Archive for the ‘Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’ Tag

Esther I: Vehicles of Grace   1 comment

Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus

Above:  Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus, by Paolo Veronese

Image in the Public Domain


The daily lectionary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), as found in their service book-hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), is the one attached to the Revised Common Lectionary.  For the Thursday before Proper 12 through the Wednesday after that Sunday in Year C the first readings come from the Book of Esther, starting with 2:19 and continuing through 8:17.

The Book of Esther exists in two versions–Hebrew and Greek.  The Hebrew version, which does not even mention God, probably dates to 400-300 B.C.E., at the end of the Persian Empire or the beginning of the Hellenistic Age.  The 107 additional verses in the version from the Septuagint bring the word “God” into the story and elaborate on certain details.  The Greek version of the Book of Esther is canonical in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

As I read the Book of Esther again I will consult Jewish and Roman Catholic Bibles.  My plan is to read the Greek version fully in English-language translation.  The New American Bible labels the Greek additions conveniently as Chapters A-F, a system I will cite.

The Book of Esther is a satire, comedy, burlesque, and work of religious fiction.  Jewish exegetes have known this for a long time.  Some characters are buffoonish, our heroes (in the Hebrew version) are strangely less dimensional than other characters, and exaggeration abounds.  One should not, out of piety, become so serious as to misread a book of the Bible.  There are various contexts in which one should read scripture; genre is among them.  Furthermore, the internal chronology of the Book of Esther (in either version), like that of the Book of Daniel, makes no sense.


In the Greek version the book begins with what The New American Bible calls Chapter A, containing 17 verses.  We meet Mordecai, a Jewish member of the court of King Ahasuerus (sarcastically “the great,” according to A:1) at Susa.  Ahasuerus is a fictitious monarch of the Persian Empire.  Sources I have consulted indicate elements from the actual Xerxes I (reigned 486-465 B.C.E.) and Artaxerxes I (reigned 465-424 B.C.E.).  Mordecai has a dream in which, on a gloomy day amid “tumult, thunder, and earthquake,” two dragons prepare to go to war.  The just live in fear of what might happen to them.  They cry out to God, a mighty river arises, sunlight breaks through, and the lowly rise up and devour the boastful.  Mordecai awakens and attempts throughout the day to comprehend the dream and what God intends to do.

We read in A:1 that Mordecai is not only of the tribe of Benjamin but a descendant of Kish.  This makes him a relative of King Saul (whose father was Kish), who conquered Agag the Amalekite in 1 Samuel 15:1-9.  Haman, Mordecai’s foe, is an Agagite.

Mordecai overhears two eunuchs plot to assassinate Ahasuerus.  The loyal courtier alerts the monarch directly.  Ahasuerus orders the arrest, interrogation, and execution of the eunuchs.  Mordecai receives a reward for his fidelity, but Haman, who had conspired with the eunuchs, begins to plot to harm him.

Chapter 1 depicts Ahasuerus as less than great.  The text states that the king ruled over 127 provinces, or satrapies, but historical records indicate the existence of between 20 and 32 satrapies during the duration of the Persian Empire.  Ahasuerus is wealthy, living in luxury.  He is also mostly powerless, for people manipulate him easily.  The king is also too fond of alcohol in excess.  Ahasuerus orders Queen Vashti to degrade herself  by displaying her beauty to his courtiers .  She refuses the command, thereby disgracing the drunken Ahasuerus.  Thus an imperial incident occurs.  Can the monarch restore his honor?  Vashti loses her position and possibly her life, for he proceeds to choose a new queen from his harem.  Among the virgins in the harem is one Esther, cousin and foster daughter of Mordecai.  This is a secret relationship, however.  He coaches her in how to become the next queen.  She succeeds Vashti.


What are we supposed to take away from this material and apply to life?  God works behind the scenes in the Book of Esther.  God even works through drunk and easily manipulated monarchs.  Vehicles of grace come in many shapes and sizes; many of them will surprise us.  Many of them do not even know that they are vehicles of grace, but that does not prevent God from working through them, does it?





Adapted from this post:


Two Kings   15 comments

Ahaseurus and Haman at Esther's Feast

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53


The Assigned Readings:

Esther 2:1-18

Psalm 7

2 Timothy 2:8-13


I will bear witness that the LORD is righteous;

I will praise the Name of the LORD Most High.

–Psalm 7:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


This is a devotion for the day after Christ the King Sunday.  Pope Pius XI created that festival in 1925, when dictators governed much of Europe, interwar tensions were rising, and the Holy Father perceived the need to issue a reminder that God is in control, despite appearances.  The original date was the last Sunday in October, opposite Reformation Sunday in many Protestant churches, but the Roman Catholic Church moved the date to the Sunday before Advent in 1969.  In the middle of the twentieth century many U.S. Protestants observed Christ the King Sunday on the last Sunday in August.  I have found evidence of this in the official materials of the reunited Methodist Church (1939-1968).  Today observance of Christ the King Sunday (on the Sunday before Advent) has become common in many non-Roman Catholic communions.  I have detected it in the Revised Common Lectionary and the Common Lectionary before that, as well as in official materials of Anglican/Episcopal, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Cooperative Baptist, Evangelical Covenant, and other denominations.

