Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 11, Number 2
In this Issue:
The LMS Annual Conference and Convention
June 26-27, 2004
All are welcome to join with LMS pastors and congregations for the annual Conference and Convention of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod - USA. A good number of inquiries come to our church headquarters each year asking about our church body, about our doctrinal stand, about church structure, about the people who make up our church body. This annual gathering is an ideal time for such persons to "check us out." There is no cost. You can stay for as much of the weekend as you would like. You can get a taste of our biblical position at our Conference and Sunday Worship service. You can sit in on our Convention and get a feeling for how we function. If you have questions feel free to call President Ralph Spears at 888-677-8880 or email him at the address on the back page of this newsletter.
The LMS Conference/Convention begins with the Conference on Saturday, June 26. The day will begin with a opening devotional at 9:00 a.m.
The Conference focus this year is on Divine Worship. There will be a number of presentations throughout the morning and afternoon.
We will be looking at what worship is, at the history of worship, the development of liturgy, and time will be given also to reflecting on some of the changes many of us have seen in our lifetime - changes in, for example, the content of the liturgy and in clergy vestments.
Sunday begins with Sunday School at 9:30. For the adults, this means another session of "stump the pastors." These have been good times of fellowship and learning. A Service of Holy Communion will begin at 10:30 a.m.
Synod business will be conducted following a noon meal. All are welcome to the business meeting, all may have a voice, but only subscriptional pastors and congregations have a vote.
For those it may concern - Friday afternoon time is set aside for clergy and/or congregational interviews. For those considering membership or a change in membership status, please contact Rev. Spears to set a time for interview.
Location - All meetings (adult and youth) will be at St. Matthew Lutheran Church. St. Matthew is located at 2837 East New York St.
Registration - There is no need to preregister. However, if you are planning on being in attendance, it would be of help if contact was made either by phone or email so planners can know what may be needed for meeting rooms, the duplication of materials, and food.
Meals - A noon meal will be provided for Conference/Convention attendees on Saturday and Sunday. In addition hot and cold drinks and snacks will be provided for break times. Those staying in the Signature Inn are provided continental breakfast. This means that for most, it is to arrange for their own meal on Saturday evening.
Lodging - There is very limited housing available through members of St. Matthew Lutheran. Arrangements have also been made with the Signature Inn East (465 East Washington Street). Most of the folks attending from out of town will be staying there. If interested in a room, you can call at 317-353-6966, and mention that you are with the LMS-USA. Cost is $65 per room, plus tax.
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The 2004 Youth Conference
Have you ever wondered why worship is so important? Why have so many Christians throughout the history of man sacrificed themselves just to have one or two hours of reflection and praise before God? This year's Youth Conference will examine the different aspects of worship including:
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Luther and Worship
On Isaiah 10:10-11
There is an amazing confusion of religious and forms of religious worship in the world. This came about because all wanted to have and worship a god but proceeded without the Word of God according to the opinion of their own heart. But this is, properly speaking, idolatry, when we ourselves give God a form and invest God with some sort of religious worship (cultu) which He himself has not instituted and has not commanded in His Word. For God does not want to be worshiped in any other way than that which He Himself prescribed. Therefore those who try to worship Him in a different way depart from the true God and worship an idol of their heart.
On John 6:29
Serving God and truly worshiping God consist in believing on Him whom the Father has sent, Jesus Christ.
On Galatians 1:11-12
As God at first gives faith through the Word, so He thereafter also exercises, increases, confirms, and perfects it through the Word. Therefore the worship of God at its best and the finest keeping of the Sabbath consist in exercising oneself in piety and in dealing with the Word and hearing it. On the other hand, nothing is more dangerous than a dislike of the Word.
On John 6:28-29
Faith is a work which man must do, but it is also called God's work. For faith is to be the fitting sphere, work, life, and activity with which God wants to be honored and served. Apart from faith God accepts nothing whatever as an act of worship. This is the answer to the question about the right worship of God.
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What is Worship?
by Rev John Erickson
What is worship? How does one define worship? Questions such as these were maybe not so difficult to define a decade or two ago, but today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to come up with a definition or description of worship that is acceptable by a vast majority of those who call themselves Christians. You look at the vast array of what passes for worship in churches today, and it really does beg the question, "What is worship?"
