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Tuesday, April 29, 2008 

Anne's First Post, Part 2

This is the second half of the email that I received from Anne that she requested I post. Here’s part 1. Remember, play nice!

Thank you, kirnhorner2001, Adam Roe, and Dan at Necessary Roughness for your words of encouragement to my brother, Frank.

Frank on 03/08/08, posted the notice of my husband’s death; Frank said that my husband he had earned the right to rest after years of being sick. It was well into the wee hours of the morning after a long night of waiting for the last breath, and my brother misspoke. It was, of course, Christ who bestowed the right to rest on him via his sacrifice.

If works could buy our way to Glory, however, this man of mine would enter because of his simple faith in God. He was longsuffering, never complained when his life was filled with pain and suffering and discouragement. He showered the world with random acts of kindness and pointed people to live Godly lives through the gracious Godly way he traveled his road. The world was a better place for this man having been here. He was a loving father, a beloved husband and a faithful man of God.

LongEyeMoose - You said that Lutherans communicate their love for Christ through vocation, not by singing love songs.

Have you read the Psalms, dear friend? Have you not seen the admonitions to lift up to the Lord a joyful noise? To lift up Holy hands? To enter into his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise?

Jonathan Edwards wrote, “The things of religion are so great, that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our hearts, to their nature and importance, unless they be lively and powerful. In nothing is vigor in the actings of our inclinations so requisite, as in religion, and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious.”

I refer you to 1 Cor 13:3. “…if I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, and have not love, I gain nothing.”

John Piper has written: “One thing is for sure, love cannot be equated with sacrificial action. …This is a powerful antidote to the common teaching that love is not what you feel, but what you do. The good of this popular teaching is the twofold intention to show (1) that mere warm feelings can never replace actual deeds of love (James 2:16, 1 John 3:18) and 2) that efforts of love must be made even in the absence of the joy that one might wish were present. But it is careless and inaccurate to support these 2 truths by saying that love is simply what you do, and not what you feel. …..a definition of love that takes God into account and also includes the feelings that should accompany the outward acts of love: love is the overflow of joy that gladly meets the needs of others. ….That is why a person can give his body to be burned and not have love. Love is the overflow of joy – IN GOD! It is not duty for duty’s sake or right for right’s sake. …It is first a deeply satisfying experience of the fullness of God’s grace, and then a doubly satisfying experience of sharing that grace with another person.“

Piper in his book, Desiring God, states that “the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever… now it becomes clear why it is not idolatrous and man-centered to say that our emotions are ends in themselves. It is not man-centered because the emotions of our worship are centered on God. We look away from ourselves to Him, and only then do the manifold emotions of our heart erupt in worship….He alone can satisfy the heart’s longing to be happy…..”

So LongEyeMoose , allow me to put forth to you that Jesus, the lover of our souls, desires for all of us to be in His Presence, to worship Him in spirit and in truth. If I cannot be permitted to bring forth the joy and gladness in my heart in worship, I suggest that I am no more than a lukewarm Christian that Jesus would spit out of his mouth in disgust. I refer you to Revelation 3:15,16 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

So yes, I am emotional in worship. And I do not believe I am deceived. I offer true and living worship to the King of the Universe, with every breath in me.

Hymnody, or P&W is not the issue, by the way, I believe that the condition of our hearts and the willingness to be open to hearing what God would speak to us in worship and in the reading of His Word and in the preaching of the Word is also of paramount importance, in addition to offering our sacrifice of praise to Him.

Well, my friends in Christ in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I do appreciate your indulgence in hearing me out. I pray God’s blessings on you, and His joy.

Thank you for praying for me and my family and for Frank as he ministered to us in the homegoing of my husband. I do appreciate it.

Yours in Christ,

Anne

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Anne,

You are right that we do not earn or work our way to heaven. I didn’t misspeak but rather I counted his faith in Christ to the work of the Holy Spirit without explaining what I meant. Everything that makes us heirs of the promise was earned by Christ and given to us by God’s grace.

I do see where my words could be misconstrued.

It's with some trepidation that I respond...

I think the flaw in Piper's (John's, not mine) reasoning re: feelings is that our feelings are 'broken' due to sin. Ultimately, we cannot trust them as arbiters of what is good/trustworthy or not. Thus, they cannot be the centerpiece of, for example, what gets done in the Divine Service.

