Sunday, October 14, 2012
These are a few of my favorite things...
It almost seems sacrilege to the ear so tuned to Protestant ideas of worship, rooted in the individual and reflective of the individual choice. I fear that we as Lutherans would be hard pressed to agree with the sweeping statement I have quoted above. We have become, well, less Lutheran and so we tend to think of worship as the venue for conversion or the domain in which the individual expresses his or her faith, choice, and praise. We have forgotten much about who we are.
The liturgy is not our domain -- corporately or individually. It is the domain of Christ and the means of grace that deliver to us what Christ has done in the once for all sacrifice of His body and blood on the cross. It is the domain of the Church, more than merely the assembled congregation, in which the saints of old and the saints of today receive with joyful faith what Christ has done. It is not so much a moment in time as the timeless moment in which yesterday and tomorrow encroach upon today, bring the past to the present and in this mystery anticipating the future promised.
We guard the liturgy not because we have some slavish obedience to the past but because this liturgy keeps us from stealing worship away from the hands of Christ and making it into what we do, what we offer, and what we accomplish. It is entirely too easy for us to fall in love with our own voice in praise so that we forget who is being praised and, worse, forget that such praise is possible only when and where He has revealed Himself to us and given us permission to enter that mystery.
We Lutherans have become victims of our own insecurity so that we judge worship not by its faithfulness to Christ and His means of grace but by the fickle barometer of consumer appreciation. If the individual likes it, it must be good. If the individual wants more of it, why it must be great. All of this would be humorous were it not for the fact that it is so easy and so common to substitute our own desire and energy for the desire of the Father fulfilled in the Son and the for the energy of the Spirit in bringing to our awareness and trust the work of our Mediator and Redeemer.
The weird thing about it is that so many Lutherans have come to believe that liturgical worship is suspect with respect to Jesus admonition to worship in Spirit and in truth and the worship that reflects our desires and delights is somehow higher, more noble, more authentic, and more effective than that silly stuff by the book or by rote. The individual has taken our thinking captive and stolen worship right from the arms of the Lord who comes with the means of grace that makes it all possible. His Word is cast aside in favor of our own words. His gifts become second to the voice of our praise, the offering of our spiritual gifts, and the sincerity of our feelings. We are so in love with the idea that we love Jesus that His love for us has become secondary and almost inconsequential. But of course. Why wouldn't Jesus love us -- we are so lovable! It is God who is hard to love and so our love for Him is the greater achievement.
It is as if the most authentic worship of all is about me and what I think, feel, desire, and choose. Little do we realize that much of contemporary worship has more in common with the golden calf than that God of the cross.