And then, there is another aspect of worship that ought to be considered, namely, what does God recognize as acceptable worship? We know from several places in Scripture that not all that people may consider acceptable worship is acceptable to God. The prophet Amos, for example, in speaking of the worship of those among whom he prophesied, spoke for God saying, "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offering and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps." (Amos 5:21-23).
Some years ago, a collection of radio broadcasts which were given by J.B. Phillips, were collected into a volume titled, Plain Christianity. Among those addresses was one titled, What is Worship. Phillips states, "I believe everybody, unless they're frightfully self-centered, worships something or somebody. It may be a film star, a football player, a [TV or film] personality, a writer. . . . It may even be, for some poor lonely soul, only a cat or a canary. But to all ordinary people there is something or somebody that calls our respect, admiration, love, and possibly wonder or even awe. All that is worship." Phillips suggests one listen to the crowd at a sports stadium... the cheering, the yelling... and even, the giving of advise. The fitness, skill, and energy displayed by the team calls for admiration, enthusiasm and affection on the part of the audience. Or consider the concert hall, and the applause after a concert. One can actually feel waves of admiration and gratitude and love flowing toward the one, or the group, that has brought beauty and delight to the hearers.
This is worship in the broad sense, but our concern has to do with worship in a more narrow sense. We sometimes use the term Divine Worship or Holy Worship. Holy means "separated from," "different from" or, "set apart." In other words, worship of the Divine - worship of the Almighty God - ought to be, it must be, different from what we might associate as worship of a sports figure or team, or of a film star or musician. It may be that comparisons could be made. Phillips spoke of things like "respect, admiration, love... and awe," these things may be common to both. But the "why" and "how" they are expressed, the setting in which expression takes place, the vehicle(s) of expression, these things and more may and most often ought to be vastly different.
What has confused the issue in our day is the understanding of worship that is promoted by so many in the "church growth movement." Central to the problem is what is the understanding of who worship is actually for. The "church growth folks" talk a lot about "seeker services." They talk a lot about the need to make worship and what goes on in worship "comfortable" for those who they believe are "seekers of salvation." Church music, and the liturgy - all that people do in a worship service - all that is so strange to those who are outside the church. It makes no sense to them. Therefore, we need to incorporate into our worship services, elements and ways of doing things, that are more in line with the tastes and ways of those outside the church.
What is forgotten in this, is the fact that worship is for the people of God. Christian worship is for Christians. Worship is not for people outside the church. Worship is not for people who do not know God. Unbelievers may (and do) attend the worship service [ "...in this life many false Christians, hypocites, and even open sinners remain among the godly" Augsburg Confession, VIII], they may even participate, but they cannot worship.
The Lutheran Confessions speak of the Christian church as "the assembly of all believers and saints... the assemby of believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel" [Augsburg Confession, VIII and VII]. Now if this is the case, then if one is not a Christian, such worship should seem strange! The music, when people stand, sit, or kneel, the confession and absolution, the preaching, the creed, the prayers - all should seem senseless or foolish, to the unchurched, yes, and maybe even make them a little uncomfortable. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians makes the point that the preaching that should be going on in the church is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" in contrast to being "the power of God, and the wisdom of God" to the believer (1 Cor. 1:23). And when it comes to spiritual things, such as what takes place in a gathering of Christian worship Paul writes, "the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
It is a serious mistake, to think that we should bring things holy - that we should bring things having to do with Worship of the Thrice Holy God - down to the standards and ways of the world, or that we should adulterate them with things of the world. But that is what is being promoted by so many of the 'church growth' and 'worship reform' advocates of our day.
I am not much of a sports fan, but my wife and I took great interest in a radio sports talk show recently. The talk centered on the marketing that is going on among professional sports teams. It is a marketing they claimed was necessary to the continuation of professional sports. I have been "turned off" by so much of the "stuff" that goes on today in the sports arena that has nothing to do with sports. I was actually, somewhat surprised to learn that all that "stuff" was intentional and that it is being promoted by people at the top. The organ playing of baseball games past was a somewhat pleasant experience. But now the music is piped in at very high decibels of sound - no longer background, but "out there - in your face." The cheering of the crowd is no longer enough... we need to pipe in ear deafening cheering also. And then it is to have constant entertainment for the crowd when there is nothing going on on the field. The talk show hosts, along with call-ins, were so impressed with antics of the team mascots of today. It seemed that a favorite of all was the kissing cam, i.e, a camera zeroing in on people in the crowd, showing them on the large screen in the stadium, and continuing to do so until they kiss. Now - what does that have to do with the football game, or the hockey game, or the baseball game? Is there nothing left for those who love a sport, simply for the sake of the sport?
