New WELS Hymnal — Why?

The WELS has begun a project to create a new hymnal. But in all of the information about it, I’m stumped to find any reason for it. Has anyone catalogued the deficiencies in Christian Worship which we would hope to correct? Or are we just trying to put out a new hymnal for the sake of putting out a new hymnal?

Our synod already suffers from a desire to constantly reinvent ourselves and be new, hip, and exciting. If the goal is to incorporate new hymns, wouldn’t it be better to simply release a new supplement, or at most release a new hymnal which is the same as the old one with additional hymns?

What is the goal? Change?

Luther in a letter Dr. Nicholas Hausmann on worship points out that changing the liturgy is fraught with peril:

Nor did I make any innovations. For I have been hesitant and fearful, partly because of the weak in faith, who cannot suddenly exchange an old and accustomed order of worship for a new and unusual one, and more so because of the fickle and fastidious spirits who rush in like unclean swine without faith or reason, and who delight only in novelty and tire of it as quickly, when it has worn off. Such people are a nuisance even in other affairs, but in spiritual matters, they are absolutely unbearable.

What makes us think that five hundred years after the reformation, we must release a new hymnal several times per generation?

I certainly think that there are deficiencies in CW which could be corrected, and a much stronger hymnal released, but it doesn’t look like that is the goal…

Shoretel phones and HP V1910 switches DHCP

A random note because this was so hard to find. If you are installing a Shoretel phone system with rebranded 3com switches such as the HP V1910, make sure that your DHCP server is set to only be on its main VLAN. I still don’t understand why, but somehow if the server is available on that VLAN, even if it doesn’t understand VLAN traffic and should ignore all except untagged, it can still mess up the process of the phones getting an IP address on the voice VLAN.

Looking for the original source again so it can be cited properly.

Repetition

Stay with us, for it is evening; the day is almost over. (Luke 24:29)
Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:26)

Your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always. (Isaiah 58:10,11)

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more;
the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. (Isaiah 60:20)

On no day will the gates of the Holy City ever be shut,
for there will be no night there. (Revelation 21:25)

— Christian Worship: Supplement; Evening Meditation, pg. 68.

I’ve been attempting, in my peccator way, to establish a pattern of prayer. It has been severely lacking in my life, and I believe that I have suffered from the same. NPH has a rite for evening meditation in Christian Worship: Supplement on page 68 which I have been using for the last couple months.

I have discovered in this process is how hard it is to repeat things. The passages above are how the rite begins. I constantly find myself glossing over them, or reading them without thinking, even aloud. I frequently desire to take advantage of the wide variety of rites available for such things and constantly mix it up and rework it.

Yet, if I force myself to continue reading and pondering these words, I grow. As much as novelty makes it easier to absorb something, you can’t understand information on the first hearing. God’s Word especially. By simple repetition, I’ve memorized these words. They are part of me now, appearing in my mind when I need comfort and peace. When I force myself to lay aside my impatience and ponder these words, the Holy Spirit unveils meaning in them.

So I continue to read them. Perhaps someday I will choose a different rite, I have the God-given freedom to do so (Compline looks interesting). But for the time being, I am learning to lay aside my desire for novelty and instead focus on the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

It is hard. Very hard. I am a child of the culture. I grew up with email, instant messaging, and the internet. I want everything now, and — in the vast majority of cases — I get it. But God has given us His Word, on which to ponder and meditate. These things take time and patience. Of which I have all too little.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. — John 1:1, ESV

Schrödinger’s cat children’s song

Sung to the tune of “Five green and speckled frogs”.

Schrodinger had a cat
Inside a box he sat
With the lid closed tight and locked shut. Meow. Meow.
Inside the box with him
Was a vial of poison
When it opens we know not yet. Uh oh.

Is the cat dead or not?
That is the train of thought.
When we cannot observe it now. Hmm hmm
Perhaps it can be both.
Or maybe not, but now
You have a grasp of quantum thought. Phew done.

Several things every confessional Lutheran church website must have

I’ve been on the road and trying to find places to worship of late. In doing so, I’m noticing several things that I always need on a site. I am listing them below for all the webmasters out there, and for me personally since the website I maintain for the church in which God has placed me doesn’t always contain them.

What is your communion schedule?

