Wednesday, March 13, 2019
The key. . .
If a case can be made that the liturgy is key to understanding error in the church -- especially the loss of the liturgy and the use of worship forms that either conflict with or distract form the confession of the faith -- then it will be the restoration of the liturgy which will be key to the rebirth of the faith as a whole. Let me say that again. Far from being something indifferent, it was in liturgical loss that the decline of the faith began, then and now, and it will be in the recovery of the liturgy that the renewal of the faith will begin (as it did then, so now).
I have made the case before that liturgical change must be incremental and deliberate. Certainly, the changes that were the fruit of the liturgical movement now 50 years ago or more may not have been intended to engender a breach but they did. Even when the changes were less radical than Rome, say in the liturgical changes that affected Lutherans, a distinct change was soon followed by radical change. Among some Lutherans, the words of the liturgy (including the creed) became tradition unconnected to what is believed and among others the liturgy itself was seen as an impediment to outreach to the dechurched or unchurched who had no preference for it. In both cases, the distance from the liturgy and the faith believed, taught, and confessed has been a disaster for every church body.
Just as liturgical change accompanied, even if it did not cause, the rupture between the two lexi of credendi and orandi, the recovery of the liturgy will be the key to the restoration of the integral connection and its life lived out among the faithful on Sunday morning. It is not simply a matter or recovering doctrinal integrity but of recovering how it is that this doctrine is confessed and lived out within the life of the church for the faithful -- the liturgy. The liturgy is not and can never be itself a thing indifferent. The elaborate or simple ceremonial that accompanies it can rightly be called adiaphora -- not something indifferent but simply that which cannot bind the conscience -- but not the liturgy itself. We certainly do confess the faith but we also pray it on Sunday morning -- as a people who believe that God's Word and Sacraments deliver to us more than symbolism but efficaciously deliver what they sign and say to the people.
The liturgy is not a matter of personal taste but of the integrity of doctrine and life. Without such a deep and profound connection, the faith becomes cerebral and worship merely a matter of the heart. This is disaster. So, if I may, let me suggest that any renewal of the faith is inherently a renewal of worship, of the liturgy. If we got into our mess, at least in part, by introducing forms or an absence of forms in order to appeal to preference, then we will get out of this mess by restoring the form, the liturgy, and learning again to pray its words as well as believe and confess them. If the faith is the coffee, the liturgy is the cup from which we drink it. When the cup leaks, the faith will be lost.