Tuesday, September 3, 2019
The power of unity. . .
Diversity is great unless and until a moment like that appears and the call to speak from down deep in the soul summons us beyond our divisions, preferences, and taste. That, my friends, is the power of the liturgy known and prayed until it is a part of you. That is the fruit of a common history and a common life together. It moved us beyond ourselves and past a tense moment. That is no small thing.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been with a family around a bed side and been told that mom or dad has not opened eyes or spoken for hours or days. And then come the familiar words. The Lord be with you. And the response, buried deep within causes the lips to move. Whether the creed or the Our Father or the confession and absolution, these words have been carved so deeply into the soul of the person on the edge of consciousness that they become the trigger to awaken them, if only for a while, to the present moment. That is the power of unity and liturgy.
It was once said that if you went to a Lutheran church anywhere in America, you would encounter the same words on Sunday morning, the same Scripture readings, some of the same hymns, and even, perhaps, the same tunes. That day has passed and I am not ready to hide in history but I cannot but lament the kind of unity such a common life reflected to the people gathered and to the world watching. We may not ever get back there, even within our own Synod, but that does not minimize the power of a common life in a common liturgy to bind the diverse into one voice speaking as one body.
Some will laugh at this. It is no laughing matter. I wonder what the legacy of diversity will be for our Lutheranism down another age or generation. Will there ever be a common vocabulary, a common text, and a common tune to draw the diverse together again -- especially in tense and troubled times. The liturgy with its familiar and repeated language forms us together even more than the will and desire of a people who say they are one. That is what Chaplain Weedon was able to draw upon in a moment that needed it. Every parish pastor knows the value of this. But sometimes we forget the power of unity.