Paul J. Grime, ed.

Reviewed by Todd A. Peperkorn on 03/03/2023

Are the “worship wars” of the 1980s and 1990s over, or have they gone underground? Regardless of how you answer that question, the publication of LSB: Companion to the Services marks a turning point in the worship history of the LCMS. Gone are the days of frantically trying to stay ahead of the onslaught of contemporary Christian music. There was a time in our history when “Join the Resistance: Support the Liturgy” was both a slogan and a T-shirt sold by CPH. It would now seem that the liturgy is no longer the resistance, but the establishment.

This is, in the words of the Preface, the “everything else” that accompanies the two-volume Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, which came out in 2019. From psalmody to the orders of service, this covers everything to do with LSB apart from the hymns themselves.

Its publication as a separate volume is but one of many markers that set these volumes (taken together) as a maturing of our church’s ongoing conversation regarding liturgy and worship. There was one volume that accompanied The Lutheran Hymnal, one volume after Lutheran Worship, and various volumes that came out in the nineties and early two thousands. Lutheran Worship: History and Practice (CPH, 1993) is as much an apologia for a Lutheran approach to worship as it is a commentary on LW itself. Then at the end of the decade came Through the Church the Song Goes On (CPH, 1999), a volume designed to prepare for a new hymnal. When this volume was produced, A. L. Barry was president, and it seemed as though the course to a new hymnal would be fairly easy sailing.

Some storms cannot be foreseen.

  1. L. Barry’s death in 2001 began a decade of uncertainty when it came to the synod and worship. Dr. Gerald Kieschnick was elected in the summer of 2001, and the smooth sailing leading to Lutheran Service Book turned into three years of rocky waters, storms big and small, and culminated in LSB being passed at the convention by a remarkable margin (92 percent, as I recall).

LSB was actually released in 2006, and since that time we have seen a collection of companion volumes, all with the signature wine/burgundy color. This volume marks (I believe) the final volume that will come out as a part of the LSB Hymnal Project, twenty-three years after Through the Church the Song Goes On was published. Now that is a hymnal legacy!

In many respects, it is not one book but six. There are a series of prefatory essays that set the stage, and then sections on the church year, the Divine Service, the daily office(s), and pastoral acts (e.g., Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, and the Burial Rites), culminating with a commentary on services for Lent and Holy Week. Each one of these sections could be a volume in its own right. Taken together as one volume, it makes the substantial list price a little less painful (MSRP is $99.99).

The contributors to the volume include many of the individuals who were instrumental in shaping the structure and content of the services in LSB. They include Paul J. Grime (who also served as the editor), Thomas M. Winger, William M. Cwirla, Kent J. Burreson, Timothy C. J. Quill, Scott E. Johnson, Andrew S. Gerike, D. Richard Stuckwisch Jr., Mark P. Surburg, Frank J. Pies, and Randy K. Asburry.

It would be difficult to review each of the sections of this volume and give them justice. What follows may be considered a dip into the waters of this fantastic work.

The volume begins with an essay on the liturgy by Thomas M. Winger, longtime professor and now president at our sister seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario. Unlike LWHP, the tone of the essay reflects how matters of worship are more settled than they were a generation ago. He handles everything from the sacrament/sacrifice to adiaphora in matters of ceremony. The result is an approach to Lutheran worship that is centered around Jesus Christ as the one who serves (Luke 22:27), and how the doctrine of Christ, his person and work, shapes everything about Lutheran worship.

One of the more adventurous essays in the volume is by Kent J. Burreson, who served as the dean of the chapel at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, for many years. Entitled “Soaked in Christ: The Gift of Symbolism,” Dr. Burreson does us a great service by introducing the Lutheran reader to the symbolic world, and tries to redeem the use of symbolism and its relationship to ceremony. Because of our objections to a symbolic understanding of Christ’s presence in the Supper, symbolic in Lutheran circles has come to mean “not real.” While that is true when dealing with dogmatic questions around the Lord’s Supper, understanding how imagery and symbolism fits in our liturgical life together is enormously helpful. It is about time that we start talking about this more in the LCMS, and not just leave it to Gordon Lathrop and others in the ELCA to be the only voices on the topic.

The commentaries on the various services are delightful. They manage to give historical context, biblical and doctrinal logic, and solid pastoral advice on what and how things are in LSB, without going too far overboard on either critiquing what is different or turning into a sort of liturgical hagiography.

Probably the biggest criticism of this volume will come not from what is said, but over what is not said. It does not really address the phenomenon of contemporary worship. It does not try to answer questions about musical style, at least not at a larger level. The goal of this book is not to critique the American worship scene or any particular tradition. The goal is to provide context and commentary on the services in LSB. As long as that is understood by the reader, it will be well.

One other minor quibble. The list price of $99.99 is substantial, whereas the Kindle ebook price is $84.99. As a reference volume, this is one of the works that would make a lot of sense to have as some kind of print/ebook package. Please, CPH?

I was a young pastor when the synod in convention passed LSB in 2004. As a delegate to that convention, I had an inkling of what good could come from a hymnal that would work to unify the practice and doctrine of the LCMS. What I did not know was how much LSB would shape my own ministry and the ministry of many still to come.

This volume is a culmination of work which began in the mid-1990s with the “Real Life Worship Conferences” all over the country. What began as a slogan has become the water we swim in as pastors and teachers.

Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Services will not answer every liturgical ephemera about our hymnal. That is what Google is for. But this volume will help set us on the path to receiving the gifts of God in the Divine Liturgy with grace and reverence. And that is a very, very good thing.