Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Comings and Goings, Part III

Continuing from my last post . . .

So what is it that anchors our churches in who they are and tells their story when pastors and people come and go in this ever so transient age?

The Liturgy.

The liturgy remains when pastors come and when pastors go. The liturgy joins us with Christians of all times and places. The liturgy doesn't change with every passing fad and whim but keeps us anchored in the truth of God's Word. The liturgy joins us with the story of God's people from age to age. We hear and sing the song of the angels at Jesus' birth. We pray "Lord have mercy!" with the beggars in Jesus' day. We speak the same creeds that our brothers and sisters in Christ have spoken for centuries. We pray with David his psalm of repentance: "Create in me a clean heart, O God!" We join in the "Holy, holy, holy" of the angels around the throne of God, and the "Hosannas!" of the crowd as Jesus entered into Jerusalem to die. We join with John the Baptist in his "Behold, the Lamb of God!" and sing Simeon's song after receiving our Lord in His Supper. And that's just in the Divine Service. In the prayer offices we have Mary's song, Zechariah's song, and the creed-like TeDeum. And most importantly, each Sunday we gather with Christians of all times and places, in the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, around the same Lord and receive His gifts.

That is who we are. And the liturgy teaches us who we are. That story is our story.

Which is why keeping and preserving the liturgy is such a priority in our day and age. That doesn't mean that everything always has to be done the same; that we have to have the same liturgy they used in Luther's day and before. No, there is room for every generation to make the liturgy their own - but that is quite a different thing than gutting it or throwing it out altogether. When the liturgy is adapted, it is still the same liturgy and recognizable as such. In our Lutheran Service Book, Divine Service settings 1-5 are different from one another, and yet at the same time have a unity about them. And as said above, these should be generational - not daily or weekly changes. That the life of the church be well-grounded, stable, and consistent.

So even as people come and go so much in our churches, the liturgy remains. As pastors come and go, the liturgy remains. As catechesis is not done as strongly as it should be, the liturgy remains. But when all of the above happens and the liturgy does NOT remain, but is sacrificed on the altars of relevance, popularity, newness, or change, what is left? The story is gone, the catechesis is gone, the anchor is gone, and the church is set adrift and often becomes a cult of personality - the personality of the pastor or programs, flashy building or coffee bars.

Is that not what we see in so many churches and places today? Yes, our true unity is in Christ - one Lord, one faith, one baptism - but we should not spiritualize this unity. For just as the Son of God became incarnate for us and for our salvation, so too our unity in Christ is "incarnated" in the liturgy. In words and water and bread and wine our Lord comes to us today for us and for our salvation, bringing His gifts of forgiveness and life. And so our unity is not purely "spiritual" (as Luther fought against with the enthusiasts) but neither is it merely physical (as Luther fought against with Rome) - it is both. The spiritual come in the physical, God using the physical things of this world to give us His spiritual gifts. And it is the liturgy that serves this end and serves us to this end.

1 comment:

Kyle Wright said...


If there is nothing more important for our churches today to get right is the right teaaching and administration of Word and Sacrament. With all the challenges of today that all of us expwerince, there is nothing more important than to come and be feed in the Word and sacrament.

I have talked with several pastors who in dealing with sick and dying, that wehn the visit and begin a Service in the Word, those frail a feeble people cWhy, the constnt of come alive and the words come rolling out of their moths. Why? Because the Church stayed constanct. Saint Athanasius has had a lot of turn over, but has also steadly grown. We have members who drive 40, 50, 60 miles just to be feed.

The contant has been the liturgy. AS you once told me, out of the whole week, it is the only time you have to rightly catechise your flock, to bind their wounds, and prepare them to be attacked and threatened for another week.

From the Eistle leason toady, when Paul talks about our earthly bodies and our eternal souls. It is the promise of God that He will alsways be constant and will never change. The He is there to take care of us and the promise of eternal salvation in His dear Son. That is the liturgy.

When the Captain of aship retires for the night, he give the course and heading. All his relief has to do is keep her on that course, not go joy riding around the ocean, but no matter, the weather or other circumstances, just keep the ship sterady on the assigneded course.

God has set a course for Saint Athanaious, and you in the stead of the God , must keep her on the course assined to her. He has given you the tools, equimpent and authority to keep her ture and steady.

God be with you
Kyle the Elder.