Saturday, June 30, 2007

MY Worship - It’s About Me

In the Saturday Edition of the Wichita Eagle, June 30 2007 in the “Faith & Values” section the following photograph by Kelly Glasscock appeared.

Upon seeing it my wife said, “Oh! Wow! That really says a lot! . . . That style of worship is really all about showing what a good Christian a person is.”

There is no question that it is a show. There is no question as to whom the show draws attention.

This really is an important contrast between what is often labeled “Praise and Worship” or “Contemporary Worship” and the historic liturgical worship of the Church catholic. The focus of the “show” is truly very, VERY different.

In connection with this it is appropriate to ask why the difference is chosen. Why do so many choose the enthusiastic emphasis and reject the liturgical focus?

The answer is quite clear. In the Praise and Worship choice the focus is on the individual. The Worship is then about Me and My faith and My love for Jesus and My commitment and My zeal and My . . .

The attention is on Me and My worship.

Thus today, many churches offer a variety of choices, to satisfy individual tastes. In many churches today the menu includes such choices as “Contemporary,” “Traditional,” and B lended worship selections. Within the same congregation three different styles of worship are offered to satisfy the felt needs of the various members. Truly the focus is on My worship. “What do I want My worship experience to be?”

In the historic liturgy of the Church the focus is very different. In all aspects of the divine service the focus is upon the Lord and His means of grace by which He comes to His Church as those who have been called together by His Holy Spirit to be one congregation gathered for one divinely appointed purpose, to receive the life that He gives through His means of grace. From beginning to end, every word of the service has this as its focus. In the historic liturgy, each individual is directed away from his own actions and desires and thoughts so as to see and hear and taste the holy, perfect, and loving actions and desires and thoughts of the Lord. Every action of the pastor is carefully crafted to direct the people's hearts and minds away from themselves to the Lord and what He is doing for His people. Moreover, the actions of the congregation are united in common confession and hymnody. No particular person is singled out, not even the pastor. All attention is upon the Lord and His acts of mercy and love. In the divine liturgy no discrimination exists. Every person is treated exactly the same, regardless of age or beauty or wealth or apparel or abilities. Even the historic vestments of the pastor are designed to say that he is not the focus, not his skills, not his appearance, not his personality.

Truly there is a difference in the focus of these two approaches and understandings of worship.

Interestingly, in the churches that offer a variety of styles, there is not a variety of focus. For with the offering of choice in the service, the only focus is the disintegrative focus of selfishness. Each person is doomed to focus only upon self and to rely upon one's own decision and commitment.

This is a real tragedy. For the Lord calls His Church to be one in Him. In Him there is no discrimination. The only discrimination experienced in the liturgy is the separation that God works through Baptism, in separating the called unto Himself to stand apart from the world, gathered into the unity of His Holy Communion.

When I come to the divine service, I give thanks that the focus is not on me and my sinfulness. Rather, God's merciful love is poured out from beginning to end, and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guards and keeps me with all the saints in Christ Jesus. I cannot understand why any informed person would choose anything else.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Grief is a terribly painful experience. It seems to be beyond description through words. However, the Lord surely expressed grief in its fullest in Matthew 23:37-39
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Surely grief is experienced in many ways, yet what can be more heart shattering than to see the house of the Lord left desolate by her own devices?

Give Life - Give Blood

Every eight weeks the phone rings with the request from the American Red Cross for another donation of blood. It seems rather amazing that only 5% of Americans who are eligible to donate blood do so. Perhaps fear keeps some away. Perhaps time restraints hinder others.

Yet when one is in need of blood, it is a matter of life and death.

Donating blood is not exactly a fun experience, but it really is not a very big deal, either. It takes about an hour from the time one parks the car to the time of starting the car. It begins with signing in. Then reading a few pages of material. Then answering a handful of silly questions, a little prick of the finger, measuring one’s vital statistics, a slight stick to the arm, ten to fifteen minutes of joking around, another fifteen minutes or so of drinking coffee, milk, or juice and eating cookies and sloppy joes.

Not really all that much more troublesome than preparing for work or school in the morning!

If you would like to learn more, visit the web site at:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Father’s Day Marquee

During the week leading to Father’s Day I saw the following on a church’s marquee:

The greatest gift that a father can give to his children is himself.

How sad that a church claiming to be Christian would be so blatantly ungodly and anti-Christian.

The greatest gift that a father can give to his children is the gift that The Father gave to His children, Christ.

