Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) and Lutheran Service Book (2006)–Services   9 comments

Above:  The Luther Rose

Image Source = Daniel Csorfoly



As I continue my reviews of liturgies I come to North American Lutheran rites from 2006.  To prepare for this post I read germane parts of books about church history and worship, studied Lutheran service books going back to 1917, and explored the Lutheran blogosphere.  I approach the topic of Lutheran liturgy as one steeped in Episcopal Church worship patterns, so I refer you, O reader, to the Lutheran blogosphere and/or well-informed Lutherans for insider views.

My Prayer Book background helps me greatly in this task for more than one reason.  The shared history of Anglicanism and Lutheranism goes back to the 1500s.  Thomas Cranmer, who bequeathed to posterity the first Book of Common Prayer (1549), had spent time with German Lutherans, so German liturgical influences constitute part of the DNA of Anglican/Episcopal worship.  During the colonial period German-speaking Lutherans considered the Anglican Church their English-speaking counterpart in North America.  And, in 1888, the U.S. Lutheran Common Service, in English, borrowed from the Prayer Book often and imitated it much of the rest of the time.  And these days, of course, The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have entered into full communion.  I could support organic union, for what we have in common outweighs what we do not, and we are stronger together than apart.  Why not call it The Anglican Lutheran Church in the United States of America?  North of the Forty-Ninth Parallel there could come into being The Anglican Lutheran Church in Canada.  But I digress.

In 2006 the four major Lutheran bodies in North America published new worship books–combined prayer books and hymnals, per the Lutheran custom.  (This post does not address the hymnal sections.)  The books, listed in alphabetical order, are:

  • Evangelical Lutheran Worship (abbreviated ELW), of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and
  • Lutheran Service Book (abbreviated LSB), of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and The Lutheran Church–Canada.

These liturgical resources have much in common for both derive from the Common Service (1888) and the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).  The latter, which borrowed wholesale from The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and resources leading up to it in the 1970s, was an attempt to create one service book and hymnal for almost all North American Lutherans.  Yet the Missouri Synod, although it helped to create the LBW, never authorized it.  So Lutheran Worship, a conservative revision of LBW, debuted in 1982.  LW (1982) failed to satisfy many in the Missouri Synod, hence the retention in many places of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941).  That volume seems to be for many especially conservative Confessional Lutherans what the 1928 Prayer Book and 1940 Hymnal are for many Continuing Anglicans and reactionary Episcopalians:  the standard par excellance.

So it seems, based on what I have read on the Missouri Synod blogosphere, that Lutheran Service Book (2006) is a mostly successful attempt to please members of two camps:  pro-Lutheran Worship (1982) people and fans of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941).  Still, for some, anything other than the 1941 book is substandard.  Most of the complaints I have read do not address the absence of archaic language in Lutheran Service Book; no, the order of worship seems not to satisfy some because it is not exactly as the 1941 book has it.

Anyhow, I, as an Episcopalian steeped in the 1979 Prayer Book, read both 2006 Lutheran books and notice many parallels to what  do daily and each Sunday.  I also notice the differences–prayers original to Lutheranism.  They are quite nice; I would like to see many of them incorporated into the next U.S. Prayer Book, whenever it comes down the pike.

Both 2006 Lutheran books offer a variety of resources.  Each has an expanded calendar of saints.  ELW adds Pope John XXIII and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others, and  LSB continues LW‘s practice of broadening the range of the limited calendar from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) (abbreviated TLH).  The honoring of biblical characters beyond those from the New Testament in LSB is a nice touch.  June 14, for example, is the Feast of Elisha in the Missouri Synod.

