General Rules of Ceremony (Chapter 9 of Ceremony and Celebration)

“The following general rules of ceremony are based on tradition. Behind this tradition, however, are the principles or laws of reverence, love, order, and humility or respect.

“Many rules of ceremony are governed by the principle of reverence. God demands reverence. We owe Him reverence. We owe it to Him, not only as an inner attitude, but also as an outward expression. At the burning bush God ordered Moses to take off his shoes, for the ground on which he stood was holy ground. This outward expression of the fear of God was demanded by the law of reverence.

“We Christians show reverence to God because the Holy Spirit prompts and enables us to do the will of God in response to His grace and blessings. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28). In the church’s worship we meet with God who has called us into His kingdom. Therefore we express our reverence toward Him, His Word, His sacraments, and all persons and things connected with our worship of Him. The first principle on which the traditional ceremonies are based is reverence.

“The next principle is love. God’s law demands that we love Him above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. But again, our Christian obedience flows not from the Law but from the Gospel. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11). We show our love to God and to our fellow worshippers in many ceremonies. The rule for these ceremonies is the law of love.

“The law of order is another basis for the rules of ceremony. This law is expressed in the Word of God, “Let everything be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). God is a God of order. He is against disorder, confusion, slovenliness, crudeness, and ugliness. If that is true in every area of our lives, it is particularly true when God is present with us in a special way in the church’s worship. The Old Testament worship which God prescribed was, in every detail of the tabernacle and temple, the sacred vessels and vestments, the rites and ceremonies of the services, orderly and beautiful. We have no such detailed prescriptions in the New Testament, but the principle remains. The rules governing the traditional ceremonies are based on the law of order.

“The fourth principle is humility. We are exhorted, not only to be humble before God: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6), but also to be humble in our relationship with our fellow Christians: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring on another” (Romans 12:10). The rule governing the ceremony of kneeling for the confession of sins, for example, is based on this law. So also are the rules pertaining to the ceremonies of showing respect to another, of honoring a person’s position and office, and of the place of rank in a seating arrangement or procession.

“It is on these principles that the rules of the ceremonies in the church’s worship rest and from which they flow. If we remember these principles, we shall observe the ceremonies in the right spirit, not from compusion, but from the Christian desire to do the will of God in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.” (pp. 55-56)

This book can be obtained through Redeemer Lutheran Church or the Concordia Bookstore at CTS.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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