Sunday, March 18, 2018

What if it feels strange. . .

Every Sunday we include the following statement in the Sunday worship folder:

DON’T UNDERSTAND THE WORSHIP SERVICE? If it is your first time, some things may seem foreign.  Worship does not come naturally; we have to learn it. It does not come on the first try; the first hour in a foreign country, the language and customs may be foreign. The liturgy is the special activity of the baptized people of God.  It has its own special language like we do in our workplaces.  It has its own customs like we do in our families.  Every Sunday we learn more of worship and faith. The liturgy is where God reveals Himself to us and gives us His gifts.  Here we learn who He is and how to respond to Him. The words of worship come from the Scripture and its form has been used for 2,000 years. So don’t worry if it all seems strange.  You learn by practicing – being here every week!

It acknowledges the fact that the liturgy does not come naturally to us (even worship has become entirely foreign since the Fall).  We must be taught, tutored by the Word and by the tradition of the Church which is rooted and testifies to that Word.  It is a habit.  Regular worship and faithful worship is a habit -- every bit as healthful and good as brushing your teeth!  Even more so, because in the Word and Sacrament that are at the core and center of all we gather for in worship, forgiveness, life and salvation are promised and delivered to us.

Pastor Jared Melius of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, Denver, CO wrote the following on the stages of coming into the Lutheran Liturgy.  They, too, are helpful as we remember that this is a learned habit and that we move from stage to stage by frequent participation in the worship life of the Church within the Divine Service.  I pass on his words here:

  1. Confusion – where am I? what page? am I supposed to be standing or sitting?
  2.  Boredom – This is the most dangerous phase. At this phase, people begin to conclude that because the liturgy is repetitive, that it is therefore non-spiritual. This conclusion is hardly ever thought out as such. It is just a matter of impressions and feelings. This “feels” dry, dull, non-spiritual. And therefore, it must be from man and not from God.
  3. Love of the liturgy itself – If phase 2 didn’t drive people away from the liturgy, it is usually and ironically replaced by the love of the liturgy for the liturgy’s sake. Here people begin to love the “feeling,” the “reverence,” and the connection to history. They have a sense that this is old and therefore good. People in the depths of this phase can spend hours researching whether the Creed should come before the sermon or after, trying to find out which practice is more “ancient.” Truthfully, many pastors get stuck in this phase and endorse liturgical worship because it is older, more reverent, etc. Some of them leave for the Eastern church or the Roman church because they think they can get it more pure there.
  4. Love of the content – The liturgy is a conduit for Word of God and the means of grace. There isn’t, in my opinion, a better such conduit on the market. If there were, I myself would adopt it. In this phase, one uses the liturgy for the sake of the Gospel itself, not for the sake of the liturgy itself.
 My point is this -- don't give up and don't expect too much too quickly.  It took you a very long time to do the mundane things of feeding yourself and using the toilet.  Do not presume that infinitely greater things will come instantly.  Go to Church.  Go often.  Participate.  Read.  Learn. 


Carl Vehse said...

"What if it feels strange. . ."

Maybe because sometimes it is strange!

From a March 9, 2018, The Republic article, "Rabbi, Lutheran pastor to lead community Passover Seder":

The Rev. Chad Foster understands that perhaps as well as anyone since he fully functions in the world of both of those faiths. At St. Peter’s Lutheran Church [LCMS] in Columbus [Indiana], he serves as the pastor of life and community. But he also serves as an ordained Messianic Jewish rabbi (Messianic Judaism combines the elements of Judaism and his history with Christianity and the belief that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.)

"There’s a unity to it all," Foster often says. "And the reality is that both Christianity and Judaism need one another."

Foster will highlight that connectedness when he leads a Messianic Passover Seder at 6 p.m. March 31 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 12210 N. Executive Drive in the Taylorsville/Edinburgh area.

"In the church, I see a resurgence of interest in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the Jewish roots of Christianity for several reasons — and one of them might be that people are tired of the same old message of church," Foster said. "I see these as good, faithful people who truly want to connect to him and learn more about God."

"The Jewish mindset and the Hebraic worldview and the Eastern worldview is so new to them that it recharges them, like the spark they felt when they first came to faith. Some of them have not felt that excited about studying the Bible in years," he added.
[Emphasis added]

Elsewhere one can read the Messianic Jews' March 22, 2017, article, "Difference Between Messianic Judaism and Christianity."

And if you think "Messianic Judaism" is congruent with the Lutheran Confessions, then you will be interested in a similar movement, "Messianic Muslims," as discussed in "Churchless Christianity (Movements to Jesus / Insider Movements): An Evaluation from the Theological Perspective ofhe Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod."

Still waiting for the LCMS version of Messianic Atheism.

Anonymous said...

Love of Liturgy and love of content are not mutually exclusive and one does not cancel the other, although I can see Pastor Melius’ point which is also expressed as “Lutherans don’t like change” and are creatures of habit, clinging to what they know from childhood, blissfully ignorant, and not from any sense of some best practice for receiving the gifts of God. The problem with this observation is that it presumes to read minds and doesn’t allow for growth from hearing, week in and week out, the efficacious word of God that makes love of content even possible. Are we so perfunctory in our worship? No wonder the moderately religious are falling away in the droves leaving church worship to the intensely or intentional worshipers. Don’t be a nominal Christian. There is no future in it... at least not one you would want.

“In the emptiness of this present age keep us united by a living faith through the power of Your Holy Spirit with Him who is the resurrection and the life, that we may escape the eternal bitter pains of condemnation.” LSB p. 309

Kyrie eleison!