Monday, September 25, 2006

A Tale of Two Ecclesiastical Visitations... church leaders to New Orleans: This one and that one.

Compare, contrast, and (as we would say here in the Big Easy), "twawk amun yuhseves, dahlin."


Pastor Beisel said...

It looks like the Lutherans are more concerned about "being there for the people" than they are about ornate staffs. I think that is a definite plus. What gives a better witness to the world? Love, or masses?

Rosko said...

I think that it seems more like the Lutherans aren't worried about Sacraments and traditions, like our Papist counterparts. That staff is a sign of the continuing Church. Lutherans might "be there for the people", but are we showing our Sacramental nature? No. The Lutheran article said that Jesus is with is in very real and tangible ways, but neglected to mention what those ways were (the Gospel, the Baptism, the Absolution, the Supper). The Archbishops are saying Mass and fedding Jesus to their flocks, the President of Synod is giving pep-talks. Notice a difference? Which would you prefer?

"Body...Blood...Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins" is a pretty good pep-talk if you ask me

Latif Haki Gaba said...

Fr. Paul,
Your comment implies (or could reasonably be read in such a way) that the RC Church in that archdiocese is not "there" for the people. There is a great deal going on down there in the way of Christian love than your comment lets on. Further, remmeber that any charitable society can "be there for the people." The important contrast in this case, I think, is that one story strikes me as being about something more churchly, while the other one is less so, and might even be perceived as being more corporate than churchly.

Latif Haki Gaba said...

Notice, eg., that the synod president "spoke" at two churches, while the bishops celebrated mass. I don't say this against the president, of course. I'm sure he is a very good man. The difference in the cultures of the two churches, though, is deep, and striking. How important is the holy Mass to us as a Church? Is the office of president, whether synodical or district, one of pastoral ministry or something else?

Latif Haki Gaba said...

As to the choice between love or masses, this is either sarcasm or a most unchristian and false antithesis. Any theologian who knows the Christological reality of what happens in the mass can feel totally comfortable making the following paraphrase of our Lord's words in John 15: Greater love hath no man than this, that a Man say mass for his fiends."

RevFisk said...

I find that to be a very strange hermeneutical move.

Father Hollywood said...

I think Latif is making a profound connection between the love of God, the death of Jesus for His friends (the Atonement), and our partaking of both in the Sacrament, as does St. Paul:

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." - 1 Cor 11:26

Of course, only two chapters later, Paul eloquently proclaims the perfect love of Christ for the Church.

When the Lord said Mass for His friends at the Last Supper (and as He continues to come to his unworthy friends today in the Holy Supper), He is proclaiming His own death to and with us. This is, of course, the point of John 15:13 (the perfect love of God is demonstrated in the voluntary death of our Lord).

Paul ties the death of Jesus in with divine love as well in Rom 5:8.

Love and the sacrificial death of Jesus (whose flesh and blood we eat and drink at Mass) cannot be separated.

Deus caritas est!

Pastor Beisel said...

Masses benefit the souls of those who receive them in faith, but they are of no benefit to those who do not receive them. Acts of love and charity are not only expected of the Christian Church, they also are truly helpful to others. I was merely commenting on the articles that Fr. Beane posted, not on the other acts of charity that are going on by the Catholics. From the articles alone, it was clear to me that the Lutherans understand the distinction between faith and love better than the Papists. It reminded me of the parable of the Good Samaritan. There is a man lying dead and beaten on the road, and the Roman Catholics go to mass, while the Lutherans stoop down to help. How like Christ, to come to the aid and rescue of the poor and needy.

Were you honestly more impressed with the Roman Catholics in this instance than the Lutherans?

Father Hollywood said...

In fairness, both Lutherans and Roman Catholics (as well as many other Christians) sacrificed time and money and performed unbelievable acts of charity and love to us in New Orleans.

The Roman Catholics didn't just hide away and rattle off a few Masses - they too were there doing other works of love outside the walls of the sanctuary. They were certainly not like the villains in the parable. And again, in fairness, many of the Lutheran clergy were nowhere to be found in the aftermath of Katrina. I know some parishioners who are still very hurt that their pastors fled and remained away so long - they felt abandoned. I don't think we can either attack Rome or pat the Lutherans on the back on this one. There were acts of mercy, and acts of cowardice, all around.

Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) in Illinois was able to provide us with tools to help people when all levels of government were riddled by incompetence. Catholic Charities was likewise involved in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

I think the difference is that we Lutherans (though certainly not all)tend to turn church services into dog and pony shows, and our church officials often seem in search of photo ops. Wouldn't it be novel to receive something from District or Synod that had icons of our blessed Lord instead of head shots and promo-poses of church bureaucrats?

As Latif points out, the LCMS is often indistinguishable (did I spell that right?) from a corporation. Which scene comes across as more "churchly"?

Pres. Kieschnick spoke at a church that meets in a gym (of a campus that cost the congregation hundreds of thousands of dollars, and yet has no sanctuary). There is an elaborate school building on a prime piece of real estate, and yet the Lord has no place to lay his head - Mass is said on a rollaway altar in the fancy gym, and is then wheeled out of bounds when sweaty kids are playing basketball.

