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Wednesday, August 11, 2010 

Liturgical Dancers To The Left Of Me, Drum Circles To The Right

This morning I found in the inbox my monthly Youth Ministry E-bulletin from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. The E-bulletin focused on the recent national youth gathering that wrapped up down in New Orleans a few weeks ago. One thing really caught my eye…

Rev. Dr. Terry Dittmer, the director of the Youth Ministry Office of the District and Congregational Services , in his final thought this month, looks back at the national youth gathering and distinguishes what he believes was really the highlight of the conference.

Now, just what do ya’ll think that most memorable moment was? Was it the liturgical dancers? No. Was it the dynamic drum circle that hypnotized the crowd? No. Was it classes where the youth were taught prayer walking so that they can go out and reclaim lost spiritual territories? No. Or was the most memorable moment “the elegance of divine service and the liturgy” or “the celebration of the Lord's Supper with the 24,000 youth and adults”. No, that was not the most memorable moment for the head of youth ministry in our beloved synod.

Instead, the most memorable moment, according to Rev. Dittmer’s was:

But, to me, the single most moving, dignified part of that service was the procession of Christ's body from the cross down the center aisle of the Superdome. The story of Christ's crucifixion was recounted. At the end of the story, Christ's body was taken from the cross to be put in the borrowed tomb. His body was placed on a gurney and carried out of the dome on the shoulders of young people. Now, everybody knew it was an actor portraying Jesus laying on the stretcher. But, spontaneously, as the body was transported from the stage, the assembly rose with profound respect for what the scene was depicting. There wasn't a sound in the house. In that dramatic moment, the truth of what we know about Christ's suffering, death and resurrection were shown as real. Here was the truth - fully on display. Christ died for our sins. WE BELIEVE.

I’m, not having been to a seminary and not being a pastor and all, well, I’m just a little unclear on something here… exactly how are we brought to faith? And how exactly is that faith in Christ and His salvific work given to us by God sustained? I thought that we believed by the hearing of the Word as St. Paul says in his epistle to the Romans and the Galatians and not by things that we see as the writer to the Hebrews states. Isn’t that what Lutherans teach and confess in the Augsburg Confession?

I wonder what happens to the youth (and the adults as well) when they go home to their congregations and don’t have so dramatic a worship experience. I wonder…

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It won't be "real." It won't be "meaningful." It won't have any real meaning or relevance to today's young whippersnappers. It'll just be, like, the Word of God spoken by a comparatively uncool guy in vestments, announcing the forgiveness of sins to everyone. Yawn.

This is a real tough call, Frank. Every time we take the Lord's Supper the Gospel is proclaimed. The real body and blood of Christ are present in the bread and wine. BUT a dramatic performance is as real as it gets, you know. Just watch theater, TV, or the movies, that IS reality. So, I don't know... what the word of God says happens at the Lord's Supper on one hand and a theatrical performance on the other hand... you know... it's tough. Maybe theatre is more memorable?

*tongue planted firmly in cheek*

Not every word is a spoken word. Not every word is a written word. Sometimes the message is communicated by actions, including liturgical actions.

My first question to Rev. Dittmer would be, were the other actions taken during the NYG in harmony with the actions he describes, showing reverence to the Lord, proclaiming the work of Christ & confessing the power of the Sacrament? Or is there a disconnect there.

My second question would be, doesn't the Sacrament give us more than a dramatic presentation, or representation, of something far away and long ago?

Oops. I posted before putting my hypothetical Third Question to Terry D.: Doesn't the Gospel give us something more important, more enduring, more assuring than an emotional feeling or experience?

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
  • Confessional Lutheran
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