The writer of Hebrews makes a comparison with Mt. Sinai. He says at Mt. Sinai, it was “what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest  19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them.” This is where the Law was given. This is how we relate to God without forgiveness. Without Gospel. This is the way of sin and death.

But this is not you. You are not there! Jesus Christ has fulfilled the Law of God, made atonement for our sins and given the promise and gift of life. You are not in doom and shadow and smoke and fire, tempest and fear. You are in the grace and light and life of God. With holy angels in “festal assembly.”  We are here right now, and they are here. This is not just people of the Tulsa metro hanging around a nice building in a transitional neighborhood. We are in the midst of angels. Angels in festal gathering. In the midst of the living Apostles. In the middle of the saints of God, the holy martyrs of old. Heaven brought to earth, and us to heaven.

So let’s party, right? Let’s throw off our vestments and formality…

No, that’s not it either. Festal assembly means “a festal gathering of the whole people to celebrate public games or other solemnities.” It’s the same word used in the early Greek translation of the Old Testament to mean the liturgical feasts of the Temple, like Passover and Yom Kippur. And the worship of God is not done lightly. It is not done casually, and friends, this is straight out of the Bible. “thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,  29 for our God is a consuming fire.” Thus saith the Lord. Right?

 So what is acceptable worship to God? Is it making sure everything is verbatim, you know, right out of the book? If you sing the wrong response, in other words, is that somehow a sin? No. Acceptable worship is worship done from faith. God desires mercy. Faith in Jesus Christ, trusting Him to forgive. Faith to believe that God loves you. Faith to know that God gives life and salvation, even as we sing His praises, He is giving us His Word. Faith to trust God is good. This is acceptable.

So who are we? We are the assembly of the firstborn, gathered in the assembly of angels. How did we get here? By the death of Jesus Christ, who brought us into His body through His gifts of baptism and the Eucharist.

So how do we worship in “reverence and awe”? Well, we do that here, but what makes it reverent is the subject for next week’s sermon.

Incense in Christian Worship

What follows is a brief essay especially written for the people of Grace Lutheran, reflecting the current practices here and the use of incense in the past. I wrote it to organize my thoughts and presentations to the people here, many of whom are used to some use of it, but need to be reminded of the hows and whys. I would appreciate comments and feedback, though.

 Incense in the Bible

Incense used in Judeo-Christian worship is usually a resin from the Boswellia tree, called frankincense, or a resin from the the myrrh plant. Incense was used historically for many purposes. Sometimes the resin was blended with essential oils to alter or augment the natural scent and then blended with olive oil to make anointing oil and perfumes, as scent for soap and cleaning, as an air freshener to cover unpleasant smells and for religious purposes. However, incense was also quite expensive, and its religious use was the dominant.

God called incense a pleasing aroma to him (Lev. 6:15) and commanded that it be burned in the Temple worship instituted with Moses (Exodus 30). The instruction given to Aaron, the first priest was, ”

On it Aaron shall burn fragrant incense. Morning after morning, when he prepares the lamps, and again in the evening twilight, when he lights the lamps, he shall burn incense. Throughout your generations this shall be the established incense offering before the Lord. On this altar you shall not offer up any profane incense.” (Exodus 30:7-9)

An altar was located in the holy place, directly outside the Holy of Holies and incense was burned from dawn to dusk. Incense was the ultimate sacrifice, in that it was taking something of intrinsic value and burning it away. A comparable act would be to take gold or cash and burn them in the offering plate!

Scripture associates incense with prayer. Psalm 141 states, “Let my prayer rise before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” What is notable about this is the subtle direction away from animal sacrifices, toward the kind of living sacrifice Christians offer. Our praise and incense take the place of the blood of bulls and animals, pointing to the pure sacrifice of Christ on the cross once for all.

There is no disputing that incense was used in the Old Testament worship. But what about the New Testament? Is it a work of the Law that is done away with? Should it have disappeared from the earth like the sacrifice of animals in the Temple?

In the Revelation of St. John, the Apostle sees a vision of Heaven, with the saints assembled before the throne of God. Significantly, as the prayers of the faithful are said on earth, an Angel bears a thurifer and our prayers are combined with the incense: “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” (Rev. 8:3-4 ESV) St. John also shows the heavenly sights to indicate a truth we often miss: the presence of God in heaven is repeated or symbolized or enacted within our worship and sanctuaries on earth. When we gather around Word and Sacrament, Heaven comes to earth and our worship and praise is combined with the worship of all the saints and angels in heaven.