"Our worship" misapplies the focus. A more Lutheran focus is the "Divine Service" (Gottesdienst), wherein God serves & builds up His flock with His means of grace, so that we can go out an serve our neighbors via our vocations, acting as God's instruments in this world.

The historic liturgy, rooted in this Divine Service orientation, thus provides a framework from within which we can trust that we will get what God wants us to get, while we will speak back to Him the very best offering we could give: His own words. Both on days when when we brim over with joy, and even (especially!) on those days when we might not feel like we've given it our all, we can still trust in the veracity and efficacy of God's Word.

It's oftentimes a subtle distinction, but it's an important one, as it takes the focus off of that which can be less than reliable (us) and keeps it firmly on that which never, ever changes (Jesus and what He did for us on the Cross).

-ghp

Ah...that good old Lutheranism of the extreme exclusion. We demonstrate our love for Christ through our vocation, therefore we do not do it through the songs of our lips.

Don't bother me with what that Bible says! You're just confusing Law and Gospel!

What could be *more* demonstrative of our love for God than speaking/singing His own words back to Him? The historic liturgy does that in spades. And it keeps the focus (to mix the metaphor) rooted in the proper direction: God, not us.

Extreme exclusion? No, I don't think so.

Will one of you two explain what extreme exclusion is please? Not everyone in the discussion will understand the lingo theology “wonks” use. Case in point, I had to explain the word Gottesdienst last night, simple right?

Anne is an evangelical and we need to remember that when trying to converse. As I’ve stated before, she and I have had our trouble communicating simply because we use the same words meaning different things.

Oh, GHP, she’ll answer your comment soon, she’s been under the curse of the Martian Death Flu, or something like it recently…

Sorry, Frank (and Anne!).

I'd actually like a formal explanation of the "extreme exclusion" phrase myself, as I'm not quite sure what it means either.

I *think* Josh was directing it towards me & my first response, possibly that I was trying to too neatly/totally separate vocation & worship. Thus, my response disputing that assertion.

If I misunderstood what he meant by "extreme exclusion", well, then I plan on invoking Emily Litella - "Never mind..." ;^)

Anne,

OOh boy, where to begin!?

I too am emotional in worship. The issue isn't whether or not to sing --- sing we must! What shall we sing? Now that is the question. For Lutherans of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession we sing of what Christ has done and is doing. We sing of the truth of Scripture, repeating to ourselves and each other what God has graciously given us.

I pray the psalms daily, they have much to teach about Christ! In the Divine Service (God serving us), we do indeed enter His presence with thanksgiving. In a real sense we join with the people of God of all ages with praise. We enter the courts of the Lord's house, we praise and worship Him who made us alive when we were dead in sin!

Does that bring out joy in us? Gladness? OF COURSE it does! Perhaps you would not see in the Lutheran setting of the Divine Service the expression of joy in a way which meets your expectations -- it is there in large amounts. You would find it subdued if you think that EMOTION is the mark of joy. It is not.

Emotion is fickle, feelings cannot be trusted. Christ loves us, faith abides in us no matter how we feel at the moment.

By "love songs", I meant those songs that with a simple change of a word could be sung to a love interest. These bring no glory to Christ, but to the singer in my opinion.

All Christians sing of their love to Christ --- Lutheran's too!

Thank you for joining us in dialog, dear sister in Christ

By the way -- you can call me Mark

Hey Mark, and others

Frank is right, I am a bit under the weather, quite sick actually, and it is late and I am tired, so I am not even to try to comment tonight on the interesting conversation underway.
In my half awake state, however, I must admit to being somewhat annoyed at the whole emotion is a mark of joy comments.

I am coming out of a season of my life that I would not wish on anyone, and that i wish everyone could have the privilege of going through.

I too can speak in words not easily understood.

My point is that there has been much agony and suffering in my family over the last few years due to my husbands illness. At the core of me I was sustained by the Presence of Christ and a joy that was not emotional. So please dont lecture me about emotion and joy.

At least not tonight. I pull out my " grieving tonight, sorry if I am too emotional, get out of jail free card, " and aak for your indulgence.

Hopefully this weekend I will have a clearer head and can respond more lucidly.

I gathered with others of my city today on the steps of the CourtHouse and participated in the National Day of Prayer Gathering. I was glad to see many there from different persuasions.
I am heartened when I see that what makes us all the same is greater than what makes us differ.

Anne

"please dont lecture me about emotion"

Anne, please don’t take any of these comments personally. This “what is the purpose and focus of worship” question is an argument that is currently going on within the LCMS.

