Sunday, January 30, 2022

Fitting. . .

There is nothing that keeps people at church more than good preaching. The true adornment of the churches is godly, useful, and clear doctrine, the devout use of the Sacraments, fervent prayer, and the like. Candles, golden vessels, and similar adornments are fitting, but they are not the specifically unique adornment belonging to the Church.—Ap XXIV:50, 51.

With these words the Apology admits the obvious.  The people are drawn to worship with clear, doctrinal preaching that applies the faith to them in their daily lives, the reverent use of the Sacraments, and the devoted prayer of God's people.  Everyone knows this.  It is as true today as it was nearly 500 years ago.  Everyone who loves the liturgy knows this and believes this.  Reverent worship is not a substitute for good preaching but its accompaniment.  Together the are a powerful duo.  Taking seriously the doctrine of the Word of God and administering faithfully the Sacraments are the foundation for good and faithful liturgy.   Prayer flows from good preaching and a sacramental piety.  But only a fool chooses from these as if they were a buffet of goodness.  Those hungry for the faith are hungry for it all -- the best of Biblical and orthodox preaching, the reverent and devout administration of the Sacraments, and prayer that believes God hears and answers.

The rest of that quote, however, does not disparage candles, golden vessels, adornments, ceremony, ritual, and the like.  These are fitting, says the Apology.  Fitting means right and appropriate and good.  What they are not is a substitute for good preaching, devout use of the Sacraments, fervent prayer, and so on.  Again, no one should argue for this and, to be honest, I know nobody who does.  I certainly do not.  No honest proponent of good, liturgy and ceremony should suggest otherwise.  But no one should disparage these things either.  They have their place.  They are fitting.  They are appropriate and in the service of these things they fulfill their place and purpose.  They are not in the way of the Gospel as some insist or extraneous as others demur or Romanist hangovers as some complain.  This is also part of who we are, what we do, and how we live out our piety on Sunday morning.  They do not replace or compete with good preaching, the devout use of the Sacraments, and the fervent prayer of the faithful but complement them and go together with them -- the fitting external part of the internal faith and piety formed by God Himself working through the Word proclaimed and the Sacraments administered.  Too much is argued from the standpoint of preference and too little is heard about how these work together, the means of grace and the fitting practices of reverence and ritual that accompany them.

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