We are not sure exactly when early Christians began using worship in the Christian liturgy. While it is possible, and perhaps even likely it was used from the beginning, actual evidence dates to the late third century. This was the first time it is mentioned explicitly in writings we have that survived the centuries.

What Benefits Does Incense Give?

Christian worship is bodily worship. God created this world and called it good. Our bodies and sense are all creatures and gifts of God. In the incarnation of Jesus, He took up our human flesh and sanctified it. Christian worship is not just in the mind, but uses the body.

Even as Jesus saved us with His body, using His body nailed to the cross and His blood spilled for our sins, we use our bodies and senses to worship Him. We use hearing and our ears to hear His word of forgiveness and His Gospel. We use our mouths and tongues and speech to praise Him in song and responding to His Word. Our bodies stand at attention and respect when the Words of Christ are read. We kneel and bow to the cross and in prayer, worshiping with our bodies even as we worship with our spirits and minds and tongues. Our sanctuary is filled with images of Christ and His work in terms of His body on the cross, images of his miracles and saints, so that our eyes may be filled with Him and worship him by looking.

And when incense is burned, even our noses and sense of smell is involved in worshiping him! When the incense burns we smell the aroma and it reminds us of our prayers rising to heaven. We smell it and remember the incense burning in the presence of God as described in Revelation.

But I Don’t Like It!

Perhaps you don’t care for the smell. Or perhaps it makes you feel “too catholic.” Maybe it reminds you of bad events or times. It’s natural, after all. Our sense of smell and emotions and memories are intimately connected. A unique or strong smell can immediately bring up memories.

It’s hard to argue with emotions. But we also must remember that God is in the healing business, and while scents have strong emotional connections, almost anything and everything in this world can have bad or hurtful connotations and memories and associations. The goal of our God and the faith is to bring true and complete healing for all these things. Jesus Christ came to take all our human pains and ills, all our hurts and sins and cleanse them. He provided not only healing physical healing to some, but promises complete healing, of body and spirit beginning and now and being made complete in the resurrection.

What’s more, our worship is not about “likes” and “dislikes.” We do not worship with the liturgy because we “like” it. We do not have certain readings from Scripture because they are our favorite, nor do we skip readings we don’t like. Certain hymns may have great memories and evoke strong feelings for us, but even hymns and music are not written and included only to move us emotionally, but to direct our spirits and minds and attention to God, to praise Him with the gift of music, which is a natural and intrinsic gift we have as His creatures!

When we use incense in worship, we do not use it because we like it, but because it is part of the historic worship which we have inherited from the thousands of generations of Christians that have gone before us. Lutherans in Scandinavia and Germany used incense for hundreds of years (and some still do). Even more, Christians used incense 1000 years before the doctrines Luther opposed were present in the Church. Saying it is “too catholic” because the Roman Catholic church uses it often is like saying the Nicene Creed is too catholic because they say it every Sunday too. Or vestments!

But I Still Don’t Like it. I’m Most Certainly Allergic

Some pastors are too! There is some debate on how incense allergies work and what if what you feel is an irritant or an allergy, but it can be annoying, to say the least. We can do several things to mitigate and ease any bad effects.

Using natural charcoal without any additives will help tremendously, providing very little smoke and no chemical fumes. Furthermore, a hypoallergenic form of incense which minimizes additives and “flavors,” especially using the pure frankincense and/or myrhh will ease discomfort. Sitting near the back of the congregation may be required. Lastly, we will publicize in the bulletin, in the e-blast, and on facebook which Divine Services will feature incense. As a last resort, you may avoid those services and attend another. When there are two services on a given day, one will always be without incense.

Conclusion

Using incense is a historic, traditional practice. Even more, it is biblical! When we use incense at Grace Lutheran Church we are not trying to pretend to be something we are not. We are expressing the teaching and desires of the Lutheran Confessors and Luther himself to retain all things in the worship which are not opposed to the Gospel.

Incense is used to help all of our worshipers worship God with the whole body and senses: with sight and sound, touch and smell and taste as we receive the Eucharist. While not everyone may “enjoy” it, we pray that all will appreciate its biblical, traditional, sacramental and beautiful roots and intent.