Friday, December 3, 2010

FW: Liturgical or A-liturgical

Why do we do what we do? Some thoughts…


Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Friday, December 03, 2010 7:29 AM
Author: (Pastor Peters)
Subject: Liturgical or A-liturgical


Had a conversation recently with someone about liturgical congregations and the few number that there are in the District where I am located.  The person disagreed and said most of the congregations and Pastors probably use the hymnal and the liturgy.  But, I said, they were using the hymnal and the liturgy not because they were convinced that the Divine Service and hymns were the apex of the way God delivers to us His grace in Christ and the arena in which the Holy Spirit works in us the faithful response.... rather, they were using the hymnal and the liturgy because it was what they thought they were supposed to do and because they did not know what else to do...  In other words, I would say liturgy was the default setting because they did not know what else to do -- not the choice setting because they understood the alternatives and were convinced that the liturgy and hymnal was the best for who we are as Lutheran Christians.

Where I grew up we always used the hymnal but the people in the pew were not informed as to the what or why of the liturgy -- it was simply what Lutherans did.  In several years of catechism, I did not learn -- nor was I taught -- anything about worship or liturgical worship or the Divine Service or the Church Year or hymnody.  We just did it because, well, we had the hymnals, and they were Lutheran, and we were Lutheran so... it was what we used.  I am still not sure the folks there could give you a solid answer as to why the hymnal or liturgy... They are not bad people -- but good, solid folks who want to do the right thing -- they just have not been well taught about the what or why of liturgical worship.

I do not think that there are many congregations (well, at least not enough) who know why they use what they use (liturgical or contemporary Christian worship).  We just do these things... In the case of congregations and Pastors using the liturgy and the hymnal but not sure what or why behind that choice, I would not classify them as liturgical.  They could be, but as yet, they are not.

For Lutherans to be liturgical, it means we know the Divine Service, we know the what of it and the why of it.  We have been taught it and not just in the sense of memorizing the responses and knowing what comes next in the order of things.  We know the choices (other than liturgical worship) and we are convinced that liturgical worship flows from our Lutheran identity and is the ratio that goes with our lex, the practice that flows from our Confessions.

I will admit that this is a fairly high standard to use to call a congregation and a Pastor "liturgical" but I think it is one I will stick with.  A lot of Lutheran congregations and Pastors use the liturgy but they are not liturgical (and this has nothing to do with how much or how little ceremonial or ritual is part of the liturgy).  It has to do with knowing what it is and why we use it... And this is where our catechesis has got to do a better job.  Without knowing what and why, it is almost certain that folks will end up either ditching the liturgy in favor of something else without thinking this has anything to do with a change in faith OR it will mean they will become traditionalistic (holding to a tradition which is not living at all but as dead as the light bulb of knowledge about what it is and why they use it).  Neither of those perspectives is attractive to me.  I want congregations and Pastors who are passionate and informed about the liturgy and hymnody and their value and how they flow naturally from our Confessions...

So, I guess I will put it out there... am I asking too much?

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