I have certainly not been posting much here, probably because I just don’t take the time to write things. But I do read a lot, and I’ve started posting quotes from what I read at a new blog called Lutheran Quotations. I shall endeavor to keep the pipeline full of great quotes from Lutheran who are all much smarter than I am.
The Christmas season officially begins this Saturday at sundown, so I thought I’d share my top 5 albums to listen to during that time.
Praetorius: Mass for Christmas Morning – Gabrieli Consort & Players, Paul McCreesh
This awesome album is a recreation of a Mass on Christmas morning as it may have been in 1610 at Michael Praetorius’s church. It is simply spectacular and blows me away every time I hear it. Great hymns, great playing, great singing, great everything!
Schutz: Christmas Vespers – Gabrieli Consort & Players, Paul McCreesh
This is another liturgical recreation album, not tied to a specific year, but putting several of Heinrich Schutz’s pieces into a liturgical context, where they make more sense. Once again, the hymns are great, and I really enjoy listening to it.
Classic Christmas Carols – The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
This is the British choral Christmas album I was looking for. It has my favorite arrangements (mainly David Wilcocks) of many familiar Christmas hymns, as well as many carols and anthems. And it’s only $7.99 for the digital download (from Amazon), so you can’t go wrong with this one.
Thompson: The Nativity According to St. Luke
Sections of this piece have been ingrained on my brain since I was little. This is a piece that is very easy to listen to, and will tell you the Christmas story all the way from John the Baptist until Simeon. I highly recommend it!
A Little Christmas Music – The King’s Singers
This album was also a major part of the Christmas season for me growing up. It is just fun!
Merry Christmas and happy listening!
It is not the case that in the person of Christ Christianity at one time entered the world and is at the hands of fate among the various peoples of the world. It is rather the case that the church, prepared in the history of revelation, became a reality on earth through Christ, not as something complete and accomplished, rather as something becoming. The church comes into the world; that is her history.
– Herman Sasse, The Lonely Way, vol . 1, Where Christ is, There is the Church
I’ve been having an interesting conversation with a Calvinist-ish (my term, not his) friend about whether the Lord’s Supper is Christ’s Body and Blood, or if it represents Christ’s Body and Blood. My friend says that Jesus meant “This symbolizes my body and blood.” Now, call me crazy, but when Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, says something, I believe it, and Jesus didn’t say anything about “symbolizes”. I’m struggling to respond with anything more than, “Jesus says it is, so it is,” and maybe that’s all that is necessary. I found a quotation from the Book of Concord in James Brauer’s Worship, Gottesdienst, Cultus Dei that I think is helpful and sums up what I’m trying to say. Let me know if you have other thoughts about how to approach this.
Here’s the quote:
All the circumstances of the institution of this Supper testify that these words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which are in themselves so simple, clear, plain, firm, and beyond doubting, can and should be understood in no other way than in their usual, proper, commonly accepted meaning. For since Christ gave this command at the table during supper, there is no doubt that he was speaking about real, natural bread and natural wine and also about oral eating and drinking. There can be no metaphora (that is, a change in the meaning) of the word “bread,” as if the body of Christ were a spiritual bread or a spiritual meal for the soul. Christ himself also gives the assurance that this is no metonymia (that is, in a similar manner, no change of meaning) of the word “body” — he was not speaking of a sign of his body, or of a symbol, or of a figurative body, or of the power of his body and its benefits, which he won with the sacrifice of his body. On the contrary, he was speaking of his true, essential body, which he gave into death for us, and of his true, essential blood, which was poured out for us on the tree of the cross for the forgiveness of sins.
Now there is no more faithful and more reliable interpreter of the words of Jesus Christ than the Lord Christ himself. He understands his own words and his heart and intention best. Given his wisdom and intelligence, he best understands how they are to be explained. Here, in the institution of his last will and testament and this enduring covenant and agreement, he did not use flowery language but rather the most appropriate, simple, unambiguous, and plain words. He also did so in all articles of faith and in every other institution of the signs of his covenant and grace, or sacraments, such as circumcision, the various sacrifices in the Old Testament, and Holy Baptism. Moreover, so that there can be absolutely no misunderstanding, he explained this more clearly with the words, “give for you, poured out for you.” He lets his disciples retain the simple, proper understanding of the words, and he commands them to teach all nations and to hold to everything that he commanded them, the apostles.
Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VII, 48-51
C.F.W. Walther, in the new reader’s edition of Law & Gospel, Thesis XXV (pg. 459) puts his finger on what sets the Missouri Synod, at its best, apart from other church bodies:
If you should comb through all of church history — trust me on this — you will see that, despite its weaknesses and its defects, there are few church bodies that have seen the successes that our synod has. That is not because of our cleverness. It is not because of our hard work. It is not because of our self-denial. No, the true reason is that we have preached the genuine Gospel to the people.