I treasure the eucharist and dearly wish to commune with congregations in my synod and synods in its fellowship when on the road. However, I also don’t want to put the pastor in a position where he communes someone he doesn’t know. As such, I would like to know if I need to arrive early in order to introduce myself. Ideally, every church would offer the sacrament every Sunday. Until the blessed day where I can count on this, please list your schedule and make certain that it is updated if you switch it around for a month.

Who is your pastor?

I really could use the name of your pastor or pastors so I know who to contact. I could also use a picture of your pastor to make it easier to identify him. Going to a new congregation is an intimidating experience, so it helps.

Is the site actually up to date?

A recent site at which I was looking had a calendar from March (it is July), the most recent sermon was March 10, and the announcements section was from March 10. At this point I’m going to hope that the 9:30 a.m. worship time is still accurate and you haven’t switched to a summer schedule without telling me. If you have a summer schedule and aren’t likely to be modifying the site every week, please indicate that on the site and list both schedules and the date on which it changes.

A statement of why you exist.

I want to be able to rule out the churches that are tinkering with the liturgy. I wish that I could simply assume that every church was solidly biblical, holding fast to the faith passed down from our fathers. However, this is not the case. Having a statement of purpose will solidify my decision to attend. If I see words like “Confessional”, “Book of Concord”, “Sacrament”, “Baptism”, and “Doctrine”, I will conclude that you actually believe the doctrine to which you officially subscribe. It is remarkably easy to tell if a congregation is tinkering with historic Christian worship and doctrine from a statement of faith.

I go to worship to receive God’s gifts. I don’t go to worship to get a weekly buzz, to feel awesome about God, or even to be told 10 ways to be a better Christian. I can get all of that from a CD or radio program. I can even get the preached Word, properly dividing law and gospel on a podcast. I go to worship to receive God’s gifts which I can obtain nowhere else: holy absolution; the very body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine; and proclaim God’s work and Word in community with other believers, e.g. praise.

NIV as temporary

Interesting thoughts from Steadfast Lutherans today:

The practice at Biblica has been to make the old versions disappear. That means one can no longer purchase a 1978 or 1984 version, nor can one access these versions online. … 

This means that the intended maximum lifetime use of the 1984 edition was 15 years.

If a congregation or synod chooses to adopt a translation that is intended to change so rapidly it faces the problem of theological review of the new versions. This is time consuming–and expensive because of the time.

Pertinent to the discussion within the WELS. Even if the NIV2011 were a translation worth using, do we consider the text of the Word as something which has to constantly be updated?

By faith alone.

Bah.

It is all too hard.

Why must I attempt to wrap my head around God’s gifts?

Why can I not simply ignore the doubts which Satan implants and the sinful flesh relishes?

Why must even my faith be imperfect?

We are caught in a paradox where we understand and comprehend all things through reason. And yet reason itself is corrupt and cannot clearly comprehend such things. And in the midst of all this, God implants faith.

Faith which simply clings to the pure and simple Word enfleshed.

We can’t event wrap our rational minds around this faith.

And so we live in tension.

Our faith clings to the Word. Our mind struggles to comprehend it, and sometimes comes close, and sometimes fails completely.

And it constantly comes back to that faith.

That faith which we have of pure gift.

Which is the only thing holding us to God,

If we were to be given salvation, and told that to remain saved, we would simply have to understand and believe, we would still fall away.

But it is true:

By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God

I don’t understand it.

Yet I cling to it, by faith alone.

My intellect cannot accept it,

My flesh cannot stand it,

And yet it is. And I believe it by pure and simple faith given by grace.

On a related note, Hammer of God is an amazing book.

To think of what this man had to go through spiritually and mentally to be able to write such.

VBS and Worship

Can we stop this VBS thing? Someone make up their mind. Is VBS supposed to be teaching the young, evangelizing the lost, giving parents mornings off during the summer, or what?

I think our true colors often come out with what we teach our kids. We have liturgy on Sunday morning, but in VBS we do hyper contemporary. Because we totally want the next generation to identify more with Rob Bell than grandpa.

I’d like to suggest CW-VBS. The goal of this VBS is severalfold:

  • To introduce families to the idea that corporate worship isn’t just what you do on Sunday morning.
  • To introduce kids and families to a life of prayer.
  • To start to teach the kids why we use the liturgy.
  • To give the pastors an easier time in catechism class because we’ve already covered, you know, the catechism.
  • To introduce the church year.