But these same Madison Avenue promotion techniques are being brought more and more into the worship arena also. How do we succeed? We are told we need to give people what they want. Today the stress is on what WE think worship should be with little thought as to what GOD requires it should be (see Christian Worship And The Lord's Day which also appears in this addition of Table Talk). As a result, what goes for worship is, in many settings today, little more than performance, and yes, even entertainment. The telling of jokes, sermons that are little more than motivational speeches, music that has more concern for a beat that will stir the body, than for a melody or harmony that will uplift the soul. Both in sermons and in music, there is far more concern for words that will not offend than for a preaching and teaching of the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). The sound system - I have witnessed adult as well as children's programs and performances, where a sound track is used which includes not only accompaniment, but professional voices to back up and fill in what is perceived to be lacking in the local 'performance'. There are church choirs today where the better voices are 'miked' so their voices can be heard over those of the 'mediocre' singers.
Mention might be made also of things like "clown ministry," of some of what goes in the name of liturgical dance, the style and type of music used (polka, jazz, etc). It begs the question, what is really behind the use of these things and the attempts at rationalizing their use? For some it may seem to be an overstatement, but one cannot help but think of the words found in Jeremiah 48:10 (KJV), "Cursed [be] he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully.
From the beginning of the Church, there was always much made of the need to initiate new members. As recently as fifty years ago, you found membership manuals and instruction materials that were literally books! Not pamphlets or leaflets, but books! which would seek to set forth those things that every member of the church should know. These things included an understanding of the Church, the Scriptures, the problem of sin, God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), the Sacraments, Christian worship, the worship service, Stewardship, Duties of Church members, among other things. What a difference today. Instead of helping those outside the church to some understanding of purpose and function of the church - to understand the sacred - the move today is to "dumb down" those within the church to the point that they come to accept the things of the world as sacred and holy. It has come to the point that in many circles of the church today, the music of the night club and that of worship is the same. The message of the service club and the church is the same. A person's worship of athletic, music, and/or film stars is little different from the worship of what or who that same person perceives as his or her "higher power."
What is Christian worship? Put simply, it is the expression of reverence and adoration of God. There is no question but that in the 1500 years from the days of Abraham to the time of Ezra we will find many changes having taken place. Further changes came with development of the synagogue for public worship. Then with the institution of the Christian Church on Pentecost, we find further changes, changes that have continued on through to the present day. But, change or no change - if it is true worship, it is worship that has always been, and it will always be, a true expression of reverence and adoration of almighty God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It is the task of the church, to see to it, that the worship which takes place in her walls is authentic worship in the truest sense of the term. In order that that might be such, there are questions that need to be carefully considered. Why has the church done what she has traditionally done in so far as worship is concerned? If it is in fact the case, then is there a reason why what was meaningful with regard to her worship in the past, is no longer meaningful today? What can be gained by change? What might be lost if change is made? What does it mean, and how might we best go about fulfilling the command Jesus gave which we find in John 4:24, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth?
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Reflections on Worship
by Rev. Ralph Spears
I was glad when they said unto me,
"let us go into the house of The Lord!"
My feet shall stand within thy gates,
Here in the opening of Psalm 122 a 'call to worship' has been issued and a response, given! The outer speaks to the inner and the result is effected. More than that, the invitation is anticipated with joy as the person is transported to Zion, the Holy of Holies - by the experience. ("The E.S.V. says "Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!" which suggests that corporate worship may transport all worshippers to that unmistakable place of 'the Holy'!)
A fanciful bit of imagination? No, rather it is a tangible bit of evidence of what worship is, how it occurs and the result of same, all wrapped into one.
True, worship may be difficult to describe. It is after all, a mixture of the subjective and the objective. And when we mix those two, it is more difficult to get the right proportions than it is to mix two colors of paint to produce the desired shade. Yet it is not beyond knowing.
Occasionally, we have heard a person speak about going to another place of worship, on vacation or a visit for a special occasion. They return with the comment; "I don't know, it just didn't seem like I was in 'Church!'" Certainly their 'feet' were not moved into the gates of the 'holy' that time. On the other hand, when the experience has been meaningful, they might return with a bulletin and a measure of excitement about what they found - or of what found them.
