What Do We Do and Why Do We Do It? (part 1)

On the liturgy, Preparation through Gloria in Excelsis.

[meant to have video; no power cord.  meant to press record; forgot.]


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I think it was Jaroslav Pelikan who said something to the effect that traditionalism is the dead faith of the living, while tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is doing something simply because it was always done; tradition is doing what has been handed down to us, because it has become ours. Traditionalism very often leads to the opposite error: doing things simply because they aren’t what we’ve always done, always doing what is new and contemporary. But the fact that something is “contemporary” is not a reason to do anything. All it means is that it is being done now, at the same time that we are alive. What matters is not when something was produced, or when it was made, but what it is and what it does. A high school history teacher of mine once asked a class of sophomores, “What makes something a classic?” I don’t remember all the answers that were given, but I remember one answer: Something that stands the test of time. There are lots of things that are made and done and written and heard, but most are forgotten, most are forgettable, most are not able to stand the brutal test of history as it shifts, changes, and moves through place and time. One thing that has stood the test of time, even as it has developed and moved through very different languages, cultures, and places, is the liturgy of the Church. Granted, the Church has not had only one liturgy in her history, but it is astounding to consider how much the liturgies of the Church have in common across time and space. For the next few weeks, I’m going “preach through the liturgy” as we dig deeper and hear better this great gift as it has been handed down to us for hundreds, even thousands, of years.

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Bishop and Christian*, February 2014

What about the General Confession?

In my time at Faith so far, we have used the Confession and Absolution from Divine Service, Setting III (Lutheran Service Book, p. 184). Before the actual confession, we have (since I’ve been here) paused for a moment of silence prior to the confession. Some people may wonder about this time of silence, so I’m going to take this space to give a little background to the practice of silence before the confession.

In his book The Quest for Holiness, Adolf Köberle quotes the theologian Hermann Bezzel: “A general repentance is the death of repentance” (214). That is, if we are content with the confession that we are “poor, miserable sinners” (which is true!), but do not realize how that general fact shows itself in specific and concrete sins, we will soon lose the absolute seriousness of our sin before God. We do not sin generally, so we cannot confess sins generally (although we do confess sin generally). To avoid the loss of repentance and real confession, we take a short time of silence prior to the confession. This helps us focus on how our own sinfulness has shown itself in specific, sinful thoughts; in specific, sinful words; in specific, sinful actions. We have actually damaged our relationships with God and with others, not generally, but specifically. More than that, Jesus’ death and resurrection do not only forgive us generally; He died for specific sins.

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