This blog  is primarily about answering questions sent to me—if I am able and willing to do so. I receive questions anonymously via the blog platform or by email from people I know. Not all questions need an essay-type answer. So I decided to have a post here in which I respond to questions with just a brief answer. Here they are in the order received from oldest to newest.

Lutherans and Catholics “On the Way”

What do you think of the new Lutheran-Catholic document “Declaration on the Way?” Have Lutherans given away the store?

This document was adopted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is a summary of the very substantive theological dialogues in the U.S. over the last fifty years. At its heart are 32 “Statements of Agreement” about where Lutherans and Catholics do not have church-dividing differences on topics about church, ministry and the Eucharist based on previous dialogues. More tentatively, the document also explores differences that remain. As to whether it “gives away the store” as far as Lutheran confessional commitments are concerned, I don’t think so. But in a blog article I can’t analyze all 32 individual points of agreement. So I decline to give a full Frank Answer.

Communion wine

What are your thoughts on alternates to wine in communion? I know grape juice is common. I’ve seen even nonalcoholic wine. But I’ve also seen apple juice communion. Could you do a frank answers on this?

The beverage for the Lord’s Supper is wine because our Lord used it in his institution (probably at a Passover Seder) and the Eucharist is a festive meal. Preferably wine with a little kick to it to produce a slight inebriation. Preferably good wine. Either red or white. Either dry or sweet. If grape wine is not available, then rice wine like Japanese sake. Nonalcoholic wine could be available for children and alcoholics. Maybe a different color than the regular wine so as not to confuse them. But grape juice and apple juice are definitely out. Beer or soda are way out.

Dance music in church

Sir. Nowadays, in Korea, EDM worship has become a hot issue. Many young people like EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and some Christian worship leaders want to introduce this music in the worship. I think I should study about this for my denomination.  What do you think about that?

I think it’s always good for worship scholars to get ahead of a trend and be able to give guidance to pastors. I would have several questions. 1. What kind of dancing is it?  2. Does it engage the whole congregation? 3. What would be the purpose of the dancing? 4. Where in the order of service would dancing be done? At the entrance? In response to the word?  During the offertory? The place of dancing would relate to its purpose. 5. Is the dancing wordless or does it accompany a text?

Mixing consecrated and unconsecrated Communion elements

An LCMS colleague sent me an E-mail inquiry concerning the  disposition of consecrated elements remaining after the Mass. I’m wondering if you can shed any light on the mixing of previously consecrated and non-consecrated wafers and wine.

You don’t mix consecrated and unconsecrated elements. If additional supplies are needed during the distribution you bless them. However, you can add unconsecrated wine from flagons to consecrated wine in chalices during the distribution. It is consecrated “by contagion.” (This is the practice I see in Ordo Romanus Primus when consecrated wine from the chalice on the altar is poured into the vats of wine from which communicants drink with a straw.)  I usually bless the wine in the chalice(s) and maybe one cruet on the altar, but not the wine in the other cruets on a credence table and not on the altar.  But the communion ministers must not run out of wine; they need to signal the acolytes when they need a refill. After the service the consecrated bread and wine are either consumed or set aside for further distribution, as in the communion of the sick. What is reserved should be kept separate from the unconsecrated elements, perhaps in an ambry. I used to keep what I needed for the communion of the sick in the little ciborium and cruets in my private communion kit. If they were not used in a reasonable length of time, I consumed them.

Reserving the wafers is easy and pastors too easily default to using them since freshly baked communion bread will not keep and needs to be consumed. I don’t think we need to default to wafers. We need to develop enough experience using freshly baked communion bread that the presiding minister knows how much is needed. I would note that the Orthodox have figured this out. Before the liturgy the priests cut out of the loaf what is needed for Communion.

Orthodox priests preparing the “Lamb”—the center of the loaf—to be consecrated during the anaphora (eucharistic prayer). Other pieces of that loaf, and other loafs not needed for the Communion (the Antedoron), are broken up and distributed to the worshipers after the Liturgy as food for the journey home.

Calling pastors “Father”

When and why did Lutherans stop referring to pastors as “father”? I’m particularly confused by this since Luther seems to defend the practice in his explanation of the Fourth Commandment in the Large Catechism and was addressed by many of his colleagues as “reverend father”.

You are correct that in the explanation to the fourth commandment, “Honor you father and your mother,” Luther commends “spiritual fathers” along with, and even more than, biological fathers, heads of households, and rulers who are “fathers of their nations” (The Large Catechism I, 158). Contrary to “those in the papacy who have had themselves called ‘father,’…the name of spiritual father belongs only to those who govern and guide us by the Word of God. St. Paul boasts that he is such a father in 1 Corinthians 4[:15}, where he says ‘In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.'”

Luther and many Lutheran clergy were addressed as “reverend father.”  I do not know when Lutherans generally stopped using this title of address. As to why, my suspicion is that it sounded “too Catholic,” which is the Lutheran default response to anything they don’t like. However, the title “Father” is still used  by some Lutherans today, especially those who regard themselves as evangelical catholics.

The Reverend Father, Doctor Martin Luther, teaching the Catechism

While I’m at it, Lutherans never call their ministers “Reverend.” “Reverend” is a written form of address preceded by “The.” Most Lutherans call their ministers “Pastor,” although properly speaking “Pastor” is the spiritual leader of a congregation or parish: e.g. The Reverend Doctor Johannes Bugenhagen, Pastor of the Wittenberg Stadtkirche. In the English tradition it is quite appropriate to address ministers as “Mister,” “Master,” or “Doctor,” according to their academic degree. I would add that if our ordained male ministers can be called “Father,” ordained female ministers can be called “Mother,” since the fourth commandment refers to honoring fathers and mothers, and “Reverend Mother” has also been a title of honor given to women heads of religious communities.

German Lutheran Pfarrer confirming youth

Use of the Creeds in the Divine Liturgy

Pastor Senn, why do we use the Nicene Creed instead of the Apostles’ Creed at the Divine Service?

Actually, both creeds are used in Lutheran worship books. But the Nicene Creed is the conciliar creed. It began to be inserted into the Divine Liturgy as a bulwark against Arianism, first in the Byzantine East by Patriarch Timothy of Constantinople (511-17), where it was placed after the Great Entrance with the gifts and before the anaphora (where it still is today); then in Spain in 589 by order of the Council of Toledo when the Visigoths under King Recared converted to Catholicism, where it was placed before the Lord’s Prayer; then by order of Charlemagne for use throughout the Frankish Empire, who also had it placed before Communion; and finally in Rome in the 11th century under pressure from German Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, where it was placed after the Gospel or sermon. In the Roman usage the placement of the Creed suggests a catechetical rather than a disciplinary purpose. Since Rome claimed it had never been in theological error, the compromise was that it would be recited in the Roman Mass only on Sundays and festivals, not on weekdays or days of devotion.

The Apostles Creed was the baptismal creed and was favored by the Protestant reformers. It had often been included in the late medieval pulpit office along with other catechetical texts (Lord’s Prayer, Ave Maria). In Lutheran practice the Apostles’ Creed came to be used at Services without Communion (the liturgy of the catechumens) and the Nicene Creed was used at Services with Holy Communion (the liturgy of the faithful). With the increased frequency of celebrating Holy Communion the use of these two ecumenical creeds has been determined by seasons of the church year (e.g. Apostles’ Creed on “green” numerated Sundays, Nicene Creed on other Sundays). I would say we should use the Nicene Creed at all Services of Holy Communion on Sundays and festivals but use the Apostles’ Creed for Services with Holy Baptism.

Pastor Frank Senn