Why do we worship and how is it that we find it a moving experience? For something so essential and important, there must be standards and guidelines. And of course, there are, much like the sequence and details in Psalm #122 and several of the other psalms of that central Book of Worship within the Bible.
What is it then, that doesn't seem like worship in some of the newer services or contemporary (or is it spontaneous) forms of liturgy? - is a valid question also.
A simple answer from Scripture presents itself! Is it about us and our experience? Or is it about God - and the inner voice. Elijah was dazzled and moved by the effects of nature's phenomena, but it was the "still small voice" of God that came through as the authentic voice to him. Indeed, such details are "written for our instruction" as Paul pointed out to Timothy.
A good friend was quite concerned several years ago when he heard another pastor mention that he 'had chills up his spine so he knew that it was the Holy Spirit.' The C.U.S. syndrome and other such syndromes are misdirected when the focus is only on us, our experience and what may be accompanying phenomena. Experiences are personal and for the most part should be kept that way. Lutherans who keep the focus on the Word are not therefore phenomena seekers but if such things come, they are to be seen in perspective. Bragging about them may even spoil any good effects. Remember here Jeremiah's "I have dreamed, I have dreamed". It was, said Jeremiah, the Word of God that is the important thing to tell in what ever form it might come.
What is worship? I trust that man or woman of experience in the pew to know what it is. After all corporate worship in which we all participate, does not belong to the pastor nor is it his to experiment with and alter at his own whim. (Not to mention well meaning committees!) Nearly all of the changes that have been made to Lutheran worship forms in the past few decades have not been made by lay men and women - but over their protests. No the forms and words of worship are based on centuries old formulas and are - nearly all - Scriptural in nature. Is worship then, Divine or mundane? Does it originate strictly from the world or is it of the Holy, or Sacred?
Dr. Kurt Marquardt of Concordia Seminary, Ft. Wayne, puts emphasis on the right syllable by pointing out that, worship is not an evangelical tool open for 'vote' by market research. Worship, he says, is for the believing Church member in relationship to Christ and therefore an exercise of that relationship.
The shift of course, has been the other way. Contemporary often has a veiled disdain for the past as though it is really of lesser value. And often the rationale given for this change has been to attract the youth. Oddly enough the young people are not impressed. Rather the historic liturgies are carefully crafted mosaics of the best of the history of the Christian Church in Scripture and practice which speak to the believer young and old.
Just two years ago a poll was taken among youthful worshippers concerning music, lyrics and beat to be used in worship. Quite surprisingly to some, the young people did not want their popular music confused or mixed in with the hymns and liturgies of their worship. Jazz and popular liturgies and masses have been tried many times over the past forty years or so to the same effect. What is currently popular and what is sacred in the minds of most people are two different things better kept separate. Yet there are always those who insist on mixing the Divine and the mundane.
Another disturbing trend in this shift in worship - is the rise of prayers which instruct God to show up and add weight to what one prophet called, "the noise of their solemn assemblies."
Once I attended a large gathering billed as a Service of Prayer and Praise at a denominational conference. But in the first several minutes, as one and then another got up to tell God what 'great things' He was going to accomplish there in that evening, I was embarrassed for God and decided that it was no place for me either. Noise indeed!
As we are instructed, man is indeed made for fellowship with God, which means that we are made for worship and our true nature becomes clear in that Divine practice. It is a humbling experience to know that God IS God, "He is the vine and we are the branches." The Creator really "is the potter and we are the clay." We don't put 'the fire' back into worship, we stand in the humility and reverence of worship as His fire cleanses us! "(We) have not chosen (Him), (He) has chosen (us) and appointed us that we should go and bear fruit and that our fruit should abide!" - as Jesus said in John 15:16. And what more 'abiding fruit' is there than - true worship?
In the act of worship, all things come together in the Church; theology, purpose, prayer, practice and praise - the mystical Body of Christ is assembled in this - the act of greatest importance.
