"Sung, spoken, lived": worship as communion and mission in the work of Wilhelm Loehe.
Loehe was concerned that this be something more than a doctrinal commitment, more than a theological idea written on paper or even inscribed in our hearts and minds. He wanted this claim to be carried by and manifest in the patterns and practice of worship, evident in all that we do with our bodies at worship--our speaking, singing, praying, washing, and eating and drinking in Jesus' name. So, among his many initiatives in liturgical practice, he worked to enrich the reading of Scripture and its proclamation, sought to restore and renew the Eucharist at the center of Sunday worship, and encouraged practices of confession and forgiveness. All of this was about fashioning the church, first, as a distinctive community in the face of its institutional and cultural captivity and, second, as a responsive community in the face of real human needs. (1) Loehe was a practical theologian who understood that practices--in this case liturgical practices--bear and shape theological claims and that theology is at root a reflection upon the practices of the faith.
Over the years of my study of Loehe, I have repeatedly returned to some words that get at the heart of his liturgical-practical theology. They appear in the extended introduction to the orders of worship collected in the second volume of his Haus-, Schul-, und Kirchenbuch:
The church has put together according to holy orders not only individual prayers but entire services of various kinds and esteems them to be understood by all the faithful as the highest harmony of earthly life (Leben) and not only to be sung (mitgesungen) and spoken (mitgesprochen) but to be lived (mitgelebt). At the head of these holy orders stands the Communio, i.e., the churchly principal service, called in ancient speech and still in our Lutheran confessions, the mass.... Daily morning and evening prayer, or to speak in an older way, matins and vespers, take the second place among the holy orders.... All other services are nothing other than variations of these already named. (2)
The received orders of the church's worship--chiefly the Holy Communion and daily prayer, morning and evening--are something done, something practiced in the bodies of living persons. They are not merely a collection of theological ideas or doctrines thought out and written down. The unfolding act of worship involves persons actively singing and speaking, and, moreover, singing and speaking together. The mit- in the German is significant. Christian worship is a communal and participatory act, something done together, not alone or within oneself in a solitary way but outwardly and with others. Furthermore, this mit-, the "together" of worship, points to a claim that worship is an act of communion, a being and belonging together in Christ.
Furthermore, the liturgical work of the church--its singing and speaking according to these ordered patterns and practices--is about life. Christian worship is, Loehe says, "the highest harmony of earthly life (Leben) ... not only sung and spoken, but lived (mitgelebt)." At worship, we are established in a way of life, in the way of God's life for the world. This connection of worship to life in Loehe's thinking points toward the claim that worship is about mission; it has to do with God's life-giving purpose for the world, a purpose in which we live and for which we live. From this, it should be clear that Loehe's interest in worship is not fundamentally doctrinal, historical, or ceremonial but missional.
There are three things for us to work with here as we explore Loehe's liturgical work: (1) worship as participatory act, something done and engaged by the entire assembly of persons gathered for worship; (2) worship as communion, our being and belonging together in Christ; and (3) worship as mission, a participation in God's life-giving purpose for the world. These ideas are integral to Loehe's understanding of the practice of worship and its theological significance.
Worship as participatory act
The congregation in Loehe's day was largely silent and immobile at worship. The pastor did almost everything. He prayed the prayers, read the scriptures, preached the sermon, and blessed the people; at the seasonal celebrations of the Lord's Supper, he consecrated and administered the bread and cup. The people received all of this with little response, except for the singing of some hymns, and twice a year an individual would leave his or her place to receive communion. (3)
Loehe encouraged his congregation to participate at worship. In contrast to the priest-centered celebration of the Roman mass, Loehe noted that the evangelical mass, in the Reformers' intention as well as his own, was to be an action of the assembled congregation:
We do not say, "The pastor celebrates the Lord's Supper," but "The congregation!" The holy Supper is a celebration of the congregation, and it is shaped by the pastor and by Christ present and by the one or the many who receive--even at the communion of the sick--by the congregation. The pastor does not act alone, but the congregation acts with him. (4)
So Loehe promoted dialogue in the liturgy with congregational responses and Amens to prayers and blessings, the singing of liturgical songs like the Gloria and Sanctus, the recitation of the Creed, and a more vigorous hymn singing. More than that, he sought to engage the congregation in the deepest movements of the liturgy: in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, in the act of praying, and in the offering of gifts for those in need. He regularly instructed the people in their participation in these things and provided devotional books and prayer books that they might better prepare themselves for worship, hold the liturgy in their hands, and take an active part in the services.