What else can an earthly father do that will never fail his children? The very best thing that a father can do is to consider 1 Corinthians 11 and take it to heart so that he examines himself to see that he and his children are securely abiding in a congregation where the means of grace are administered purely. Then, he and his family will be kept in the true faith all their days and as he daily teaches the faith to his children, they will know whom they may trust without doubting.

God’s gift to His children is Jesus. Of all the multitudinous blessings that God pours out graciously to mankind, nothing matches the gift of His only begotten Son. Earthly fathers who truly know Jesus, realize that this is the only sure and unfailing gift that they can give to their families.

Besides, God has already given the fathers to their children. Fathers have been appointed a specific number of days in which to live. No man can give himself to his children. No man can guarantee that he will be available for his children.

But every father can bring his children to the waters of life in Baptism. Every father can bring his children to the Supper of life to be fed the body and blood of their Salvation. Every father can catechize his children in the faith by which they may live and die without fear, knowing that their heavenly Father loves them.

Any father that gives this to his children will have empowered them to face every situation of life. He will have provided for them in such a way that they will give thanks forever.

This is what I reminded my own father on those occasions where he confessed his failures with a heavy heart. There were several times that he cried out that he believed himself to be a failure as a father. My response was that he had given us Jesus and that any father who has done this has given his children everything that they need. Of course, my first response was to remind him of his baptism by which God had sealed him in His forgiveness for any and every failure. But any father who catechizes his children so that they can remind him of his baptism when he turns back to his sins, and who hears such from his children, may know for a certainty that he has not failed them.

Oh, that the fathers in the Church would do this! If only the pastors would give the people Jesus through the means that He has promised to come to the Church. If only they would stop trying to outdo the Father and would do as He has manifested as the truly fatherly way.

Give the children the pure means of grace so that they may receive nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Then they will know that their earthly fathers truly love them, even as their heavenly Father loves them.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New Member Prospects

In November of last year I was sorting old files and materials, refiling what is needed and disposing of the rest. In the process, I came upon something that literally made me sick to my stomach. It was a folder that was labeled, “New Member Prospects.”

When I saw this I realized something terrible. I realized how most Christians today view evangelism. This was not really a new discovery for me. What was new is the fullness of the realization that this view is one in which I have participated and one that I have promoted. While I can recall a longtime and latent uneasiness in my heart and spirit in this regard, it never hit me this strongly.

What sort of an attitude toward evangelism promotes the labeling of visitors and people in general as New Member Prospects? It certainly does not come from a proper understanding of the Gospel and of God’s love for the world in Christ Jesus.

From where does this mentality come? It comes from a false understanding of the Church and of the cause of the Church. The Church is produced not by anything that we do or promote, but by the power of God unto salvation, namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yet, for as long as I can remember, I was taught by my pastors and by church leaders to view the activity of the Church and of the sharing of the Gospel as opportunities to bring people into the Church and especially into the local congregation.

But is this what the Church is about? Is this the motivation behind evangelism, that is, the sharing of the Gospel?

Or is Evangelism simply the proclamation and application of the pure Gospel through the means that God has ordained within His Church on earth? Can it really be that simple? Is the Gospel really the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes? (Romans 1:16) Are the Sacraments really effective in the way that the Lord and His apostles promise? Is that really all that the Church is about, holding to and preaching the pure Gospel and administering the Sacraments rightly so that people receive forgiveness and life through them?

But what about reaching out to the world? What about gaining new members for the Church?

Who claims this as His work? Is it not the work of God, the Holy Spirit, as the one to whom this work is attributed in the Scriptures? Does the Holy Spirit really need for us to devise plans and programs to make Him more effective? Or is it enough that the Church abides in the Word as Christ commanded and to love one another as He has loved us so that we eagerly gather in His name to receive His gifts and to share together in His Holy Communion? If the local congregation truly believed this so as to live by it, would the world not see the love of God at work and be drawn to Him in His body, even without our bold and inventive programs and record keeping?

Is it any wonder that the Church is treated more like an organization or worse, like a business?

The Gospel is the cause of the Church’s existence. It is not a tool by which the membership roles are increased. It is not a tool for increasing the offerings so as to keep the doors open. It is the very life of the Church, whether the local congregation meets in a well furnished sanctuary or in an open field with no doors to keep open. Moreover, the Gospel is the preaching of Christ crucified, by whose sacrifice we are counted as righteous. Should we strive to be better Christians? Should we seek “new member prospects?”

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom 10:15)

Is this not what the Gospel really is? Is this not what the Church is about? Is this not how the Lord defines evangelism?