Old Traditions
St. James the Elder, Apostle
25 July 2016
Some years ago when my oldest daughter was in high school, she mentioned that at her church the pastors chant. One of her Lutheran classmates responded, "Oh, I thought chanting is satanic." This comment probably arises out of the presupposition that anything that looks or sounds "Catholic" is bad. Of course, by those standards baptism, the Lord's Supper, and preaching also look "Catholic." Since that is the case, please don't point this out to any anti-Catholic Lutherans. Luther's reformation was not anti-anything, it was pro-Gospel. Luther's reformation was fundamentally a conservative reformation. I don't mean conservative politically, but conserving theologically. Luther's reformation kept the great, faithful tradition of the church, while casting out traditions were idolatrous or blasphemous.
Our services, cleansed of impieties, should be conducted with dignity and proper decorum. How clearly this distinguishes our Lutheran services from the entertainment worship adopted by the sects around us. Some years ago I conducted a dignified and liturgically complete wedding for a couple in which the wife worked for the local ABC television affiliate. A large number of ABC news people attended the wedding service. At the reception afterward, I was surrounded by about 15 of these television news people. I thought, "Oh, oh, I'm in for it now! They will not have liked what they saw in our church this afternoon." Was I ever wrong! Instead of being offended by or dismissive of our liturgically complete wedding, they absolutely gushed about its dignity and beauty. They exclaimed, "We've never seen or heard anything like that before! Where did you get that?" They were attracted by it, because it was so different from their own modern experience. By preserving this beautiful and faithful service, the church gives the church's tradition its due and it gives us a way of displaying God's majesty and dignity in the world. We should not go about dismantling it in our ignorance. Please do not change, fix, or throw out what you do not yet understand!
Despite the fact that the movie "Luther" was subtitled "rebel," Luther was no destroyer but a preserver. The Lutheran reformation preserved Scripture as the source and norm for all theology. Whatever conflicted with Scripture could not be taught or done in the church. With that said, the Lutheran reformation retained the traditions of the church which had been in use by Christians for centuries and were useful for instruction and good order. As long as the traditions didn't conflict with the Gospel or mislead the people so they thought that they could gain righteousness before God through their observance of the traditions the Lutheran Church maintained them. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession considers maintenance of the old traditions a matter of confession and a point of pride. We should as well.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Apology of the Augsburg Confession

"We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquility, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion which holds that they justify. Our enemies [the Roman Catholics] falsely accuse us of abolishing good ordinances and church discipline. We can truthfully claim that in our churches the public liturgy is more dignified than in theirs, and if you look at it correctly we are more faithful to the canons [of church law] than our opponents are.  Among our opponents, unwilling celebrants and hirelings perform Mass, and they often do so only for the money. When they chant the Psalms, it is not to learn or pray but for the sake of the rite, as if this work were an act of worship or at least worth some reward.
"Every Lord's Day many in our circles receive the Lord's Supper, but only after they have been instructed, examined, and absolved. The children chant the Psalms in order to learn; the people sing, too, in order to learn or to worship. Among our opponents there is no catechization of the children at all, though even the canons give prescriptions about it. In our circles the pastors and ministers of the churches are required to instruct and examine the youth publicly, a custom that produces very good results.  Among our opponents, there are many regions where no sermons are preached during the whole year, except in Lent. But the chief worship of God is the preaching of the Gospel."

Apology of the Augsburg Confession, 15, 38-42
Psalm 96

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!  Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!  For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!  Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity."
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness. 
O Lord, since you have freed us from gaining righteousness by our own works, restrain those who destroy good order only to please men. Lead us to be respectful of the useful traditions which our church observes in liturgy and catechesis and which serve your glorious Gospel. Amen.
For Bob Bennett of the Lutheran Academy, that he would be kept in God's care as he shares the faith of Christ, especially in Madagascar
For all ministers of the Word, that they might preach the true seed of the holy gospel and await from God His blessed fruit
For all doctors, nurses and other health professionals, that they might be upheld in every good work through service to those who are suffering
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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