Sunday, September 12, 2010

Litugical Innovations

In what seemed like a minor change in the usual Sunday service, the rector announced that for the next several weeks we will be part of a little liturgical experiment. Some bishop from some other part of T.E.c. (I think he said Oklahoma) has written new Offertory Sentences and new Proper Prefaces (for the Eucharistic Prayer) that purportedly tie in with the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the day. Bishop Waldo of Upper South Carolina has given permission to use these with the caveat that discussion of the changes be held at some future date.

If you missed it, today's readings included Jeremiah 4:11-12,22-28, Psalm 14, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, and Luke 15:1-10.

The new Offertory Sentence was,
"This saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
The new Proper Preface was,
"It is right and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.  For through your Son Jesus Christ your grace and love overflow to us. Through him, we who were lost have been found and welcomed into the presence of your heavenly feast. Therefore we rejoice with the angels and with all those in heaven, as we sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your name."
Since new material will be added each week, and memories are short, it seems like a good thing for me to compile these things here. Comments can be developed and saved for the end of the experiment "discussion." Given the history of Episcopal innovations, it is unlikely that comments will change the outcome of this particular "experiment."

Despite knowing that resistance is futile, I want to voice a few concerns.

1. The Preface for 09/12/2010 is a bit soft and mushy, Pablum, when compared to the powerful call for sinners to repent that we heard in Luke 15.
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

 So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.
 ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
The Preface, like our rector's nineteen minute sermon today, ignores the importance of repentance of sin. When Jesus dined with sinners, it was for their sake, that they might repent and sin no more. When we come to the Lord's Supper, we come as repentant sinners. Unless we are reminded that this meal comes with a price, we run the risk of serving Pablum in place of the Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour.

2. I am not sure about the part of the Preface that says,
"For through your Son Jesus Christ your grace and love overflow to us."
I get a mental picture of an overheated pot of grace and love bubbling over onto the stove-top.

3. Little innovations have a way of opening the door to bigger ones.

4. As the people in the pews always do, we will nod and take it as long as it sounds nice.


  1. Your posts always seem to dovetail with my thinking at the moment. Today, our pastor, who's been going through the letters to the churches of Asia Minor in Revelation, used those at Sardis and Laodecia as a background for a call to self-examination and repentance with the emphasis on the latter.


  2. Note to anon,

    Thanks, I have corrected that.

  3. It's good to know I made the right decision to leave the church when the 1979 BCP was published...I've been spared 31 years of "liturgical innovation". We had the most beautiful services in western Christendom until the "innovators" took control.

  4. UGP,
    In the Diocese of San Joaquin, we still use the lectionary from the BCP. The Psalm (Psalm 51)is a perfect fit for the Gospel Lesson for Proper 19.
    Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
    Wash me through and through from my wickedness *and cleanse me from my sin.
    For I know my transgressions, *
    and my sin is ever before me.
    Against you only have I sinned *
    and done what is evil in your sight.
    And so you are justified when you speak *
    and upright in your judgment.
    Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
    a sinner from my mother's womb.
    For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
    and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
    Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
    wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
    Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
    that the body you have broken may rejoice.
    Hide your face from my sins *
    and blot out all my iniquities.
    Create in me a clean heart, O God, *and renew a right spirit within me.

  5. We have an anthem from Pergolesi that paraphrases that Psalm. It is from the Stabat Mater. The translation goes something like "Oh my God, bestow thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions, cleanse my sins..."