Visitors to Sunday worship at Loehe's parish in Neuendettelsau noticed the difference and commented on the level of congregational participation. Loehe was pleased to report the comment of one visitor who said, "You have a liturgical people." (5) But there was resistance to Loehe's encouragements to participation. In a series of sermons on the Lord's Supper given in the year 1866, we can at times hear the exasperation of a pastor moving against the grain of longstanding habits. Some come late to worship and arrive after the pastor has already begun; Loehe wants them in their places by the time the church bell stops ringing and the organ begins to play. Some leave as the celebration of the sacrament begins; Loehe wants the whole congregation to remain, even those not receiving communion, and so he dispenses with the customary dismissal after the sermon and prayers of intercession. Some talk with each other during the service; Loehe wants their attention directed to the matters of worship. (6) And some remain silent during the liturgical responses and the hymn-singing; for Loehe genuine participation involves a visible external act of praise as well as the internal disposition: "Whoever wants to praise God must do it not only with his spirit, but also with his voice." (7) David's full-bodied praise of God is the model for active participation at worship: "David ... sang with his mouth, played upon the harp with his hands, and what is more he leapt and skipped because his body and soul rejoiced in the Lord. Worship has to happen both inwardly and outwardly." (8)
The outward and visible participation for which Loehe provided in his orders for worship and toward which he prodded his congregation was most fully realized in the deaconess chapel. The sisters were subject to Loehe's direction and more receptive of his efforts. With the deaconesses, Loehe had regular opportunity to form the assembly in its understanding and practice of worship. In both arenas of Loehe's pastoral activity--parish church and deaconess community--the participatory character of Christian worship became more evident. For Loehe, the "singing together" and "speaking together" of the assembly at worship were linked to the deep theological impulses of Christian life, its "living together": communion and mission.
Worship as communion
The concern for congregational participation at worship and engagement with the unfolding movement of the liturgy is connected to Loehe's interest in worship as communion. "Communion" translates the German Gemeinschaft and refers to being bound together in relation; specifically, in the context of Loehe's liturgical work and writing, it encompasses both the relation to God and to others that is established at worship. Loehe's notes on the collect in the second edition of his Agende (1853) show his understanding of the relation between participation and communion. Here he offers several comments on the liturgical structure salutation-oremus-prayer-Amen:
[on the salutation] With the greeting taken from Ruth 2:4 and the response derived from 2 Tim. 4:22, which are repeated so often, the knot of love and concord between pastor and congregation is tied anew. The consciousness of churchly belonging together is renewed with each repetition. [on the oremus--"Let us pray"] The oremus is the sign of communal prayer and may not be missing from any collect. [on the collect proper] The collect is the prayer of the assembled congregation and encompasses all its prayer for the day on which it is prayed. [on the Amen] The Amen belongs to the congregation. (9)
From start to finish the collect is a thoroughly corporate act conducted by those who gather for worship. The very structure of praying, as well as its content, displays the unity of pastor and congregation and the awareness of a belonging together within the church. It is an act of communion that shows forth the church as a communion. Furthermore, this communion is no mere human fellowship. It comes about in relation to Christ, which Loehe makes clear in his citation from a Latin commentator: it is a communion "by which the faithful are joined (copulantur) in Christ by faith and love." (10)
The concept of communion in relation to worship has this double sense--the Christological, i.e., the communion that we have with Christ, and the ecclesiological, i.e., the communion of persons with one another in Christ. Commenting on 1 Corinthians 10, where the apostle Paul talks about the bread and cup of the Lord's Supper as a communion in the body and blood of Christ, Loehe makes this point:
There we read clearly that the bread and wine are the communion (Gemeinschaft) or the means of communicating (Mitteilungsmittel) the body and blood of Christ, that therefore at the Lord's Supper, we eat, drink and are wonderfully united with the humanity of Jesus. But we also read that those who eat of the Lord's Supper themselves enter into communion with one another. They become, as it were, one bread of God. Thus, at the Lord's Supper, there is a double communion, first with Christ, and then with other communicants.... (11)
These two senses of communion can be distinguished, but ultimately they are not separable. Together they form the complete meaning of the communion that is received and practiced in Christian worship. In a poetic depiction of worship in his Three Books about the Church, Loehe captures this double unity in its completeness:
Just as the stars revolve around the sun, so does the congregation at its services, full of loveliness and dignity, revolve around its Lord. In holy, childlike innocence which only a child's innocent heart understands properly, the multitude of redeemed, sanctified children of God dances in worship around the universal Father and the Lamb, and the Spirit of the Lord of lords guides their steps. (12)
Loehe thus describes the liturgical assembly of the church as a unity of persons in the dance-like communion of the Triune God.
