Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Snippets from MtCow

I return now to my series of reports on the LCMS "Model Theological Conference on Worship". I am advancing this conversation because it is the one thing I can see the synod doing that is in the spirit of "It's Time", Rev. Matt Harrison's proposal for effecting meaningful reconciliation and unity in the Missouri Synod. The worship wars are an impediment to the Gospel, and I believe the effort begun in St. Louis last month is a good step toward bringing concord back to the churches that subscribe to the Book of Concord.

Going forward then, following Dr. Jeff Gibbs' address, was Rev. Larry Vogel. He sits on the synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR). His focus was on the incarnational, the real presence of Christ in Word and Sacrament, and how that makes our worship truly Christian. We as Lutherans don't need to move "toward" this truth in our theology of worship. We're already there - or should be. The tension among us is that some claim that there is a conflict between sacramental worship and mission. Pastor Vogel says there should be no tension: "it (baptism) is mission: telling and living the new life of Christ's Body."

Besides, we have no choice. If we are to worship the true God, then we must worship according to His command. We must "let God have it His way". Though the world may differ, "it just won't do to make 'spiritual high' the goal or focus of our worship." Sadly, many churches today do just that in an effort to be "missional". And, in doing so, they prove that "worship customs affect doctrine, and are therefore not adiaphora."

So where then is the freedom? After all, we believe that differing customs are not necessarily divisive. (AC VII) The answer is found simply by looking at the Reformers: what they did, and what they did not do. They did not change the essence of worship, nor even its basic order and content; instead, they moved preaching and liturgy and hymnody into the vernacular, that many would hear and believe. Where this is done responsibly, we have good and healthy variety in the Church. Where it is done poorly, the Gospel suffers.

This, I believe, is where the rubber hits the road. And Pastor Vogel then pointed to this by highlighting what he called "Pastoral Realities": to be both "welcoming and faithful" in a "continaully changing America" while working with the "limited capabilities of musicians and pastors." We need wisdom to know what we can do well and effectively. As any musician can tell you, "it is one thing to have instruments - it is another to know how to use them."

Here I cannot help but end with a connection to our work here at Liturgy Solutions. Much of the talk at things like MtCow is conceptual. Very important and necssary, but not immediately applicable. It takes education, experience, skill, and discernment to distill and apply these principles in practical and productive ways. We at Liturgy Solutions serve to provide tools to help you do that.

Your choir is the most effective instrument you have for leading your congregation in worship. By choosing texts that sing faith into people's hearts, and by providing them music for those texts that is appropriate to the musicians and relevant to the hearers, they are truly able to magnify the Word and inspire the congregation's devotion.

May we use our instruments as conscienciously and intentionally as a good preacher uses his pulpit, that many may live the Eucharistic life. +


Michael Paul 白霈德牧師 said...

Thank you for taking the time to relay this bit of the conference here. Also, I've been wanting for some time to greatly thank you for all your efforts on "Sing the Faith." For what my opinion's worth, I think it is superbly conceived, recorded, and produced. I often use it to meditate on the catechism and am using it with my daughter to help her to memorize and me re-memorize the texts. I wanted to thank you personally at the BJS conference but there were always too many others talking with you. THANK YOU!

Phillip said...

Wow. Thank you, Michael. I'm honored. So glad you appreciate the catechism songs and are putting them to use. I know they have received mixed reviews.

I'm now working on setting the songs in French. We'll be field testing a couple of my efforts with a congregation in Montreal later this year. I have some facility with the French language adn some familiarity with French music, so we'll see.

Thanks also for encouraging me with my reports on the conference. It has been so quiet here in this corner of the blogosphere that I'd slowed down. I'll be sure to continue my series of posts on MtCow now, soon.

Have a blessed Holy Week and a Joyful Eastertide!

In Christ,


Michael Paul 白霈德牧師 said...

Thank you for your comments back, Cantor. It's curious to me that you mention about French. I have set 20-some Bible verses in Chinese to very simple music settings for my family to help in memorizing (my wife's from Taiwan originally and we all speak both English and Mandarin at home) and I've thought a lot about trying to do a catechism project down the road some time as you have done in English (and soon French!) My musical abilities are a far cry from yours, however!

I do appreciate (here and elsewhere) your reporting, commentary and insights on MtCoW and Lutheran worship in general. The combining of good music and good theology is truly a blessed gift to the Church. Thanks again!

Stephen R. Johnson said...

Our kids in the Sunday school will be singing the Second Article songs from Phil's catechism settings on Easter Sunday. Looking forward to that!

Phillip said...

Michael - sorry for the slow posting here these days. Busy time of year!

Anyway, I was wondering if you use "Worship in Concord" there in Taiwan. A friend gave me a copy, which I hope to review this summer. Also, I think it is very cool that you are writing Bible Memory songs in Mandarin. Keep it up!

And, STEPHEN, I'm honored your SS kids will be singing from "Sing the Faith" this Easter. I keep hearing reports about how helping these songs are. Glad I wrote them. Hopefully, CPH will put them to greater use in the future. (There were some encouraging discussions about that a while back. Not sure if they are going anywhere, though.)

Michael Paul 白霈德牧師 said...

Phillip: With regard to Worship in Concord, I'm almost certain that no churches anywhere in Taiwan use it, though there may be a few in Hong Kong and possibly in North America that do. The biggest problem with WiC is that it's a large book (particularly in its bilingual edition) but only contains 70 hymns. It is an excellent resource for pastors but is unusable as a stand-alone Sunday morning hymnal. One of my many dream projects is to take much of the good work done on that and continue it to produce a usable Sunday morning hymnal. This is one of many long-term projects that I, at least, would like to see for the future of a world-wide confessional Lutheran Chinese Church...which unfortunately has a long ways to go!

Phillip Magness said...

Yes, it is a LARGE book. I was wondering how that might impede its use.

LC-C did a far better job with getting the LSB into French. However, in fairness to Worship in Concord, less space is needed to move things between similar languages.

I was particularly intringued by the multiple notation systems used in WiC. I agree it would be a better pastoral than congregational resource.