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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Monastic Vows – part 38

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Mark 7:6–8

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows 

We will not cover here the entire service of ceremonies: lessons, chanting, and similar things, which could be tolerated if they were regarded as exercises, like lessons in schools, designed to teach the hearers, and, while teaching, to move some to fear or faith. But now they pretend that these ceremonies are worship of God that merit the forgiveness of sins for themselves and for others. For this reason, they increase these ceremonies. If they undertake them in order to teach and exhort the hearers, brief and pointed lessons would be of more profit than these infinite babblings.

Pulling It Together: Religious acting can take the form of doing worship, that is, not worshiping at all. This often takes the form of a ritual that does not come from the heart. This is why people should be encouraged to use their service book instead of singing, reading, or praying from memory alone. While it is possible for people to say a creed, sing Scripture that is used weekly, and pray prayers that they have memorized from long use, seeing the words, helps the worshiper to engage with God on another level. Even paying close attention to punctuation helps. Why, I suppose I might thoughtfully pause here at this comma instead of blasting through as quickly as possible.

So, religious acting happens when worship does not come from the heart, but also when it does not come from God. If God commands one thing but we insist on another, then it is hypocrisy. If a style of worship or a human tradition becomes all-important while love of neighbor is ignored, then that tradition or style of worship, however fine it may be, is hollow and false. All of this finds its way back to the first table of the Commandments.

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to love you with all my heart, and my neighbor as myself. Amen.

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