Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Liturgy is doctrine. . .

There is a part of me that is mystified with the seeming acceptance of so many that worship is a style, that what you do on Sunday morning is not intimately connected with what you believe, and that you can use Sunday morning as a program to grow or educate or comfort the people of God.  Strangely, there are many who do not want their congregation to deviate from the hymnal but who are not troubled by what passes for Lutheran worship in congregations within their fellowship that have no hymnal and do whatever seems good in their eyes.  Why is it okay for a church body to be all over the page on Sunday morning?  Far from strict uniformity, we ought to at least have hope for a common identity.  And that is found in the faith prayed that is called the Liturgy.  

Liturgy is doctrine. If it isn't, why do we sing and speak it?  As the sainted Dr. Franzmann put it -- theology must sing.  Liturgy is theology sung and prayed and confessed.  It is doctrine.  Those who disagree are fools or naive.  That is why we are concerned about what happens in worship.  Doctrine informs the minds and shapes the heart.  Our fanciful and sentimental attempts to be relevant and urgent are pathetic and empty but doctrine is life.  That is why what happens in worship is such a big deal -- it must be the orthodox and catholic doctrine and not some sectarian truth.  The heart and mind of the faithful who meet in this worship are not only fed but taught what to hunger for and learn to hunger for more doctrine.  Liturgy is not an end (as the liberals would think who keep the forms but empty the words of their meaning) but it moves us to God by confessing God, praying back to God what He has said to us, and responding to His gracious acts with praise and thanksgiving.

Even those who consider themselves conservative have told me that what happens in other congregations should not be my concern.  At least that is said when I raise a question about the evangelical style seeker services that parade as Lutheran.  Strangely though, they tell me that I am oblivious to the dangers of too much ceremony and how that it is not Lutheran.  What is the greater threat to Lutheranism?  Is it in the congregations who add to the compromise of our published liturgy words and ceremonies that were there before but not now OR is it in the congregations who reject the published liturgy of our church in favor of a worship style without a confessional brand?  Worse, what is more dangerous to our people?  The idea that you can worship as you desire (what scratches your itch or amuses you most) and that has nothing to do with what it is you believe OR the idea that how you worship and what you believe are intimately connected?

Oddly enough, Rome has found itself where we are as Lutherans.  Those terrible traddies who insist upon reverence and the ancient forms and words are considered threats while those who turn the mass into a party and the Divine Service into an amusement park are not threats.  Really?  As I have said once and a hundred times, the most radical thing you can do is to take seriously what the liturgy confesses and to order the ceremonies of that liturgy to what the words say.  If you want to be unorthodox today, be orthodox in confession and piety.  Believe you me, that will get you in trouble.  But if you stats look good and you are building bigger airline terminals for God (and calling them church) and sending folks away with empty wallets and feet still tapping to the beat of the music, it does not matter what jurisdiction you are under, they will tolerate, approve, and laud you.   

Liturgy is doctrine.  That is why Luther could not tolerate those parts of the mass that obscured the Sacramental Grace and replaced God's act with ours.  Liturgy is doctrine.  That is why Luther heralded anew the role of sermon as the words of God and not simply moralistic encouragements to make better behaved people.  Liturgy is doctrine.  That is why the Lutherans confessed their faith in liturgical words and connected what they believed to what happened on Sunday morning.  It is about time we remembered to do the same.  Before it is too late. . .

1 comment:

Timothy Carter said...

Excellent meanderings, Pastor.
The Liturgy this past Easter Sunday was uplifting indeed. Choir and music was a "foretaste of the feast to come." Pastor Becker's gold lama vestments were stunning.
Liturgy is doctrine and the Pastor and the people nailed the liturgy and the Doctrine here in Kingsport, TN. this Easter Sunday.
Thank you for your blog...it keeps the Easter high going into the long, dark, lonely week.
Timothy Carter, simple country Deacon.