Loehe often called the principal service in the system of the church's worship the "Communio" (communion). In Loehe's time, the principal service was more likely to be called "Predigt" (sermon), because the Lord's Supper was celebrated only on occasion and often for only a portion of congregation. Loehe, however, understood Christian worship, indeed the whole Christian life, as a continual movement to and from the Lord's Supper. This perspective guided his work on orders for worship (see his Agende) as well as his efforts with liturgical practice in the parish church and deaconess community. Very early in his liturgical study, he wrote:
The goal of the principal service of the church has always been the celebration of the Communio or Lord's Supper. The observance of the Lord's Supper was the core; the parts of the service before and after always stood in relation to it. This is the case in the eastern churches, in the Roman Church, and also in the evangelical church. A principal service without the celebration of the Lord's Supper was not considered complete; it looked like a column in ruins, like a flower stem without its crown. (13)
The Lord's Supper is the goal because it is the fullest form of communion with God in Christ in this life and a foretaste of heavenly communion: "Even in the Lutheran service, the greatest observance is not the sermon but the holy Lord's Supper! The sermon itself leads to the holy Supper as the most intimate and mystical union of Christians with their Christ." (14) Loehe understood worship as communion and sought a practice of worship that placed the Lord's Supper at its center.
It is not surprising, then, that the nature of the Supper as a communion is a central theme in the series of sermons on the Lord's Supper that Loehe preached in 1866. (15) In the course of several sermons, Loehe moves from the external celebration as a sign of unity toward the inner reality of communion. In the first place, Loehe observes that simple obedience to the Lord's command "Do this" creates unity among Christians (Predigt am 10. August). It is "a lofty sign of the great unity of the whole of Christianity." (16) This is so despite the profound differences among the churches, which Loehe himself took very seriously when it came to the practice of intercommunion. Nonetheless, there remains a unity of practice in obedience to the Lord's command:
They are yet united in this one piece, that they celebrate the Lord's Supper. There is no Christian body on earth that would not agree with the others about this. Catholics, Lutherans, and Protestants, and all the various parties of eastern Christianity are all obedient to the Lord in celebrating his Supper, and all are in agreement that the Supper has to be celebrated and that no one may completely give it up. (17)
This simple unity in obedience to the Lord's command among the separated churches carries with it an even deeper unity, what Loehe calls "the invincible knowledge of belonging together" and a corresponding "feeling of belonging together." This knowledge and feeling of belonging together direct us ultimately toward "the communion of saints." (18) There exists, in Loehe's view, a fundamental unity among Christians based upon the observance of the Lord's Supper, and this unity in practice points to their deeper communion.
