If you're a Lutheran and you love the historic liturgy of the Church, you might want to consider subscribing. It is a quarterly journal, and is in its 18th year of publication. The Editor in Chief is the Rev. Dr. Burnell F. Eckardt, Jr., pastor of St. Paul's Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Kewanee, Illinois. The editorial staff currently includes ten rostered clergymen of the LCMS - one of which is me. I'm one of the Gottesdienst Online departmental editors, and have recently been named the Sermons Editor for the print edition.
Gottesdienst is unapologetically Lutheran, and we are committed to the Western Catholic tradition of which the Evangelical Lutheran confession is a part - especially in matters pertaining to our confessional commitment to the Gospel in its expression in the Lutheran liturgy.
Some people have accused us of being "chancel prancers" - a below-the-belt stereotype that implies that we are shallow in our appreciation of the liturgy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was a Gottesdienst reader even before I attended seminary, and have always found it to be focused on the Gospel, on the cross, on the Word of God and the Sacraments, and rooted in the Bible and the confessions. I have always been impressed by the depth of the theology, the sermons, the studies of Holy Scripture, and the lively defense Gottesdienst has for traditional Lutheran worship practices. It is a wonderful shot-in-the-arm, especially to American Lutherans who are sick and tired of (if not wearied and despondent at) seeing their churches turned into stages, their worship transformed into entertainment, and their liturgy degraded into pop music and dancing girls.
That is rather what is shallow about much of American Lutheranism.
Reading and supporting Gottesdienst one of the best ways you - whether you are a pastor or a lay person - can get involved in pushing back against the diabolical trend that would turn your congregation into a party center. To borrow a turn of phrase from the previous LCMS administration: "Gottesdienst is not a program, but a movement." The current issue includes what amounts to be a mission statement and summary of what Gottesdienst is all about, presented in a magnificent piece by the Rev. David H. Petersen (pastor, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana) entitled "Reverence: Fearful Knowledge and Hopeful Expectation" which begins on page 10:
"The actual details of what is now being done, such as wearing chasubles, chanting, and the like, are not so significant as the reason behind them. Gottesdienst might have the reputation of being all about smells and bells, but that reputation is undeserved. It has been foisted upon us not by our readers, who know our journal is about the grace of God in Jesus Christ, as demonstrated in its sermons, biblical commentary, and articles on the history and practice of the liturgy, but by those who are simply threatened by the reverent and deliberate worship practice and who love the status quo. But our advocacy for reverent and deliberate worship comes not from personal preference or love of fancy stuff. It comes, rather, from the deep conviction that God interacts with His people in the Service. God is present for us in the Divine Liturgy. So we ought to pay attention. Even as we are overjoyed at His grace and mercy, we must always remember that He is God and we are there to receive His gifts and hear His Word, not to be entertained" (Gottesdienst Vol. 18, No. 4, p 11).
The entire article is as well-reasoned, eloquent, and relevant as the above quote. Parts of it will even make you chuckle.
This issue (Christmas 2010) also includes:
- a Christmas sermon by St. Augustine,
- a series of Liturgical Observer articles by Dr. Eckardt ("The Trouble with a Vocalist", "The Trouble with the Installation Service", "Drama in the High Pulpit", and "On Being Backstage"),
- a Motley Magpie column by Rev. Peter M. Berg ("The Art of Preaching, Part 1"),
- a Sabre of Boldness column by the Rev. Colonel Jonathan E. Shaw ("The Role of Religion in National Security Policy since 9/11"),
- a guest essay by Jane Schatkin Hettrick ("The Disappearing Organist"),
- a Pondering the Holy Liturgy column by Dr. Eckardt ("The Distribution"),
- news announcements concerning a Christmastide Retreat in Kewanee, Illinois (January 2-4) and the upcoming annual awarding of the Sabre of Boldness in Fort Wayne, Indiana (January 20)
- a Musing on the Mysteries column by Dr. Karl F. Fabrizius, engaging Genesis 1:6-13.
- And last, but not least, some tongue in cheek humor, offered in the spirit of Reefer Madness, poking a little fun at the latest document from our synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
And if this were not enough, also included is a handy liturgical calendar for Sundays in 2011, and a flyer and order form for Gottesdienst's latest publication, Dr. Eckardt's magnificent book The New Testament in His Blood: a Study of the Holy Liturgy of the Christian Church.
The only bad thing about Gottesdienst is that we don't have the resources - financial and temporal - to make Gottesdienst a monthly endeavor. But it does make those four issues a year all the more celebratory! And if you are Jonesing for Gottesdienst between issues, please feel free to join the resistance at Gottesdienst Online.