The Durability of the Liturgy (Liturgy Part Five)

So far in sharing with you my appreciation for the historic liturgy I have discussed its tone of reverence, its saturation with Scripture, its enabling full participation of the gathered worshippers, and its expression of a common bond with other congregations, both present and throughout history.

This week I want to share with you the liturgy’s expression of durability. It can be very comforting to have something solid to stand on!

It has been said that the one constant is change. With the rapidly changing landscape connected with technological innovation, the need to adapt and relearn is relentless. Someone has described our modern age as “liquid modernity”. Every place you try to take a stand, not only shifts, but shifts so quickly that it is like trying to stand on water.

In an attempt to attract worshipers many congregations have been offering so-called “Contemporary Worship Services”. By that, they usually mean that the forms and means of leading worship follow the trends and fads of the times. Of course, the offering of any and all worship is contemporary, in that it is being offered at the moment it is being offered.

Aside from my observation that “Contemporary Worship” often does not use Scriptural language, is often folksy (not elevated or reverent), has minimal participation, and accentuates the uniqueness of the congregation; it is in a constant state of flux. That is because contemporary fads are constantly changing.

It strikes me that entertainment necessarily follows trends and fads. But is the Divine Service to be thought of as entertainment? Is the emphasis to be on performance and attracting an audience? If in fact God is giving himself to us in Word and Sacrament, our rightful and beneficial response is to offer a sacrifice of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving!

In the historic liturgy the worshiper is grounded in that which is time-honored and enduring. That which has carried and formed worshippers for two millennia is solid ground to stand and rest upon. This transcends trends and fads. It bespeaks of the permanence of God’s Kingdom.


Since You Asked…

What does the Pastor’s Stole signify? (the stole is the colored strip of cloth that loops around the back of the neck and hangs from both shoulders)

The stole represents a yoke such as would be used to link and employ an ox with a plow or cart. When a work animal is yoked to a task, that animal comes under the rule and guidance of its master. As Christians we are to be yoked to Christ (cf. Mt. 11:28-30). We are to fear, love, serve, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ. The Pastor’s stole is therefore not only a sign of ordination in the Lutheran Church, but it visibly reminds the whole congregation of our servanthood to Christ.