Another great stolen line -- this one from my longtime friend and mentor, the Rev. Charles Evanson, speaking at a St. Michael Conference. He used the line to describe how the Pietists had retained the form but emptied the form of any real significance or influence upon their faith and piety. It was as though they put on a set of clothing for Sunday morning but took off the stiff, ill fitting, and uncomfortable clothing to be the real me (the real Christian).
This is the state of things for many Lutherans. They are not those who have abandoned the hymnal or who have cast aside the liturgy. They have no screens or praise bands. They have no contemporary replacement for the familiar page numbers. They follow the liturgy but their heart is not in it. They do what they do on Sunday morning but what they do on Sunday morning, apart from the preaching of the Word, has little to do with their faith and piety in the week. These are bread and butter, salt of the earth kind of Lutherans and yet they see the liturgy as Sunday clothing and not a real reflection of who they are.
Growing up I saw the pastors change but they all stood in the same place at the same time in the Sunday service and they all seemed to follow the same directions. They were not high church or liturgical in the way we might characterize folks who have more ceremonial or ritual. Indeed, they are often very strong anti-Catholic folks when it comes to the ceremonial of the liturgy. But even in their low or broad church liturgical style they still stand out from the landscape of much of rather anti-liturgical Christian America. They follow the hymnal because it is their hymnal and they are Lutheran but their heart is not in it and they do not live in the liturgy.
Though the worship wars usually focus upon the fringes -- those who have cast off all remnant of liturgical identity versus those who love to debate the proper places and manner of censing during the Divine Service -- the real worship war is between those for whom their faith and piety live in the liturgy and are shaped from the liturgy and those whose faith and piety are at home somewhere else. The work of liturgical renewal is not the restoring of the ceremonial from one source or one period or another, it is for the faithful to be at home in the liturgy and to live their faith from the Divine Service. The work of liturgical renewal is not the recapturing of a pristine moment from the past but to recover the piety that is at home in the liturgy and the faith that is formed and shaped by the means of grace within the Divine Service. The work of liturgical renewal is not about the recovery of Eucharistic vestments or chanting or a host of a hundred other catholic forms but the so that we may live within the Divine Service and our lives of faith flow from that encounter with the Crucified and Risen Lord within the liturgy of Word and Table. This is the real worship war and it is fought not between the fringes but for and among those who use the liturgy but do not live there.
Pastor Evanson taught me this. He showed me that Sunday morning was not foreign to your piety and life as a Christian but the essential place where this faith and piety is formed and from which we live the baptismal vocation out. Would that all Lutherans learn to be at home with the Lord in the liturgy, where the means of grace are lived out for us, among us, and through us.