The Liturgy: Something to Treasure
I’m going to take a brave step and tell the world that I love the Lutheran liturgy in our hymnals. I know that this is a very controversial statement to make in public and could be viewed as crazy.
I never despised the liturgy. I was not one of those people who claimed the liturgy was boring, confusing, or out-dated. I bought into the belief that better, creative orders of worship were more desirable for attracting new church members. For this erroneous belief, I repent. Catechesis, maturity, and life experience have changed my opinion.
The reasons most people cite for not liking the use of the liturgy are reasons based on feelings.This article isn’t a deep theological piece of writing and won’t address any historical church facts. I just want to share why I love the liturgy from a purely practical and emotional stance.
I love the liturgy because:
The liturgy is God’s Word.
Prior to catechesis, I never knew that the liturgy quoted Scripture directly, most of which is put to music. Knowing the liturgy is knowing God’s Word.
The liturgy brings order.
I don’t like surprises.The liturgy has an order and purpose. The liturgy doesn’t change from week to week. I know what I am singing and saying, and I know when to kneel, stand, and sit.
The liturgy is trustworthy.
When using the hymnal’s liturgy, I can relax because it has passed theological review. When I attend a service with a newly created order of worship, I am in constant fear that what is in the worship folder may have theological errors, thus I do not feel comfortable in church. When one is busy having to read ahead and analyze what is printed, it is difficult to find the peace God wants to give. Not having a theological degree, I am never 100% sure that what I’m saying and hearing is God-pleasing.
The liturgy brings unity across churches.
When liturgies are used from synodically-approved hymnals, there is unity across churches. I can worship at a sister congregation across town and feel just as at home as my own church. I remember when you could walk into any LCMS church across the country and you’d feel right at home because of the use of the same liturgy.
The liturgy allows everyone to participate.
When a set group of liturgies is used, they become part of your memory. Children—pre-reading age—can learn the liturgy and sing along. Those with limited vision can rely on their memory and actively participate. Moms with babies in their arms or teens having to deal with a younger sibling can sing the liturgy. Your participation in the service is limited with newly created orders of worship if you cannot read the worship folder.
The liturgy allows God’s Word to be memorized.
As I watch my elderly mother in the nursing home, knowing the liturgy by heart becomes an important concept to me. My mother, who has periods of memory lapse, sings the liturgy from memory. She even sings the pastor’s parts. If my mom had attended a church with a new order of worship each week, what would she sing from memory? Young children also learn the liturgy through repetitive hearing. I felt great joy one day at school when I heard one of my non-reader students singing the Agnus Dei at the top of his lungs all by himself in the bathroom.
The liturgy can be used outside of church to give comfort and share God’s Word.
Having a liturgy that is committed to memory allows one to share God’s Word when no Bible is available. While recently visiting an elderly friend in the hospital, I found her medical condition far worse than what I had been told on the phone. I had no Bible or hymnal with me. I felt at a loss as to how to convey God’s Word to her for comfort. All I could think to do was sing the liturgy to her. Having known the liturgy her whole life, she calmed down and found peace.
I love our hymnals’ liturgies. I want all Lutherans to feel the same way about their heritage. I’m proud to tell anyone that our hymnals’ liturgies are not boring, too difficult to learn, or outdated. They are God’s Word. What could be better than that?