A myHT Fortress

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Let My Prayer Rise Before You as Incense

Pastor William Weedon, a friend of mine, and pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Illinois, just opined on the use of incense in Lutheran worship. Contrary to popular belief (at least in much of Midwestern America) incense IS (historically) a part of Lutheran worship. Blessed Martin Luther provided for its use in two different moments in the Divine Service, at the time of the Holy Gospel, and again at the preparation of the elements for the Sacrament. Of course, while singing about it in Psalm 141 during Evening Prayer, it is a thoroughly appropriate possibility.

In any event, Pastor Weedon gives some excellent food for thought in his blog:

The use of incense is appropriate as Psalm 141 is sung.
-- LSB Altar Book, p. 338

Yes, there are people who will balk and protest. And I knew there would be. I had folks who told me how much they DISLIKED it as they left church. But of course, I had folks that told me how much they ENJOYED it. But as with all the Church's liturgy, personal dislike and enjoyment is utterly beside the point. UTTERLY! Sooner or later, we will figure out that worship is not about what we like or dislike. Couldn't matter less!!!

It is appropriate because of what it confesses. It totally matches WHAT WE'RE SINGING ("Let my prayer rise before you as incense" - Psalm 141) and because in Revelation (and more than once!) we find it in a description of worship in the heavenly sanctuary for the presentation of the saints' prayers to God (as we see, for example in chapter 5:8; 8:4). Not to mention how it permeated the Gospel reading tonight from Luke 1.

What we all need to do is to think not about "what I like" but learn to ask "what does this confess?" It's amazing what it will do for a soul to begin thinking away from the ego and with the Church. The "aha's" then are joyful and we are delivered from negativity or a false enthusiasm that "our" preference is being stroked. Even when you personally dislike what you're experiencing; you'll be rejoicing in the truth that it confesses! "Ah, incense. So our prayers rise to the throne of God and are accepted by Him in Jesus Christ for a sweet smelling aroma." BINGO! - whether you're wrinkling your nose and coughing or drinking in the smell of heaven...

1 comment:

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