Tuesday, July 23, 2019
It ought to point you heavenward. . .
Sadly, the liturgy has often been bent or broken on this altar of narcissism. We have a long history of building horizontally so that the direction of both building and liturgy is on people and not on God. We deviate from the vocabulary of Scripture to find neutral terms for nearly everything important. We pump up the beat of the music to fit what we listen to on our play lists. We employ all the technology we love to use in our homes so that the sanctuary becomes a large living room and we watch screens rather than anything live. We make the liturgy a tool of our insatiable quest for constant and ever new entertainment. The liturgy has a direction, to be sure, but it no longer points heavenward.
Yet heavenward is exactly the direction the liturgy is supposed to point. The liturgy is our preparation for, indeed, a rehearsal for heaven. We are practicing for eternity right here in the moment filled with the gracious presence of God who comes to us in His Word and Sacraments to fulfill His eternal promises. He kills the body imprisoned to death and this world alone in our baptism and raises us up anew, from above, to live before Him now and eternally as His own new creation. He directs our wills and desires by the Spirit through the voice of His Word until the Law becomes not simply our duty but our delight. We may fail in its fulfillment but those justified in Christ cooperate with the Spirit in His work of sanctification. We are called to repentance, restored and renewed through the sacramental grace of God at work in confession and absolution. Told to go and sin no more, we take up anew our baptismal calling with clear consciences. We are fed and nourished along the way in our journey to the destiny of eternity with heaven's bread and salvation's cup, the very and precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. If this is not what worship is about, something is wrong, very wrong.
I well recall walking into Redeemer Lutheran Church in Ft. Wayne for the first time. It was 1973. On the wall on my way into the nave was This is none other than the House of God and this the Gate of Heaven. What a profound thought as one entered into the holy place, upon the holy ground of God's favor, to meet Him where He has made Himself and His gifts accessible through Word and Sacrament. It is God's House and what happens there happens at His bidding and toward His goal of restoring what was lost to Him in Eden. The liturgy points us there. It meets us here but it points us there. Architecture and art, music and liturgy, preaching and prayers all have the same heavenward direction -- in response to God's dwelling among us through the means of grace and with the power of His Spirit.
If this is not happening in your church, it ought to be. We do not get a vote in this or a voice in the decision. This is how God has ordered it. Read Hebrews. Read the Revelation to St. John. Everything that happens in God's House should point us heavenward and to the eternal home Christ has prepared for us and to whom He will bring us when He comes in His glory to finish His new creation. Maranatha!