Saturday, August 6, 2011
Good Words from an Unlikely Source
The liturgy, in fact, displays a similarity to a hardy tree, the beauty of which shows a continual renewal of leaves, but whose fruitfulness of life bears witness to the long existence of the trunk, which acts through its deep and stable roots. In liturgical matters, therefore, no real opposition should occur between the present age and previous ages; but all should be done so that, whatever be the innovation, it be made to cohere and to concord with the sound tradition that precedes it, and so that from existing forms new forms grow, as through spontaneously blossoming from it.
The words above represent a thorough going consistency with what we read in the Introduction to Lutheran Worship (the hymnal).
The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psahns, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition. How best to do this we may learn from his Word and from the way his Word has prompted his worship through the centuries. We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition. Each generation receives from those who went before and, in making that tradition of the Divine Service its own, adds what best may serve in its own day-the living heritage and something new.
Lutheran Worship, within its compass, seeks to carry forward the great heritage and add something new.
I have said for a long time that the Church moves slowly and that this is by design. The kingdom of God is not invented in each new and succeeding generation nor is the life and worship of this kingdom reinvented with the same regularity. Rather it grows -- deliberately by God's grace and mercy. So also the life and worship of this kingdom also grows but deliberately and slowly, maintaining its solid connection with what was passed down and adding to it only the best of the present that is worthy and will endure and then passing this on to those who are to come.
Whenever we have forgotten this and try to jump light years beyond our past of liturgy and confession, we inevitably get in trouble -- like the ship without power or rudder that gets tossed upon the sea of the present. Our ability to navigate through the present and that we may have something to pass on to those to come are both entirely dependent upon our connection to the moorings of our past, sifted and sorted so that the best and most faithful of what was, becomes the "is" of our life together now, and what is the best and most faithful of what we add becomes the "will be" of tomorrow.
For a tree to grow well and to endure storm and season, it must be deeply rooted, oriented toward the sun (Son), and given room to send forth its branches and leaves. Such is the authentic growth and evolving nature of the liturgy (and hymnody, I might add).