The two books run parallel on the topic of lectionaries.  ELW uses the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for Sundays and major feasts.  Then its daily lectionary centers on the RCL, building up Sunday’s readings Thursday though Saturday and reflecting on them Monday though Wednesday.  It does this for three years.  I have scheduled myself to begin using this lectionary next year.  LSB, however, provides two Sunday lectionaries.  One–not quite the RCL, but close–follows a three-year track.  The other track, a one-year plan, is similar to the 1941 lectionary, retaining the Trinity Season in lieu of the Season after Pentecost, which the three-year plan has.  The LSB daily lectionary, which  is independent of both Sunday lectionaries, runs for one year, beginning with Ash Wednesday.  I am following it now and finding it very helpful.

Psalters have become a topic of much discussion.  LSB uses the English Standard Version of the Book of Psalms.  ELW, in contrast, contains a revised version of the 1979 Prayer Book psalter, only rid of masculine pronouns for God as often as possible.  So “His” in the 1979 Prayer Book psalter becomes “God’s” in ELW.  This troubles some people yet not me, for I would have to condemn myself if I were to criticize the editors of the ELW psalter.  Masculine pronouns for God do not disturb me, but I prefer not to use them constantly.  In fact, in private I call God “You,” which is neither masculine nor feminine.

This brings up the topic of inclusive language.  There is a dearth of it in LSB, where God is “Father” throughout.  Yet, in ELW, we find prayers addressed to

Loving God

and to

God of tender care

and to

God of heaven and earth

and to

Almighty Creator and ever-living God,

et cetera.  Pastors baptize exclusively

…in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

yet have the option of opening worship in the name of

the holy Trinity, one God.

This is fine, for our language of God is inherently and necessarily full of metaphors; the divine reality is far beyond them. I try not to get hung up on metaphors.

Both books contain more than one setting of the Holy Communion service–five in LSB and ten in ELW–and a service of the word.  Eucharist is not yet the default service it has been in The Episcopal Church since the 1970s.  And, in those Holy Communion services I notice three differences among the LSB and ELW versions of the Nicene Creed:

  1. “We believe….” in ELW; “I believe….” in LSB, except in one LSB musical setting, in which the congregation sings the creed in hymn form.  Both hymn options say “we,” not “I.”
  2. ELW retains the term “holy catholic church.”  LSB, like its predecessors, substitutes “Christian” for “catholic.”
  3. ELW provides the option of saying that Christ descended into Hell.  LSB does not.

I compared Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal (1993), of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, to LSB on this matter.  (The Wisconsin Synod makes the Missouri Synod look like a pack of liberals.)  The Wisconsin Synod hymnal version of the creed reads, “We believe…..”

Both ELW and LSB contain hundreds of prayers one may use to one’s spiritual profit.  Many are similar or identical, of course, due to the common liturgical DNA from which both books spring forth, but one does find variety using both books.

I notice that both books reflect a certain well-honed aesthetic sense.  This is not new in North American Lutheran service books, for the Common Service Book (1917) contains fine examples of calligraphy and geometric art.  LSB has nice front and back covers.  On the front cover a gold leaf cross attracts one’s attention.  To its left one finds depictions of an open Bible, baptism, and communion vessels.  The back cover features depictions of a hand, a cross, and a dove–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The front cover of ELW shows that book’s logo–a squarish cross with a flame in each of four corners.  That logo appears in gold leaf on the book’s spine and in red ink inside the volume.

The interior of ELW is more of a visual feast than that of LSB.  The latter has periodic examples of liturgical or theological terms, such as

Kyrie Eleison


Sola Scriptura


Nunc Dimittis

in fancy font with a cross above and the English translation below.  It is all very tasteful, and the placement is appropriate to what else is on that page.  ELW, however, has more pictures.  They separate sections and mark the beginnings of headings.  What I assume to be an African-style depiction the meal at Emmaus precedes the Holy Communion section.  And the first page of Holy Communion, Setting One, features a drawing of smoke from an altar candle rising to Heaven, where saints are standing around the glassy sea.  The book contains many other examples of appropriate art.  At least one of them depicts a person in a wheelchair.  Such inclusion is good.

Both volumes enrich my liturgical collection.  Perhaps they should do the same for you, O reader, if they do not do so already.







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