When early Lutherans in 1616 got liturgical marching orders and were told to get rid of altars etc. . . .

. . . and said the heck with that and kept their altars and crucifixes and communion not on the hand and bowing “as if” God were present and seeing the priest “with his back to the people” and going to confession before “communing” and not considering the words of consecration “symbolic,” etc.

Ordered to go low in 1616 by Johann Georg, Margrave of the the Silesian duchy of Jågerndorf, they faced him down.

His decree:

All images are to be removed from the church and sent to the court.
The stone altar is to be ripped from the ground and replaced with a wood table covered with a black cloth.
When the Lord’s Supper is held, a white cloth covers the table.
All altars, panels, crucifixes and paintings are to be completely abolished, as they are idolatrous and stem from the papacy.
Instead of the host, bread is to be used and baked into broad loaves, cut into strips and placed in a dish, from which people receive it in their hands; likewise the chalice [in their hands].
The words of the supper are no longer to be sung, but rather spoken.
The golden goblets are to be replaced with wooden ones.
The prayer in place of the collect is to be spoken, not sung.
Mass vestments and other finery are no longer to be used.
No lamps or candles are to be placed on the altar.
The houseling [communion] cloth [for catching the host if it dropped] is not to be held in front of the communicants.
The people are not to bow as if Christ were present.
The communicants shall no longer kneel.
The sign of the cross after the benediction is to be discontinued.
The priest is no longer to stand with his back to the people.
The collect and Epistle are no longer to be sung, but rather spoken.
Individuals are no longer to go to confession before communing, but rather register with the priest in writing. [?]

The people are no longer to bow when the name of Jesus is mentioned, nor are they to remove their hats.
The Our Father is no longer to be prayed aloud before the sermon.
Communion is not to be taken to the sick, as it is dangerous, especially in times of pestilence. [Covid
The stone baptismal font is to be removed and a basin substituted.
Epitaphs and crucifixes are no longer to be tolerated in the church.
The Holy Trinity is not to be depicted in any visual form.
The words of the sacrament are to be altered and considered symbolic.

These prohibitions have the flavor of 20th-century Catholic liturgical reform, do they not? The writer, a longtime Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor, drawing on Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism: Choir, Congregation and Three Centuries of Conflict, by Joseph Herl, has uncovered what he calls “a sort of photographic negative of Lutheran worship!

“Drop the prohibitions,” he says, “and see the description of the normal practice, the actual shape of Lutheran worship to which this complaint bears witness.

“From the images and crucifixes to the chanting of collects and readings; . . . from the rich use of the Mass vestments to the beautiful and precious vessels that distributed the Lord’s blood; from the piety that knelt to receive the Sacrament and bowed to the Christ truly present in His body and blood when approaching or departing the holy altar to the bowing of head and doffing of hats at every mention of the holy name of JESUS.

“And what truly matters and is clear is that all these ceremonies . . . were clearly heard and seen as confessions of the Lutheran faith. And that is why they had to go.”

But the “surprisingly stubborn and resistant populace . . . was not about to give up their faith for some princely whim of his; they smelled Calvinism and wanted no parts of it.” Indeed, soldiers were sent to “enforce the changes . . . and the Margrave backed down. The people got to keep their Lutheran ceremonies.”

Reminds you of Catholic traditionalists today, in any number of points, including the boldfaced proposed prohibitions above. And it give me quite a different feeling about the staying power of Catholic liturgical customs and ritual even 100 years after Martin Luther’s break from Rome.

The sermon is no joking matter

Lutheran pastor Burnell Eckardt mused about leading prayer at a church service and concluded that while doing so, he never has “the remotest thought of praying with levity or jocularity.”

Never is humor added as if to maintain the attention of people who might be silently praying along. Never in the prayers of the church, or for that matter, in personal prayers, is humor thought to be a helpful ingredient. . . .

This pastor, of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Kewanee, Illinois, thought it puzzling. “Whenever we speak to God we are dead serious. We are not trying . . . to be funny, or evoke laughter.”

(Let us hope so, though many a churchgoer would not be surprised by ill-timed attempts at humor.)

“Why then?” he asks, “is there [the urge] to employ levity or evoke laughter when it is time for us to hear God, when there is preaching?”

In the sermon, “the integration of God’s word with the words of the pastor . . . The Gospel is to be preached, not simply read aloud. . . . the same ought to be true of the sermon,” which also is “God’s word,” even if in the preacher’s own words.”

The preacher “is doing a holy thing. The sermon is “God’s word.” The sermon must be “norma normata, that is, ‘normed’ by the Scriptures,” which are to be its “guide and compass.” It must be “derived, governed by the Scriptures.” That is required of preachers, “though of course they have great latitude in how they preach and apply God’s word.”

But . . .

. . . the sermon is not stand up comedy. It is not a time to connect with the hearers in the way that motivational speakers might do. It’s different. It’s norma normata. Certainly the pastor is using the sermon to connect with the hearers, but . . . with levity? With jokes?

You don’t joke around when speaking to God, so why, then, should you joke around when you, O pastor, are the vehicle through which God is speaking? We are, as the catechism says, to hold preaching sacred. Certainly this applies to the preacher as well as to the hearers.

Indeed. This Lutheran has it right.