Thursday, February 2, 2017
It all works together or nothing really works. . .
How can the Church teach rightly when she cannot pray rightly? How can the Church evangelize rightly when she cannot teach rightly? How can the Church pray rightly when she cannot believe rightly? These are fully connected and integrated and when one suffers, like Paul's analogy of the body, all suffer.
What are we bringing people to if we have no clear identity, confession, and practice of the means of grace where Christ is present with the fullness of His death won gifts? What are we doing but going through the motions if ceremonies are not born of faith confessed and doctrine believed? What are we teaching if we have no confidence in the truth of what is believed and why are we teaching if we do not believe the Spirit acts through the Word to accomplish His saving purpose? Why do we live with a schizophrenia of attention and concern for right doctrine and then act as if anything goes (as long as we are sincere) on Sunday morning.
But the center of it all is the liturgy, what happens on the Lord's day, in the Lord's house, around the Lord's Word and the Lord's Table. The liturgy is font and source and it is also the goal and summit. Everything we do flows from this gathering of the faith at the Lord's bidding and anything worthy that we do returns right from whence it has come.
Ratzinger got it right as Cardinal and as Pope. We Lutherans have been saying this for nearly 500 years. The liturgical identity of the Church is not a burden or command laid upon people as condition of their salvation but it is the means by which they are assured that this faith is true, this faith is catholic, and this faith is apostolic. The problem in Rome is that it only found out what harm undoing a worship tradition can do when it was already done. The problem in Lutheranism is that we toy with the worship tradition of our Confessions as if it were not serious business and we have inadvertently (or perhaps deliberately) adopted a stance toward Sunday morning that has allowed us to hide behind the face of Protestantism or evangelicalism (what we think works or people want) that has effectively communicated to our people that the what of worship is personal preference and that doctrine can be kept in theory but practice may vary. No matter who you think said it, we Lutherans are living proof of it. In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not. Or, to use the idiom of the marketplace, your mileage may vary depending upon actual conditions.
Until we learn that protecting dogma is not enough if we keep it to ourselves and forget who we are on Sunday morning, pure doctrine is worthless. Until we learn that we have nothing to tell others unless we have doctrinal integrity and worship integrity consistent with that doctrine, we have nothing to say to them. Until we learn that the liturgy may be perfect but unless we believe what it says and meet Christ with faith where He has promised to be, we are doing nothing. It all works together or nothing really works. That is what lex orandi lex credendi means.