In the next sermon Loehe reflects upon the possibility of greater unity in the external celebration of the sacrament if all the churches were to the follow the Lord's actions as well as apostolic tradition (Predigt am 17. August). According to Loehe, something is lacking in the practice of each of the confessional-liturgical traditions. The Roman disobedience is to withhold the cup from the people; the Reformed disobedience (shared by some Lutherans) is to leave out the blessing (or thanksgiving) of bread and cup; the Lutheran disobedience is to omit the breaking of the bread. The unity achieved in attending to these practices will be, in Loehe's words, not a unity "with the Roman church and with the Reformed ... but ... with [the Lord] and his apostles and his first church. This is the true unity, upon which the Lord looks and which will remain with us to the end!" (19)
From the unity of external celebration, which for the moment remains a kind of disunity (except, as Loehe reports, in the practice of the Lord's Supper in his own congregation), Loehe moves to the unity in the proclamation of the Lord's death at the celebration of the Supper (Predigt am 24. August). Here he is reflecting on both the Lord's command "Do this in remembrance of me" and Paul's words "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor 11:23-26). There is already a certain measure of unity among Christians in the proclamation of the Lord's death; the whole act of celebrating the Lord's Supper is itself an external remembrance of Jesus. Loehe has in mind, however, to further the specific form of "solemn liturgical anamnesis" and "solemn proclamation of [Jesus'] death" that is part of eucharistic praying. (20) This is something Loehe had introduced at communion services outside the principal service with the use of a section from the Alexandrian Anaphora of St. Basil, an early Eastern eucharistic prayer. (21) From Loehe's perspective, there was no reason not to pursue a greater unity in the apostolic and early Christian practice of formally proclaiming the Lord's death until he comes.
Finally, Loehe considers the inner reality of communion in the celebration of the Lord's Supper (Predigt am 31. August). The focus of Loehe's reflection is upon Paul's words in 1 Cor 10:16-17, where Paul speaks about the many who become one body through their communion in Christ's body and blood in the bread and cup at the Lord's Supper. The Supper is a communion of persons; they become one body:
Those who eat of one body become one body, even if they are many, even if they make up one entire congregation, or the whole church on earth; it is one thing; they become one body.... All who go to the table of the Lord are one body, and as often as they do it together, they can see with their own eyes and recall to themselves: I am one body with you; you are a member, and I am a member, and we all are members; and together we form one body, the body of the one who is the head of the body, namely Christ. (22)
This communion of persons happens because of their communion in Christ's body and blood in the bread and the cup of the Supper. Here we see again the double sense of communion that Loehe finds in this text and consequently in the Lord's Supper itself--both the ecclesiological and the Christological dimensions.
There are further lines of thought on worship as communion that could be pursued in these sermons on the Lord's Supper and in relation to Loehe's larger thought and work. The two most important would be the connection, first, to Loehe's confessional commitment to Lutheran teaching about the real presence (Predigt am 14. September; Predigt am 28. September), and, second, to his commitment to church discipline and the maintenance of unity in faith and life (Predigt am 9. November; Predigt am 7. December). There also is the relation of the communion at worship to the whole communion of saints, living and dead (Predigt am 16. September).
What should be clear is the centrality of the concept of communion to Loehe's thinking and practice of worship, especially in relation to the Lord's Supper. This is Loehe's great contribution to a tradition that had become dominated in its theology and liturgical practice by a penitential piety narrowly focused on the forgiveness of sins. Christian worship is primarily a communio--with Christ and with all those joined to Christ--in the abundant life that God gives, including the gift of forgiveness. (23)
Worship as mission
Loehe is well known for his thinking about mission and perhaps even more so for his efforts to invigorate the church and its mission in his own time and place, especially through the mission school and society that he founded and the deaconess community that he started. And, as should be apparent from our explorations here, worship was central to his understanding of the church and his own pastoral work in the Neuendettelsau parish and deaconess community as well as in the mission congregations he supported. Anyone who studies Loehe's writings, however, will not find much explicit connection between worship and mission. For example, there is no discussion of mission in Loehe's Lord's Supper sermons. Nonetheless, I contend that Loehe understood worship as mission. To support that claim, I want to suggest the connection among a number of ideas related to worship and mission in Loehe's work:
* Worship has to do with life.
* God's purpose for life is communion--with God and with one another.
* Mission is the church of God in motion.
* Word and sacrament are the principal means of mission.
Loehe makes a clear connection between liturgy and life. The liturgy is something sung and spoken together but also lived together (mitgelebt). It sets out a pattern for life, for the life that God gives.
The life that God gives is precisely a life of communion with God and with others. God's purpose for human life is not a solitary existence but communion (Gemeinschaft) with God and one another. In the opening section of his Three Books about the Church, Loehe says this much clearly: "There is no solitary earth and no solitary heaven." (24) From both anthropological and theological perspectives, human life is destined for communion. The church is the life-giving communion that God intends: "The church is the eternal community founded by God and the communion of elect souls with one another and with him." (25) As we have seen, the church in its worship is about just such a communion.
