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church visits

7th Annual Conference on the Augsburg Confession

Every year, previously in June and now near Reformation Day, Gethsemane Lutheran Church of Marion, OH, hosts a Conference on the Augsburg Confession. I had visited such conference three years ago, and I was fortunate enough to be able to go again. I could only attend on Saturday.

After Divine Service, the Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler gave discussed how the word “doctrine” and “doctrines” were used in the Book of Concord. Summarizing some of his points:

  • Doctrine in the BoC is not just something memorized only to be forgotten later as in a school course, but it is connected to something that is done.
  • Doctrine is first what God says and then what we do; what we do doesn’t make us Christians.
  • People can use their sinful knowledge of proper doctrine to club people; instead people should be back into the fold gently and pastorally.
  • Zeal for proper doctrine, done correctly, is a good thing. The name of the Lord is used to cover up and give credence to all sorts of false teaching. We don’t like it when we are misquoted in a publication; we shouldn’t accept when God is misquoted or his words misused.
  • The fight for pure doctrine is simply to let God be God and teach what God says.
  • Doctrine in the BoC is often referred to as unified, a whole, a total of what God says. The articles of the doctrine are all interconnected, like joints in a finger: the Sacraments are the Gospel, justification is the Gospel, etc.
  • We have difficulties talking about the Devil. Modern depictions have individual people defeating the supernatural with a magic spell or a mystic weapon. God is not involved, nor is redemption in Christ. The Word of God doesn’t translate well to Hollywood. We are in a struggle with real spiritual forces of evil, and we must not become complacent.
  • The Reformers understood that false doctrine comes because we neglect the Word of God. Nobody is immune to neglecting. We have to compare what we think against the Scriptures, letting them rule. We are in church to hear what God has to say.
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    Return to Gottesdienst

    A couple of weeks ago the schedule shifted and allowed me to attend church Sunday in Calgary. I took the opportunity to revisit St. Matthew’s, a Lutheran Church-Canada congregation that conducts a German and an English service.

    A little more familiar with the Gesangbuch, I didn’t have as much trouble following along. The hymns on the board were not updated with the day’s hymns, so one of the other members of the congregation was nice enough to tell me the new hymns.  I know German numbers, but only up to 100.

    The tunes were wonderfully familiar: “Nun Danket Alle Gott” (“Now, Thank We All Our God”) and “Allein Gott In Der Höh” (“All Glory Be to God On High”) among others. A soloist actually sang, “Thy Strong Word” (LSB 578) in German. Knowing the tunes, it was a relatively simple matter to read the Germanic script and sing along. I missed a lot of “f”s and “s”s but did all right otherwise. Several members thought I understood German, and when I informed them otherwise, several members piped up, “We’ll teach you!”

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    Gottesdienst at St. Matthew’s, Calgary

    I got the privilege to attend both the German and the English services at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Calgary, AB. St. Matthew’s is a member of the Lutheran Church-Canada, which is in fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

    Both services were led by Pr. Markus Zeuch, who speaks German, English, Portuguese, and Spanish. Pr. Zeuch is from Brazil.

    Portion of German order of service

    The Gesangbuch surprised me; there’s no music to go with the hymns. The old-world typography was another challenge. The two orders of service were in the back of the hymnal. Some parts of the service were similar musically to LSB Divine Service 3/TLH p.15, such as the Sanctus, the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, and the Agnus Dei. Unlike LSB, the German hymnal doesn’t write out the “Vaterunser” (the Lord’s Prayer) in the order of service; I had to find that elsewhere. The Apostles’ Creed is used instead of the Nicene Creed, which we normally use in our services of Holy Communion.

    If you visit the Google+ album, you’ll see a picture of the organ, which is known throughout town as “The Beast.” Jenny Jordan, all I was told was that it had a tracker action. :)

    I also attended the English service afterwards, Divine Service 3 out of LSB.

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    4th Annual Conference of the Augsburg Confession

    I had the privilege of attending Gethsemane-Marion’s 4th Annual Conference of the Augsburg Confession. The conference was Friday evening and Saturday, but I could only make the Saturday activities.

