And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42, ESV)
• Justin Martyr, First Apology c. 150 AD
To be honest, I do not get those who insist that the liturgy is a man-made patchwork of stuff hobbled together as needed or desired and therefore is nothing special, is open to ad hoc change, or may be omitted if desired or deemed necessary. I look back and see the liturgy implicit in the words of Acts 2, the writings of St. Paul (among them First Corinthians), Hebrews 10 and its lament of those who neglect the weekly gathering, and the pattern and shape of Revelation's heavenly worship. This past Sunday Jesus promises that where two or three gather in His name, He is there in their midst. How? Jesus own intention answers the question. His name is where His Word is, His Water, and His Table. Again, liturgy is implicit.
Now there are those who get all hot and bothered about page numbers -- as if that were the major battle before us as Lutheran Christians. I don't. The page number of the Divine Service you use is secondary. Lutherans have always understood themselves to be heirs of Justin Martyr and the great liturgical tradition of the West. It is a mark of our catholicity and our very identity as Christians of the Augsburg Confession (and the rest of those confessional documents that give us our shape and form.
Every once in a while I just have to sigh that we spend so much time and energy having to re-argue ourselves back into the liturgical tradition from which we were born, to which we confessed our identity, and for which we endeavored to begin the Great Reform. The Lutheran Reformation was not primarily an academic movement or a theoretical debate. It was a practical reformation born of a leader who was and still is known theologically as much by his preaching as by his teaching, whose major legacy to the movement he assisted came in the form of catechisms to teach the young and the teachers of the young, whose gift was music and hymnody as well as language and translation, who hoped for a revival of confession and absolution out of pastoral concern for his people, and who was at home at the altar as in the classroom.
I had one more conversation only a few days ago and it has left my nerves raw. Why is it that we must spend so much time arguing about that which the Confessions assumed? "Lutherans do not have to use any liturgy and it is like a tool that has broken and no longer works. So lets just find another tool...." That was the line that began it all... and it went downhill thereafter.... So I post this...