"O Come let us ...worship the Lord, for we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand!" (From Psalm 95)
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Christian Worship And The Lord's Day
by A. A. Zink, D.D.
|The following is a portion of chapter from a volume titled, What a Church Member Should Know, which was prepared under the auspices of the Parish and Church School Board of the United Lutheran Church in America.|
|The author states, as the purpose of this chapter, "To consider how Christian worship is offered to God through Christ, its requirements and values, and the proper use of the Lord's Day.|
|The material is used by permission of Augsburg Fortress Publishing.|
THE REQUIREMENTS FOR TRUE WORSHIP MUST BE DETERMINED FROM THE WORD OF GOD. They are indicated as follows:
"Without faith it is impossible to please God." The true worshiper draws near to God as to a loving heavenly Father. He comes believing that he is a redeemed child of the Almighty, through the atoning work of Jesus. He knows that the Holy Spirit has called him through the Gospel. He trusts that God will accept him and his worship for Christ's sake.
"God be merciful to me, the sinner." The more one realizes the sinful condition of his soul, the more earnestly will he cry to God for mercy. Worship is vitiated wherever there is trust in our own goodness or failure to realize our need of divine grace.
"Repent ye" has been the cry of all the great prophets of God. The divine forgiveness is proclaimed freely to all who repent of their sins. No man truly worships God unless he is sincerely sorry for his iniquity, casts himself upon the mercy of God, and earnestly craves full pardon.
Hearing the Word
This is the most important part of all worship. "Receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your souls." Without the reception of the Word there can be no growth in Christian life. "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."
God has commanded his people to pray, and has promised to hear their prayers. Christian prayers are addressed to God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and are always offered in the name of Jesus. To pray in his name means to trust in him as Lord and Savior, to ask in his Spirit, and to submit all things to his gracious will.
Jesus gave to his disciples a model prayer, "The Lord's Prayer." It is not to be repeated thoughtlessly, or used "in vain repetition," but to be prayed reverently with careful consideration of the meaning of each petition. It is used in the services of the church, and should be used in private and family devotion, as the perfect prayer, which includes all things for which we should beseech God.
Jesus taught that men "ought always to pray and not to faint." St. Paul exhorted to "pray without ceasing." The Christian should have a large place for prayer in his life. It forms an important part of private and public worship. It should be observed daily at set times. All the needs and interests of our lives are fit subjects for prayer, but especially our spiritual wants. Intercession for others should be prominent in our prayer life. Our neighbors, our national and civic problems, the sick, the wayward, the church, the missionary task, and kindred subjects are worthy matters for prayer.
God always answers prayer. Our prayers, like those of Jesus in Gethsemane, should be offered subject to the divine will. Denial of our requests is an answer from God. Those who have asked and received not have either asked amiss, or have not asked in faith.
The Christian can never praise God sufficiently for the many blessings which he receives through Christ. All worship has a large element of praise. The Christian Church early developed a body of hymns in praise of the Triune God. Church members, young and old, do well to familiarize themselves with the hymns of the Common Service Book. They become a rich spiritual treasure.
Worship is not complete where there is no thanksgiving to God. "In everything give thanks." God is continually showering upon his people innumerable blessings, both spiritual and material.
We should worship God in "the beauty of holiness." God desires his people to be holy. Those who deliberately love sin and persist in its enjoyment, refusing to permit the grace of God to have free course in their lives, cannot render an acceptable worship to God.
He who loves God must love his brother also. Hatred for our neighbor renders all our worship ineffective. Christians must exercise a forgiving spirit toward all who have offended them. They should endeavor to make peace with all whom they have wronged in any way.
Christian worship is built around the sacrifice of Christ. Worshipers must manifest their joy by sacrificial living and giving for God and for fellow men. This will involve spiritual sacrifices, such as prayer, praise, and penitence; and material sacrifices of time, talent, and wealth, dedicated to the service of God.
True worship demands obedience. We must be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Hours spent in the worship of God should give us rich food to strengthen and develop our spiritual life. We should try to put into daily practice the truths gathered from the preaching of the Word.
There is no higher act of Christian worship than the Holy Communion. Jesus desired his disciples to observe this Sacrament frequently in remembrance of him. True worship will cause the children of God to hunger for the blessings of the sacred feast.
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The LMS-USA is a Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical, Congregational
expression of the universal (catholic) orthodox Church on earth. It is a
'Forum by Subscription.' As a 'Forum' the intent is that there will be an
ongoing discussion of theological issues and concerns among clergy and lay
alike. The LMS-USA meets annually for a Theological Conference and this
publication, besides carrying news of the Ministerium and Synod, functions
also as a vehicle for this continuing dialogue.
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