"Mission is ... the one church of God in motion." With those words, Loehe connects the understanding and work of mission to the communion of the church. Mission is the realization of the communion that the church is. It is worth citing the following whole passage on church and mission from Three Books about the Church to see the unity of communion and mission in Loehe's thinking:
The church of the New Testament is no longer a territorial church but a church for all people, a church which has its children in all lands and gathers them from every nation. It is the one flock of the one shepherd, called out of many folds (Jn 10:16), the universal--the truly catholic-- church which flows through all time into which all people pour. This is the great concept which is still being fulfilled, the work of God in the final hour of the world, the dearest thought of all the saints in life and in death, the thought for which they lived and still live, died and still die. This is the thought which must permeate the mission of the church or it will not know what it is or what it should do. For mission is nothing but the one church of God in motion, the actualization of the one universal, catholic church. Wherever mission enters in, the barriers which separate nation from nation fall down. Wherever it comes it brings together what previously was far off and widely separated. Wherever it takes root it produces that wonderful unity which makes "the people of every tongue" able to understand one another in all things. Mission is the life of the catholic church. Where it stops, blood and breath stop; where it dies, the love which unites heaven and earth also dies. The catholic church and mission--these two no one can separate without killing both, and that is impossible. (26)
The communion that is the church catholic and mission cannot be separated. They are, in Loehe's view, two aspects of a single reality: the communion that is God's purpose for human life. To the extent that worship itself is about this communion, it is also necessarily about mission.
Loehe comes close to making an explicit connection between worship and mission later in Three Books about the Church when he explains that Word and sacrament are the only means by which the church acts and the source of all its good works:
The Lutheran church knows that the Lord gives his Holy Spirit only through his Word and sacraments, and therefore it recognizes no other effective means than Word and sacrament.... The church has various activities ... even though the means through which it performs them and encourages all good things are the same-- Word, sacrament, the holy office of the ministry. (27)
By the Holy Spirit, Word and sacrament create a communion of persons who live in Jesus Christ and establish persons to live within this communion. Furthermore, Word and sacrament are directed toward the communion that is God's purpose for all human life. The specific activities of the church, what we might call its missional activity, flow from the church as a communion established in Word and sacrament and toward the communion that is God's ultimate purpose for the world.
I am not a logician, but I think there is a syllogism buried in these ideas from Loehe that goes something like this:
* Mission is about the life of communion that God gives.
* This communion is what the church is, most especially in its worship.
* Therefore, worship is about mission.
Let's try saying it for ourselves, perhaps this way: communion and mission are the heartbeat of Christian worship. (28) There is the diastolic movement of communion, the ingathering of persons into relation with God and with one another. Then follows the systolic movement of mission, the sending of persons into relation to further the communion that is God's life-giving purpose for the world. At the nexus of both movements is Jesus Christ--present in Word and sacrament--the source of communion and the impulse for mission.
Loehe has helped us to this insight about worship as communion and mission. It is now for us to sing it, to speak it, and to live it together in our own time and place.
Thomas H. Schattauer
Professor of Liturgics and Dean of the Chapel
Wartburg Theological Seminary
1. See Thomas H. Schattauer, "The Lohe Alternative for Worship, Then and Now," Word and World 24 (2004): 145-51.
2. "Von den heiligen Personen, der heiligen Zeit, der heiligen Weise und dem heiligen Orte," Haus-, Schul- und Kirchenbuch fur Christen der lutherischen Bekentnisses (1859), in Wilhelm Loehe, Gesammelte Werke (GW), 7 vols., ed. Klaus Ganzert (Neuendettelsau: Freimund, 1951-1986) 3/1:570.
3. For fuller description and documentation of liturgical practice in Loehe's day and the practice that he promoted in his parish, see Thomas H. Schattauer, "The Reconstruction of Rite: The Liturgical Legacy of Wilhelm Lohe," in Rule of Prayer, Rule of Faith: Essays in Honor of Aidan Kavanagh, O.S.B., ed. Nathan Mitchell and John F. Baldovin (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1996), 243-77; see also my dissertation, "Announcement, Confession, and Lord's Supper in the Pastoral-Liturgical Work of Wilhelm Lohe: A Study of Worship and Church Life in the Lutheran Parish at Neuendettelsau, Bavaria, 1837-1872" (Ph.D. diss., University of Notre Dame, 1990).
