Saturday, April 1, 2023

Hardly adiaphora. . .

There are those who love adiaphora and use it as license to do literally as they please on Sunday morning.  Lutherans have allowed this refusal to force exact uniformity of rite and ceremony to turn into something it was never meant to be -- an inventive liturgy on Sunday morning that is new and different as pleases either presider or people.  Adiaphora ought to be mean a refusal to legislate certain things without on the other hand presuming that because we do not set up a rule, the matter is unimportant and a thing indifferent to the faith.  In fact, there is no way that the liturgy itself is ever judged adiaphora by our Confessions.  Thanks be to God for it.

The conservative character of the liturgy is its best quality and a hermeneutic of continuity is the best practice.  The liturgy has voice though not necessarily veto over everything as it works to provide an anchor amid the curious, the trend, the fad, and the moment.  More than this, its very nature as Scripture said and sung allows it the ability to pass on and preserve the truth and the values that surround that truth that endure forever.  When a particular moment or point of view forgets or intentionally disregards what is eternal and preserved liturgically, the faith lives on in spite of us.  We all know that the history has been a series of unfortunate and often catastrophic pendulum swings in which the faithful have been pawns either of the times or that part of the Church that embraces the times.  Without the liturgy to anchor our faith and recall us to it in the liturgical rhythm of Sunday and season, where would we be?

Where would we be if the liturgy had not been there to counter the persecution and pressures of a secular world trying to intrude upon the earliest expression of Christianity?  Where would we be if a determined liturgical conservatism had not resisted the various views and devotional practices along the way that would have surrendered the eternal to the individual, to reason, to emotion, to mere morality?  Where would we be if the slow evolution of the liturgy had not countered the willingness of modernity to give up the transcendent entirely in favor of a present and horizontal focus upon the faithful instead of the Lord and His gifts?  It has all worked to our advantage that even within the Lutheran Reformation the voice of the radicals was tempered by the practice of the conservatives -- right down to the work of the Common Service to restore what had been lost.  We can give thanks for the liturgy and the creed that is confessed within it for teaching us what we believe, how to pray, and what the Lord has accomplished for us in Christ -- all when at many times and in various ways they were neither in vogue or popular at the time.  Preserving the liturgy, the ceremonies of the liturgy, a lectionary set of propers for every Sunday, feast, and season, and even vestments have all conspired for us and not against us to help preserve the form of the faith when its content was being emptied by one heresy or another.

No, the liturgy is not alone nor should it ever be -- it is always accompanied by faithful preaching and catechesis.  No one would would say otherwise.  But when such preaching has been tested and found wanting and catechesis has waned, the liturgy was there as the anchor of the faith and of the faithful.  For this reason alone, we need to discourage those who play with the liturgy as if it were of little importance and to continue to recall us to the minimal standard of the hymnal.  That is not April Fools but the wisdom of the ages!

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