In contrast to Christ the King we have the fictional Ahasuerus, a pompous figure whose courtiers manipulate him.  He and others figure in the Book of Esther, which the germane notes in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) refer to as a low comedy with burlesque elements, as well as a serious side.  (Comedy has a serious side much of the time.)  The Book of Esther pokes fun at authority figures, one of the oldest pastimes.  Ahasuerus, humiliated when Queen Vashti refuses his summons, decides angrily to replace her.  Before he can reverse that decision, his advisers intervene.  This opens the narrative door for Esther to become the secretly Jewish Queen of Persia just in time for Haman to plot to kill the Jews.  Esther might have been a tool of schemers initially, but she becomes an instrument of God.

St. Paul the Apostle might not have written 2 Timothy, but the letter is of the Pauline tradition.  Certainly the Apostle did suffer hardship due to his obedience to God and agreed, as the text says:

If we have died with [Christ Jesus], we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he will also deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful–

for he cannot deny himself.

–2:11b-13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Regardless of the situations of our daily life and how they became our reality, may we obey God and do the right thing.  This might prove to be quite dangerous, leading even to death, but so did the path of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.







Adapted from this post:


Blessed Are You, O Lord Our God, King of All Creation: Hymnal Supplement 98 (1998) and the Lutheran Service Book (2006)   8 comments

Lutheran Service Book (2006)

Above:  My Copies of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), Worship Supplement (1969), Lutheran Worship (1982), Hymnal Supplement 98 (1998), and the Lutheran Service Book (2006), July 22, 2013




Blessed are You, O Lord our God, king of all creation, for You have had mercy on us and given Your only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Hymnal Supplement 98 (1998), page 11



Last year I wrote a comparative review of the Lutheran Service Book and Evangelical Lutheran Worship (  That review stands, with this post complementing it.  Also, this post is part of a series, thus it builds on information from previous posts, a guide to which I provide here:

Also, my copy of the Lutheran Service Book is the Pew Edition, not the altar book.



The two major U.S. Lutheran bodies and their Canadian counterparts revised their hymnals-service books, publishing them in 2006.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), formed by a 1987 merger, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), formed by a 1986 merger, released Evangelical Lutheran Worship (abbreviated hereafter as ELW), the topic of the next post in this series.  The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) and The Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) published the Lutheran Service Book (abbreviated hereafter as LSB), which, I can believe what I read on Lutheran websites, has accomplished its goal of being a unifying hymnal-service book.

First, however, came Hymnal Supplement 98 (abbreviated hereafter as HS98), published in 1998, of all years.  Who would have thunk it?  There was great demand for a new worship resource.  The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) ( was close to sixty years old and Lutheran Worship (1982) ( had not aged well.

Considering HS98 and the LSB together makes sense, for the first influence the second.



The LSB contains all the Communion services from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and Lutheran Worship (1982) (abbreviated hereafter as LW), with modifications.  The 1941 service is in modern English now, for example.  And “implore” (a 1982 usage) has become “beseech” (a 2006 usage).  The Nicene Creed is still in the first-person singular and the Church is still “Christian,” not “catholic.”  This word substitution, originally not anti-Roman Catholic, has become that for many Protestants of the Lutheran variety, unfortunately.  Anyhow, there is a recurring footnote in LSB:

Christian:  the ancient text reads “catholic,” meaning the whole Church as it confesses the wholeness of Christian doctrine.

I file that under the “Duh!” category.



HS98 contains useful forms for Daily Prayer for individuals and families (the basis for that section in the LSB) and Evening Prayer.  The LSB provides offices for Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline.  Complenting these rites are lectionaries, the Calendar, and the Psalter.

There are three lectionaries, which pertain to the Calendar, which has filled out nicely since 1982.  All four pages of it are impressive now.  The slightly adjusted three-year lectionary from the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) sits next to a modified one-year lectionary reminiscent of the 1941 lectionary.  Use of this second lectionary carries with it a return to the pre-1960 calendar, with the -gesimas and Sundays after Trinity.  But, if one uses the first lectionary, there are no -gesimas and there are Sundays after Pentecost.  The Daily Lectionary is an excellent one-year plan based on which I have written devotions.

The translation for the Psalter (partial in the LSB, per usual Lutheran practice) is the English Standard Version (ESV).  This constitutes a change from LW (1982), which uses the New International Version (NIV).  In fact, whenever the LSB quotes the Bible, it does so in the ESV.  HS98, in contrast, uses the NIV and the New King James Version.



The LSB stands up well relative to its competition on the right wing of U.S. Lutheranism.  Its closest rival in excellence is the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996), of The Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which, as far as I can tell, thinks the LCMS is too liberal.  And I know that, according to official LCMS statements, I am a raving heretic.  But, as Alex Haley said,

Find the good and praise it.

There is much to praise in the LSB, a volume which, along with ELW, enriches my liturgy library greatly.







Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994.

Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1993.

Concordia Hymnal, The:  A Hymnal for Church, School and Home.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1932.

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.  St. Louis, MO:  MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc., 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, The.  The Lutheran Hymnal.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Hymnal Supplement 98.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1998.

Lutheran Service Book.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Lutheran Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982.

I also found some PDFs helpful:

Christian Worship:  Supplement Introductory Resources.  Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 2008.

DeGarmeaux, Bruce.  ”O Come, Let Us Worship!  A Study of Lutheran Liturgy and Hymnody.”  1995.

Schalk, Carl.  ”A Brief History of LCMS Hymnals (before LSB).”  Based on a 1997 document; updated to 2006.  Copyrighted by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Zabell, Jon F.  ”The Formation of Function of WELS Hymnals:  Further Conversation.”  For the National Conference of Worship, Music, and the Arts, July 2008.



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.