Monday, July 11, 2011

Liturgy, Hymnody, Confession.... the Ballast that Keeps the Ship of the Church Aright

It is not hard to see what happens to a ship without ballast.  In the old days lead was used as weight, sometimes the very material of the keel, in order to keep the sailing ship upright in the wind.  Modern ships are in no less need of weight to secure them upright upon the sea and a ship without ballast is like a ping pong ball bouncing upon the waves (except that a ship has a definite right side up and right side down).

The same is true of the ship of faith that is the Church.  She is in great need of ballast.  All throughout Scripture this ballast is both hinted at and directly pointed out.  When St. Paul speaks of holding fast the tradition, or passing on that which he received from the Lord, or the great deposit of the faith, we see this in obvious and clear reference.  When the Old Testament merely identifies its faith with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we see a hint of the weight of their God-given history as the anchor or ballast to secure them upon the waves of change and chance.

We live in a time when such things are not seen in such positive light when it comes to the Church (though we still sing the oldies, eat the classic cuisine of our past, and pay homage to the traditions of yesteryear in sports).  The great danger which we face is not so much a change in direction.  The ship of the Church, like the great ocean liners of the past, does not turn on a dime or slow down or speed up quickly.  The great danger is that we are convinced we can pick up speed by casting off dead weight.  Our modern era sees such tradition as the deadest of weights to be cast off.  We desire more to be a cutting edge church body than a stable and secure one.  We live guided more by our fears and our anxieties than our confidence and trust.  It is at this time that need most of all to be reminded of the need for ballast to keep the ship upright.  Liturgy, hymnody, and confession (creeds included here) are the ballast with which the Church remains upright upon the roaring seas of chance and change.  When we ditch the ballast, we almost guarantee that we will get it wrong and distort and disfigure the faith.  When the ballast is the only thing we care about, we almost guarantee that we will merely sit in safe harbor and never move.  No, we need the ballast not only to be upright but also to move as God leads and guides His Church.  The tension between missionary zeal and liturgical identity is a healthy one and no church body can afford to take sides.  It is not one or the other but a both/and that guards our ship from capsizing and enables us to move as God has called us.

[Check out Bo Giertz, "Liturgy and Spiritual Awakening"  or read it HERE.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The church has an obligation to keep
certain components of public worship
in use: The invocation of the triune
God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
the public confession of sins and
absolution, the reading of Scripture
with O.T. lesson, Epistle, Gospel.
sermon with law/gospel dynamic,
confession of the Apostles/Nicene
Creed, prayers, Lord's Prayer, hymns,
Sacrament of the Altar, offering of
tithes, and Benediction. This would be the basic content of a
liturgical service.