When I was a student at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (CTS) I had Dr. Scaer for only two classes. How I responded to his, ahhh…. “style” (yeah, that’s the ticket) of teaching was 180 degrees different in the two classes. But I digress…this is not about my hate/love of/with the great Dr. Scaer back in the early 90’s (truly, I believe, the finest Lutheran systematician who has written, in the last 100 years). But one thing that Scaer said that is the genesis for this long-forgotten anecdote, is: “gentlemen…don’t be like Iowa West!” By that, I think, Scaer meant that we should conduct the Mass and our own conduct of the Service (following proper and staid rubrics, postures, gestures, comportments, etc.) with dignity and traditional propriety. The good Doctor used to love to make fun of the typical (stereotypical) “Iowa West pastor” as one who would cross his legs while seated to sing the Chief Hymn (Hymn of the Day) only to then have his alb and pants-leg pull up to reveal his sock and partially bare ankle/calf. J Scaer thought Pastors ought to act as “professional” Church men and not as “bush-league” amateurs.
For Scaer, a Missouri Pastor should be Lutheran in doctrine, but conduct the page 15 service as an Anglican: do it straight, don’t be cute, and be as reverent and serious as the actual “content” of what it is you’re doing—i.e. the distribution of the Body and Blood of God—requires.
There I was, up (i.e. “North”) in Columbia, South Dakota participating in the Holy Mass for The Ascension of Our Lord, on the respective Thursday of (I think) 1997. The Officiant/Celebrant was the Rev’d Galen Friedrichs and I was his Deacon (and preacher). Joining in on this team-ministry for the great Feast Day (evening) was the Rev’d John M. Berg (one of the finest organist pastors EVER!!!!) up in the organ/choir loft at the back of the nave. It was John who witnessed the almost cataclysmic fiasco.
Right after the Verba, and during the congregations’ singing of the Sanctus, Father Galen and myself were to commune. Galen, as a good Hyper-Euro, Catholic-Lutheran, self-communed and then turned to commune me. It matters not whose fault it was…in reality it was BOTH of our faults…Galen, not used to communing other pastors while both were standing in front of the altar (not kneeling) was momentarily distracted just enough to think that I, the other pastor/Deacon, would firmly and manly GRASP the Holy Chalice, whilst, I…far more inexperienced than Galen at this “two-priests” in the Sanctuary thing, thought that HE would maintain an iron-grip on the Cup…
For a split-second neither of us actually had contact with the Chalice and it began to fall.
Praise the Lord (I love Eastertide J ) Galen lunged and grabbed it before it fell more than an inch.
While the Blood of Our Lord did not spill onto the floor, some of it did splatter onto Galen’s alb; not much, and maybe not even visible to the parishioners. We did what we had to do at the very moment and finished the Mass by having the few congregants that were gathered, come forward to receive Christ’s gifts.
Never again have I ever held the chalice with anything less than a death-vise lock (a Charlton Heston…pry it out of my dead fingers cradle).
The point? Right after the service John Berg came down and had a good chortle at both Galen’s and mine expense… John snorted and sarcastically dismissed us both with as cruel an enchiridion stab as could be administered. He said: “I was watching you two from the balcony…Scaer would’ve loved it…you looked like a couple of Iowa West schmucks…” [or words to that effect]
At least it was at Ascension…a forgotten day when most Lutherans are at Wal-Mart or Soccer games. And “praise the Lord, guy!” (another Scaer reference) the good Doctor was not there to see it.