    After Divine Service the Rev. Dr. Larry Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN, spoke all morning on “The Impact of the German Confessional Revival on the Origins of the LCMS.”  The title may cause some eyes to glaze over, but Dr. Rast did an excellent job with the presentation. Some of the more significant (and highly condensed) points included:

    • The first Lutherans to hit the North American continent didn’t follow the Lutheran confessions. They used Luther’s Small Catechism until they could write one they thought was better. Many of these formed the General Synod of 1820 and founded the first Lutheran seminary in Gettysburg, PA.
    • Due to geography and difficulties in transportation, 58 Lutheran church bodies formed in the span of 35 years, and by 1900 there were over 100.  German Lutherans formerly under state church were highly fragmented in no-state-church America.
    • David Henkel, son of the Rev. Paul Henkel, founded the Tennessee Synod, which was the first synod in America to subscribe to the Augsburg Confession. Henkel would begin printing the entire Book of Concord in English in 1851 — four years after the founding of what would now be the LCMS. The Works of David Henkel are a fascinating read, according to Rast, who wrote the forward.
    • Charles Porterfield Krauth studied at Gettysburg but felt the entire Book of Concord needed to be retained.  What was truth in 1580 is still truth today. Rast summarized The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology by saying Krauth felt that it was more important to know what of the Christian faith has been retained than to know what whas overthrown.

    During lunch I asked Dr. Rast if the LCMS was the first synod to subscribe to the entire Book of Concord. Two years prior to the LCMS founding, the “Buffalo Synod” also subscribed to the entire Book of Concord, but a personality dispute between C. F. W. Walther and the Buffalo Synod’s J. A. A. Grabau caused the Buffalo Synod to join the old American Lutheran Church which eventually became part of what is now the ELCA.

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    Trinity Lutheran Church, Traverse City, MI

    Corrected April 27: info regarding building history.

    Upon entering the Kalkaska area I found the web site and e-mail address for Pr. Chad Hooper of Hope Lutheran Church in Kalkaska. After hearing what I wanted to do regarding the Time Out podcasts, he insisted that I check out Trinity Lutheran Church in Traverse City, where he served as assistant pastor before taking the call to Kalkaska.

    Christ Candle and Altar

    Christ Candle and Altar

    Trinity renovated its pipe organ last year, and the whole sanctuary is beautiful. The walls are solid gray stone, with crosses set into the stones pattern. The church had one pipe organ, but another pipe organ and a baby grand piano were also donated to the new sanctuary. The pulpit is solid white marble, and the altar has a nice colored design of the Lamb of God. More pictures can be seen in the Gallery.

    Not needing to drive two hours to go to church, I attended both the 8:30 Divine Service I with Holy Communion and the 11:00 Matins. The rear pipe organ was used for the first service, and the piano was used for Matins. I enjoyed the opportunity to harmonize in Matins: usually the younger daughter doesn’t like it when I do that at home.

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    Church in the Dark

    We arrived for our second visit to a dark Zion Lutheran Church in Columbus. AEP reported that power had been cut to 14,000 buildings in the downtown area around 9:30am. Power was restored around 10:55am.

    Two fluorescent lamps lit the lectern and the pulpit. The organist played piano off to the side of the congregation with a flashlight attached to what looked like a mic stand. The only natural light came through the stained glass windows on the south side.

    Pastor Kudart calmly announced to everyone that the normal confession and absolution would be replaced by the Order of the Confessional Service from The Lutheran Hymnal. This was cool because that the pastor with the light asked questions that covered C & A and everyone could respond with a prompted “Yes, we believe…” or whatever was appropriate.

    The communion hymns were played as a piano interlude. We sang the first stanza of Amazing Grace and another hymn in its entirety. The liturgy, being Divine Service III, could be sung from the congregation’s memory. Yeah, that was cool, too. The kids are even starting to pick it up.

    The played-but-not-sung communion hymns got on Twin Two’s nerves, but she held on pretty well. At the end, the pastor asked why she was upset, and I said, “It seems she really is a member of the ‘singing church’ — she doesn’t like music that isn’t sung.”

    This time, we made it to Schmidt’s. :)

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