The LC-MS has nothing greater to offer to people than the Gospel, purely preached. Everything that does not point to or proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at best filler and at worst a hindrance. May the Lord grant us grace as we, the Church, proclaim the Gospel to the world, and may He have mercy on us when we fail.
So I’m going to play a recital this coming Sunday (September 18th @3pm, Grace Lutheran Church, Little Rock, Arkansas). It has been almost exactly three years since my previous organ recital here at Grace, and so it was time. Since I’m not (nor do I desire to be) a concert organist, the recital may look different than “normal” (if there is such a thing) organ recital programs. The program will be a journey through the church year, with a prelude and postlude as well. I’m trying to stick to my strengths, and above all, avoid embarrassing myself. So, here’s what I’m playing (because I KNOW you want to know):
Update: I’ve added a PDF of the recital program instead of the listing of the pieces.
6 years ago I started a children’s choir at the church I serve. It did not last more than that first year, and while there was certainly some good that came of it, I was rather discouraged. (I was very inexperienced, and I am convinced now, looking back, that I went about it all wrong.) The next year we did not have as many children in the age range for the choir, so I did not have the choir the following year, or the next, and so on. But this year, I resurrected the choir. I’m certainly older, probably more experienced, and hopefully a little wiser and at least from the first rehearsal, it’s off to a better start.
My goals for the choir are two-fold: teach children the Faith through the Church’s song, and also encourage them to love singing and music. This group is not like any choir I’ve ever been in, as it’s primary goal is not performance (whether in a concert or church). They will sing in church, but I primarily want the kids to learn hymns, liturgy, & the catechism. I’ve tried to set up the group as a service to aid the parents of the congregation in teaching the Faith to their children. I will provide some tools, but most of the learning will take place at home, in the car, etc. I only have them for an hour a week, which is not nearly enough time.
I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far. Our first rehearsal was tonight, and we learned and sang the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) from Divine Service 1 (in LSB), the first stanza and refrain of Thy Strong Word, the first stanza of an arrangement of I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb, & the First Commandment (using Cantor Phil Magness’s Sing the Faith). They sang well and were very enthusiastic (sometimes overwhelmingly enthusiastic, but that comes with the territory and I just need to try to channel that energy into something productive). The group is composed of children in First Grade through Eighth Grade, which certainly provides some challenges, but all-in-all, I had a great time, and I think the children did as well. So, thanks be to God for a great first rehearsal, and I look forward to many more to come.
I have read many fine posts celebrating the life of J.S. Bach today, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I will not even attempt to be more eloquent than those I’ve read, so I will offer one of my favorite stories about Bach, an account of Bach in a brawl, which is quite entertaining. (This comes from The Bach Reader edited by Hans. T. David and Arthur Mendel.
Bach in a Brawl
On August 5, 1705, Bach appeared before the Consistory to complain about the student Geyersbach. The latter, as Bach was crossing the market place on his way home from the Castle with his cousin Barbara Catharina, daughter of Johann Christoph Bach, Court and Town Musician in Arnstadt, had been sitting on the “Long Stone” with five other students, and had suddenly set upon him with a stick, calling him to account for having made abusive remarks about him, and no one could prove that he had, seeing that he had been going his way perfectly quietly. But Geyersbach had replied that if Bach had not abused him, he had once abused his bassoon, and whoever abused his things abused him; Bach was a dirty dog (Hundsfott); and with this he had at once struck out at him. Bach, for his part, had thereupon drawn his sword, whereupon Geyersbach had fallen into his arms, and the two of them had tumbled about until the other students had thrown themselves between them.
On August 29, at a further hearing, it developed that Bach had indeed called Geyersbach a nanny-goat bassoonist (Zippelfagottist), and it was indicated to him that he might well have refrained from this, especially as he already had the reputation of not getting along with the students, and of claiming that he was engaging only for the simple chorale music, and not for concerted pieces, which was wrong, for he must help out in all music-making. Bach answered that he would not refuse if only there were a Director musices, whereupon he was told that man must live among imperfecta, that he must get along with the students, and that they must not make each other’s lives miserable.
I especially love that Bach carried a sword, which is something more church musicians should consider.
Luther, in the Large Catechism, sums up the second article of the Creed as “Jesus is My Lord”:
31] Let this, then, be the sum of this article that the little word Lord signifies simply as much as Redeemer, i.e., He who has brought us from Satan to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and who preserves us in the same. But all the points which follow in order in this article serve no other end than to explain and express this redemption, how and whereby it was accomplished, that is, how much it cost Him, and what He spent and risked that He might win us and bring us under His dominion, namely, that He became man, conceived and born without [any stain of] sin, of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, that He might overcome sin; moreover, that He suffered, died and was buried, that He might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owe, not with silver nor gold, but with His own precious blood. And all this, in order to become my Lord; for He did none of these for Himself, nor had He any need of it. And after that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death, and finally ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father’s right hand, so that the devil and all powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet, until finally, at the last day, He will completely part and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, sin, etc.