The three Roman bishops conducted a dignified church service, not a chance to brag about what the hierachy is doing. They spoke lovingly of *their* city and *their* people. The archbishop (and I believe the other two retired bishops as well) lives here. They have an altar that is tied to a local parish, bound to the local people, sharing in their misery. They didn't put on a suit and fly in from "corporate." The archbishop's crosier was the original archbishop's from the 1700s. This conveys and confesses something that's missing in a gym with a rollaway altar, in a church body that has a "mission statement."

I don't think it's an "either/or" situation, to have either 1) dignified worship, eucharistic piety, and making a holy place in the church building a priority or 2) members of the church volunteering their time and money to help people out of love and charity.

I think it's a "both/and." I think we can be proactive in doing good works AND center our lives on the Mass (and I also believe we Lutherans have been negligent on both counts). I don't think we need to abandon our catholic roots in order to become a United Way clone.

I'm glad that the Roman Catholics in this archdiocese have such loving and churchly bishops. The current bishop has had the guts to condemn a lot of Rome's liberal excesses. We are also blessed to have quite a few faithful Lutheran pastors and congregations in the area as well. But we sure have a different approach to how the church operates,governs herself, and bears witness to the world as to what the Church is!

Pastor Beisel said...

Hey I didn't mean to ruffle anyone's feathers, least of all yours Fr. Beane. You just asked to compare the two stories that you posted, so I did. The Roman one sounded like "much ado about nothing" and the Lutheran one sounded like there was genuine concern over the people. What happened in reality did not even enter into my mind.

Latif Haki Gaba said...

Fr. Beisel,
You say the RC story sounded like ‘much ado about nothing.’ I read it again. Unless I am mistaken, it is a story about a historic pontifical mass, a mass which, among other things, helped to unite a suffering diocese around the edifying and comforting medicine of immortality. You say you are only commenting on what you see in the articles. But how could any of that be ‘much ado about nothing?’ Could it be that some other bias is slipping through your observations?

The Lutheran story, by contrast, sounded to you like there was ‘genuine concern over the people.’ That means that something in the RC article came across to you as sounding like there was something less than genuine concern for the people. I didn’t pick up on that; maybe you could help me.

You are reminded of the story of the Good Samaritan. I say that every mass you ever attend should remind you of the story of the Good Samaritan, for this pericope is not chiefly about physical ailments.

You say masses only benefit those who directly partake. My response to that is twofold. First: In an obvious sense that is true, but so what? Are you saying the important difference in these two stories is about which church is doing more in the stories to help others? I for one am tired of our own synodical newspaper’s tendency to boast about how the Lutherans help after every natural disaster. Lutheran journalism should be about more than one hand boasting about what the other hand is doing.

And second: In another sense your statement should be challenged. In the mass, the very life of Christ is fed into the Christian. We are inebriated with the very Blood of Christ, to borrow from the ‘Anima Christi.’ How can we not then be a blessing and help to others around us?

Finally, you say the stories show you that the Lutherans more properly distinguish between faith and love. How so? How does the RC story show this distinction is poorly made? and how is the distinction made in the Lutheran story?

(P.S. no one’s feathers are getting ruffled here. We’re all brothers here, just answering each other, man for man. Sorry that my comments are running so long tonight. Fr. Beane’s tendency to write long blog comments is rubbing off on me.)

Father Hollywood said...


No offense taken! I think we're all thick-skinned enough to have a little knock-down debate sometimes. This is something best done among good friends - and I consider you to be a great friend as well as a brother in the office!

Pastor Beisel said...

I'm just not impressed by ponifical masses. That's all. So what? They all gathered and re-sacrificed Christ for all the sins that baptism didn't cover. What took place at that church was an abomination no less than it was in the days of Luther. Sorry if I don't share your sentiments. I also just had a glass of wine, so you're reading my uncensored opinion.


Latif Haki Gaba said...

Fr. Paul,
No, it’s not just that you’re not very impressed with pontifical masses. It is that, as I hinted in an earlier comment, you are letting your anti-Romanist bias totally cloud and hamper your ability to participate in a simple discussion. You somehow tried to claim you were only observing what was mentioned in the newspaper articles, yet I don’t recall the writer holding forth on the propitiatory sacrifice of the mass. The question is not whether you find something objectionable in an RC mass. I too, believe it or not, find more than one thing objectionable in the RC mass. I am, however, more than confident that the RC communicant receives Jesus, the Almighty God, the Bread of Angels, each time the host is placed on his tongue, and I am also confident that it does the people of New Orleans much good to see their dear bishop actually celebrate the holy mass with and for them. The question, rather, is closer to this: would one sooner participate in a corporate pep rally, or participate in a church that is busy “being the church” (to use a phrase of John Pless)?

Pastor Beisel said...

I'm sure it did them much good to see their bishop celebrating mass.