Some years ago I was asked by another Lutheran Pastor what I "did" on Easter. He was thinking that things were beginning to get a little routine and dull and said, "We need to spice it up a bit..." Maybe some of you have thought like this as well. After all it is Easter (or Christmas) and we should not just do the same old stuff we do every other Sunday. We need to find something to spice it up a bit and make it special.
The problem with this thinking is that the liturgy here is seen as a tool (in the hand of the Pastor or parish musician or worship committee or whomever...). In this respect, the Pastor who spoke with me viewed worship through the very same lens as those who practice CCW (contemporary Christian worship, for the non-initiated). What you do in worship is merely a tool to get you somewhere, to facilitate something else. Now the Pastor who spoke with me was very "traditional" and never strayed too far from the hymnal, yet, he saw the liturgy as routine, dull, and even, perhaps, boring. At least too much so for Easter.
The problem with this is that despite which tools you use (form of liturgy or lack of a form) the liturgy is merely a means to get you somewhere. Therein lies the problem. The liturgy is the place where you need to go -- it does not take you somewhere else but is itself the destination. This is NOT because the liturgy claims this for itself but because the liturgy IS the Word of God sung and said, the liturgy is the framework on which our Lord speaks to us the voice of absolution for our sins, the voice of truth in the lessons, and the food of His body and blood in the Supper. This is what the liturgy is -- Word and Table -- structured and supported over the centuries through the words of Scripture and the voice of the Church (summarizing that Word) so that it is the destination.
This is what is so misunderstood on both sides of the worship wars. The liturgy is not some human form foisted upon us but the pattern (and even words) of the Synagogue and Upper Room, the worship Jesus participated in while He walked this earth (the Liturgy of the Word) and the worship He instituted (both the absolution and the Supper). The liturgy conveys Christ to us. It does not exist for its own sake as if some traditional form was worthier than some modern day form. We value it and its value to us is because it conveys Christ to us, as it has across the millenia of the Church's existence and life. There have been times of renewal and times of loss within the Church and her history but the steady constant has been (and we pray shall always be) the Liturgy of the Word and of the Table.
This fellow wanted to spice things up. This we do not do. Sure, we may had brass or special choral music or palms or a host of other things... but not to spice things up a bit. No, if and when these things detract from the liturgy itself and from the Christ whom the liturgy reveals, then these things must also be removed. When the Church gathers on Easter to celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord, the liturgy ensures that it is this crucified and risen Lord who is in our midst (through the Word and Sacrament, the means of grace) and that the focus is on Him who was dead and now is alive forevermore. If this is not enough for us, a little spice is not going to improve what it is that is present in the liturgy and the Christ who comes to us through His Word and Sacrament (which is the flesh and blood of the liturgy). The additional ceremonial or attendant actions or music flow from what it is that is being celebrated (such as Easter) but the liturgy is always enough for whatever the season, feast, festival, or day.
Those who promote the liturgy are not promoting a form or style but the Christ who is the center of the liturgical assembly, whose absolution prepares us to enter the holy of holies, whose Word speaks efficaciously, and whose Table feeds us upon heaven's food of bread His Body and wine His blood. This is the steady constant in the lives of the people gathered and in the life of the Church over the centuries. To lose it, is to lose our very identity and Christ's presence among us. We dare not treat it as a tool toward an end or regard it as something routine that needs spicing up for special effect. Christ is that special effect.
We do not believe in Holy Communion in general. We believe in THE Holy Communion of a people gathered in the name of Jesus, in the House of God, around the Table of our Lord. It is a doctrine which we participate in, not some general truism. The same for the Word. We believe in THE Word that speaks as it has always spoken, the life-giving Word that does what it says and accomplishes His purpose in speaking it. It is the Word which draws us in and sends us forth, transformed by grace.
Well, enough meandering for today. . .