Monday, November 27, 2006

Asparagus And Jelly Donuts, Part 2

After rightfully saying there was nothing in Amazing Grace that a Buddhist couldn’t sing in last weeks Sunday school class, my pastor drew up twelve criteria that should be used to judge the hymnody with a short introduction;

Here’s the basic criteria I use in evaluating and selecting hymns for the Divine service: the more questions you can answer with “yes”, the better the hymn. The fewer yes” answers, the weaker the hymn is, and if there is not one, single “yes” to any of these questions, it’s really not a hymn we need to sing…

1) Is the Crucified and Risen Christ Jesus the indispensable center of the hymn?
2) Does the hymn clearly proclaim Christ’s vicarious satisfaction as the sinner’s salvation?
3) Is the hymn grounded on a clear, Scriptural text?
4) Does the hymn point us clearly to the Church’s ministry of word and Sacrament as the place where we surely receive Christ’s gifts?
5) Does the hymn make clear that it is entirely Christ’s work alone that saves us without works, responses, or proper feelings of our own?
6) Does the hymn make clear that the faith which alone justifies is not a human work, but a free gift given by God’s choosing of us (not our choosing of Him), in Christ Jesus, through Word and Sacrament?
7) If the hymn speaks of the Christians response to Christ’s gifts, does it make clear that it is what Christ does for us and not what we do for Him that is the center of the Church’s life and mission? Does it make clear that sanctification is as much by faith alone as is justification?
8) Has the hymn been properly tested and tried by the Lutheran Church?
9) Does the hymn inspire in us a hunger and thirst for the things of Christ Jesus and His Kingdom that is coming?
10) Does the hymn drive you clearly, unerringly to the sound doctrine of Christ Jesus rather than merely let you free associate it’s words with sound teaching?
11) Does the tune bear repeated singing? That is, could you sing it twenty times in a row and not feel sick to your stomach?
12) Is it a hymn that the congregation knows or can sing with some choir support?

I have the distinct feeling that my favorite Latin hymn; In A Gadda Da Vida by I. Ron Butterfly will probably not pass muster using my pastor’s stringent criteria listed above. I will also go out on a limb and say my favorite contemporary Christian music band Faith + 1 also won’t be played during the Divine Service either. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to “settle” for Paul Gerhardt or Philipp Nicholai.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Asparagus And Jelly Donuts

Preparing to look at the synods new hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book, my pastor for the past few weeks has been going over the history of the Divine Service as it has evolved from the very beginnings of Christianity. I’m sure that some folks were genuinely shocked to find out that Jesus did not use page 15 from the Lutheran Hymnal. Sure there was laughter at the comment, but I know that the statement offended a few. These are the same people that say that if the King James Bible was good enough for Jesus… well, it should be good enough for us.

What had me ready to jump up and down for joy was an even more offensive statement; “Amazing Grace is not a good hymn.” Yep, my pastor actually said it. I really, really didn’t think he was going out on that limb. But to his credit, with the aged bronze squirming in their seats, he laid out why some “beloved” hymns are the theological equivalent of jelly donuts.

As the point was made in the class, most of us like donuts. While I don’t like jelly donuts, a good cake donut is really hard to beat. But is there any real nutritional value to donuts? No! And what kind parent will actually let their child make a meal of four or five donuts? A bad mommy and daddy, that’s who.

Now, a good parent will not let their little ragamuffins away from the table without eating all their vegetables. The children may not like asparagus, but it is good for them and they do need all the vitamins contained therein to grow up big and strong. It is an example of bad parenting to let the children hide their veggies in a napkin, under their plates, or worse yet, inside of Snowball the family beagle.

If we can all agree that veggies are a necessity for health, and that donuts, while they are good, are nothing more than a desert, why do we expect less out our spiritual foods.

The song “Amazing Grace” didn’t even make it into our Lutheran hymnals until 1982 when Lutheran Worship came out. That’s right folks; it wasn’t in the Lutheran Hymnal! Truth be told, it didn't even make it into the hymnal suppliment for the Lutheran Hymnal. The old Lutherans looked at songs like Amazing Grace and declared them the theological equivalent of jelly donuts. There was no mention of Christ anywhere! There is no mention of the means of grace, that is to say Word and Sacrament. There is nothing in Amazing Grace that a Buddhist couldn’t sing. “Amazing Grace” is one big jelly donut.

We, and I’ve said this before, should sing hymns that teach and confess our faith. We should sing back to the Lord a sung confession. We should sing the very doctrines the Holy Scriptures have given us. We should sing those hard to sing, Greek, Latin, and reformation era hymns that define what it means to declared justified by faith alone in Christ. We need to sing asparagus.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lutheran Carnival XXXVIII

Lutheran Carnival XXXVII is now up and running at What Did Jesus Do. Stop by, say howdy, and thank Ryan for his time. The next Carnival will be hosted by Living Sermons. Posts are due on December 1st and the carnival will be up on December 3rd.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

LSB Agenda And The Time Honored Rite Of Snake Handling

Last Saturday was my circuit's turn to host the introduction to the Lutheran Service Book. I went, got my copy of the LSB and am busy going through it. My initial thoughts are that it is a very good hymnal that hopefully my congregation will adopt. I only wish that the Litany had it’s musical setting included in the LSB. The good news is that it’s all there in the Agenda.

The introduction really wasn’t designed to spend a whole lot of time on the Agenda. That’s a shame really, but I’ll see it soon enough.

The reason I’m thinking about this is that a friend called me this morning to alert me to a news story in the local paper. Here’s how the AP story ran;

Snake Bite In Church Kills Woman
LONDON, Ky. -- The identity of a southeastern Kentucky woman who was bitten by a snake during a church service and later died has been released. Linda Long, 48, of London died Sunday at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, the Laurel County Sheriff's Office reported.
Det. Brad Mitchell said Long died about four hours after the bite was reported. Handling reptiles as part of religious services is illegal in Kentucky. Snake handling is a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of $50 to $100. Police said they had not received reports about snake handling at the church. Snake handling is based on a passage in the Bible, in the Gospel of Mark, that says a sign of a true believer is the power to "take up serpents" without being harmed.
Church officials could not be reached for comment.

My question is this; does anyone know if the ancient liturgical Rite of Snake Handling is in the LSB Agenda? Gosh, I hope it is! What a tremendous outreach opportunity this is for the LCMS. Can’t you just imagine the Council of Presidents demonstrating the gift of snake handling? I know I can!

If the ancient liturgical Rite of Snake Handling isn’t in the LSB Agenda, then already we need another hymnal supplement. Gosh I hope it's in the Agenda!