Adiaphora Part 2
Last week I mentioned three items that are considered “adiaphora”, that is, matters that are neither commanded nor forbidden. I mentioned the liturgy, the use of a lectionary (schedule for Scripture readings), and the observance of the Church Year.
You may recall my mentioning that the term “adiaphora” as used in the Lutheran Confessions does not mean the matter is unimportant. There are practices that enjoy Biblical precedence, have the endorsement of the Christian Tradition, contain a great deal of wisdom, and are wonderful tools for Christian formation.
In our own Lutheran tradition we have gladly followed and joined other Christian traditions in utilizing the historic liturgy, the use of a lectionary, and following a Church Calendar.
In avoiding a legalistic conformity to a fixed form of worship, Lutherans have nonetheless adopted the form and order of what is often called the Western Liturgical Rite (in distinction to the Eastern, or Orthodox tradition). And whereas Lutherans have not insisted in precise uniformity among themselves, and with other church traditions, there has been a recognizable shape and many common elements.
A common shape could be outlined simply by this order of four basic elements: Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending. Common elements include Confession and Absolution, the Kyrie, the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, the reading of portions of Scripture, the sermon, the Confession of Faith, Intercessory Prayers, the Sanctus, Eucharistic Prayers, Words of Institution, Holy Communion, the Agnus Dei, and the Nunc Dimittis.
What especially interests me about the historic liturgy is how the language is almost entirely from the Bible. Hence you end up with Trinitarian language and reverent ways of addressing the Deity. You also end up singing with angelic creatures (the Sanctus and the Gloria in Excelsis Deo) with elements of worship described in the Book of Revelation.
So, whereas Scripture does not command us to employ the historic liturgy, it seems foolish on that basis to jettison its use and isolate ourselves from “the communion of saints.”
Since You Asked…
What does the Pastor’s Stole signify?
(the stole is the colored strip of cloth that loops around the back of the neck and hangs from both shoulders) The stole represents a yoke such as would be used to link and employ an ox with a plow or cart. When a work animal is yoked to a task, that animal comes under the rule and guidance of its master. As Christians we are to be yoked to Christ (cf. Mt. 11:28-30). We are to fear, love, serve, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ. The Pastor’s stole is therefore not only a sign of ordination in the Lutheran Church, but it visibly reminds the whole congregation of our servant hood to Christ.