4. Abendmahlspredigten (1866), GW, Erganzungsreihe, ed. Martin Wittenberg (Neuendettelsau: Freimund, 1991) 1:173-74.
5. Johannes Deinzer, Wilhelm Lohes Leben. Aus seinem schriftlichen Nachlass zusammegestellt. vol. 2 (Gutersloh: Bertelsmann, 1880), 130-31.
6. Abendmahlspredigten, 173. Elsewhere, Loehe gives instruction to families about how to walk to church together in a respectable fashion and not "like geese in a row;" from a sermon by Loehe, quoted by fellow pastor and contemporary Theodor Schafer and cited by Hans Kressel, Lohe als Katecht und Seelsorger (Neuendettelsau: Freimund, 1955), 163.
7. Abendmahlspredigten, 66.
8. Abendmahlspredigten, 66.
9. Agende fur christliche Gemeinden des lutherischen Bekenntnisses (1844/ 2d ed., 1853-59), GW 7/1:55-56.
10. Agende, GW 7/1:56.
11. Prufungstafel und Gebete fur Beicht- und Abendmahlstage (4 eds., 1837-1858), GW 7/2:286.
12. Drei Bucher von der Kirche (1845), GW 5:176-77; English trans. (ET): Three Books about the Church, trans. and ed. James L. Schaaf (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1959), 177.
13. "Vorwort," Sammlung liturgischer Formulare der evangelish-lutherischen Kirche, vol. 3 (1842), GW 7/2:698; see also Agende, GW 7/1:84.
14. Der evangelische Geistliche, vol. 2 (2 eds., 1858-1866), GW 3/2:243-44.
15. Abendmahlspredigten (see n. 4).
16. Abendmahlspredigten, 46.
17. Abendmahlspredigten, 48.
18. Abendmahlspredigten, 49.
19. Abendmahlspredigten, 63.
20. Abendmahlspredigten, 67.
21. Abendmahlspredigten, 66. For an English translation of this early eastern anamnesis as it was adapted by Loehe, see Schattauer, "Reconstruction of Rite," 267; note there as well the account of Loehe's shaping of the eucharistic action, pp. 264-67. See also Frieder Schulz, "Der Beitrag Wilhelm Lohes zur Ausbildung eines evangelischen Eucharistiegebetes," in Gratia Agamus: Studien zum eucharistsichen Hochgebet fur Balthasar Fischer, ed. Andreas Heinz and Heinrich Rennings (Freiburg: Herder, 1992), 457-67.
22. Abendmahlspredigten, 69-70.
23. See Schattauer, "Reconstruction of Rite," 275-76. Loehe moved beyond a narrowly penitential understanding of the Lord's Supper in part through his interpretation of John 6; see Predigt am 5. Oktober, Predigt am 12. Oktober, and Predigt am 16. November, in Abendmahlspredigten.
24. Drei Bucher, GW 5/1:89; ET: Three Books, 49.
25. Drei Bucher, GW 5/1:90; in this instance, the translation of Drei Bucher is my own.
26. Drei Bucher, GW 5/1:96; ET: Three Books, 59.
27. Drei Bucher, GW 5/1:168-70; ET: Three Books, 164-67. On worship in Word and sacrament and Loehe's theology of mission, see Christian Weber, Missionstheologie bei Wilhelm Lohe: Aufbruch zur Kirche der Zukunft (Gutersloh: Gutersloher Verlagshaus, 1996), esp. 306-12; see also his "The Future of Loehe's Legacy," Currents in Theology and Mission 31 (2004): 100.
28. Craig L. Nessan uses this same image to describe Loehe's missionary theology; see "Missionary Theology and Wartburg Theological Seminary," Currents in Theology and Mission 31 (2004): 85-86. I am grateful to Nessan for his encouragement to my study of Loehe and for his partnership in founding the International Loehe Society.
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|Author:||Schattauer, Thomas H.|
|Publication:||Currents in Theology and Mission|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2006|
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