I can say with no uncertainty whatsoever that none of the people that have commented so far are trying to “lecture” you.

Anne,

Please know that you and your family remain in my daily prayers.


As it relates to worship, I can't say I love the liturgy in the same way I used to love worship when I was an evangelical. Even as we're singing these beautiful choruses of praise and we're receiving the Lord's promises through the sacraments, my formerly evangelical ears strain against pipe organs and my voice has a tough time hitting notes that it's not trained for. In addition, much good DOES come from evangelical worship. I think it fosters a warmth and sense of community that is sometimes lacking in our liturgical communities. So, why stick to the liturgy?

I moved to, and am sticking with, the liturgy because in it I receive God's promises. The liturgy is about the ways God works in worship; "where two or more are gathered," "repent and be baptized," "this is my body...this is my blood given for you for the remission of sins." It places the focus squarely on what God promises to us through the preached Word and the sacraments. This is, in my opinion, the most important thing. Churches can change. The things I loved about being evangelical can go away and that same church can look completely different in 10 or 15 years. God's promises, though, will never change. Confessing my sins, hearing words of forgiveness, and receiving our Lord's promise through His Supper...those things are true and unchanging.

That said, I do not agree with the view that there's no room for anything new. So long as the liturgy remains intact and the congregation focuses on God's work for us, I see no reason that praise and worship songs can't be reverentially implemented. To reject them wholesale would seem to me an error of the evangelical inverse. Just as worship doesn't have to be "relevant" to actually be relevant, neither does it need to entirely disregard the culture in which it lives.

The frustrating thing for many of us in the LCMS is that balance seems hard to find. Either congregations are high church and unwilling to implement anything new or they go contemporary and lose the liturgy and their sacramental focus. I don't think things have to be that either/or, but I'm just a simple-minded layman who hardly knows a cassock from an amice. Maybe I'm wrong.

Blessings to you, Anne.

Adam

ghp, I was referring to LongEyeMoose, actually, who apparently said "that Lutherans communicate their love for Christ through vocation, not by singing love songs." Such an assertion is, as Anne pointed out, contrary to much of Scripture and also traditional Lutheran practice.

By "extreme exclusion," I am referring to that nasty Lutheran habit of going out of one's way to exclude the beliefs and practices of non-Lutheran Christians, i.e. that if a non-Lutheran says or does something, the "Lutheran" way is to say or do the very opposite as kind of a knee-jerk reaction. I've heard some pretty silly claims made based on this kind of mentality.

Josh,
see comment above defining "love songs" --- they are by this definition devoid of any useful value.

Adam,

"praise and worship" songs are avoided not because they are new, but because they teach "new" doctrines. LSB has plenty of new musical pieces, a few of which are good. These are used with joy in worship where the Word is preached rightly and the Sacraments correctly administered

Longeymoose,

Sorry for not responding sooner. I've been a little occupied over the past several days.

I certainly don't want to devalue the hymnody of our churches, for I find our hymns to be theologically right on. I must admit, however, that I often find them hard to sing and unpleasant to the ear. I've had a lot of people encourage me toward looking for the beauty of our hymnody but the tunes just sound dated to me. It is, therefore, very hard for me to sing with joy.

Adam

I guess the rest of Les's family was never there for you, never dropped everything on a whim to come. People leaving in the middle of the night to drive up? Staying late with Les and taking your kids home from the hospital so that you could stay late at work before coming to the hospital. It really is kinda sorry that you feel that Frank is the only one that was there for you.

Anon, hmm, let’s see if we can do this nice like… Anne never stated to me or in this post that it was only me that was there for her. What she was addressing, and I did discuss this before she put up the post, is what part emotion plays in worship and grieving. She is responding to a comment that chided me for saying that evangelicals love Jesus as much as non evangelicals. I was accused of being too emotional when I said that evangelicals love their music as much as Lutherans.

We must see people as Christ sees them. Some are brothers and sisters in Christ, some are prisoners of the enemy, and some are just lost and need to be shown the way. I thank God for having given me the opportunity to be an encourager in Frank’s life. I am proud and thankful that he has become such a strong faithful man of God. And I thank God for my husband, a man who believed in me, and helped to guide my way. And, I am thankful that my brother Frank, above all else, came to my rescue and guided me through the most difficult of times.

Per your request.

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  • From The Haut South
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