Themes! Because we love themes. The daily themes would be:

  • Day 1 — Advent
  • Day 2 — Christmas
  • Day 3 — Epiphany
  • Day 4 — Lent
  • Day 5 — Easter (with a hint of Pentecost, since that is what we are in now.)

The schedule would look something like this:

  • 7:30a-8a — Matins
  • 8a-11a — Normal VBS stuff. Crafts, snack, hymns, study. Bible study for adults?
  • 11a-12p — Divine service for the theme day. Go all out. Seriously. Maybe just skip the Eucharist, since these are kids we are talking about. Because they totally can’t have faith in God’s Word and examine themselves until they reach the age of accountability…
  • 12p-1p — Lunch
  • 1p-5p — Sports camp?
  • 5p-6:30p — Dinner with families
  • 6:30p-7:30p — Vespers
  • 7:30p-8:30p — Family activities?, bible study?
  • 8:30p-9p — Compline

Wow, you say. That’s a lot. Yes, yes it is. But think about what just happened. You just got families, for a week, to gather around God’s Word and worship daily. Isn’t that worth it? As churches, we talk about losing community and fellowship opportunities. Perhaps it is partially because we stopped gathering around daily worship.

Anyway. Another thought that will never be implemented because people don’t actually want to do risky things.

Evangelism vs. Classical Christian Worship — A false dichotomy

I’ve been struggling of late with the question of whether using ‘traditional’ worship is at odds with saving the lost. The premise seems to be that the lost are in a culture, and those coming from this culture will be hindered by our worship form.

This premise seems to be widely accepted, with various resulting actions. One option is to have multiple worship services, ‘contemporary’ as a service which is more casual and friendly — theoretically more welcoming to ‘seekers’ — and ‘traditional’ for those who prefer it. Another option is to try and blend the old and new into a hybrid worship which is hopefully more welcoming to the lost, yet retains what we see as good in the liturgy.

However, I wonder if this premise assumes bad doctrine. That we can do something to affect the salvation of an individual beyond that which God has promised.

God promises to work through His Word and sacraments — earthly means combined with the Word and connected to a promise. These are what save. Is not evangelism simply preaching the Word, in season and out of it? Do the lost need something different from the saved? I think not. God saves sinners through His Word. This Word needs to be preached to the lost and the saved.

So isn’t classical Christian worship and liturgy what the lost need? Because where better is God’s saving word delivered to you? Evangelicals worship like evangelicals because they believe what evangelicals believe. Namely, that you need to make a decision for Christ. By utilizing their logic, methods, and ideas for evangelism, are we not accepting their premise?

Scripture described the fallen state of mankind as completely and utterly opposed to God. This individual will not suddenly be interested in God’s saving Word because the music is what he likes. This individual will come to church because the Holy Spirit has worked in him. At which point, what he needs is clear, sound truth. Confession and absolution. Law and Gospel. Not some fluffy ‘praise song’ to make him feel better. He needs liturgy.

So perhaps the solution to our woes of losing existing members and not bringing in new ones isn’t to double down on techniques founded in heterodoxy. Perhaps we simply continue to preach the Word.

Luther once stated that:

For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year. — LW 45:352

We in America may be watching the shower pass on. There is only one thing we can do about it. Preach the Word. Teach the Word. Catechize the young, old, and everyone in between. Never let go of the truth which we have. No amount of ‘new methods’ will cause it to return.

Further thoughts on the WELS translation decision

I wonder whether the move to allow NPH to use an eclectic approach will simply result as a backdoor into using the NIV2011. And isn’t it totally unfair to NPH that the broader synod would cop out of making a decision here by simply placing it on NPH? So instead of the decision of the synod being criticized, the decisions made by NPH would be criticized.

And why can’t we make a decision? From the perspective of a layman, it sounds like the decision comes down to the ESV, NIV2011, and HCSB. NKJV has also been put forward as an option, although it seems to have been eliminated out of hand for some reason. The HCSB seems to have been eliminated, leaving the NIV2011 and the ESV. The NIV2011 has baggage, whether fairly or unfairly, and an adoption of it will likely be seen as evidence that the WELS is a pietistic, heterodox synod. Our synod president has expressed similar concerns. So we are left with the ESV, which comes with the full resources of CPH behind it. Why can’t we say that this is the best option available to us at this time and place our support behind its adoption?