The Comprehensiveness of the Liturgy (Liturgy Part Six)

Although tempted to continue, I believe this will be the final week of sharing with you my reasons for cherishing the historic liturgy of the Church.

So far those reasons have included the liturgy’s tone of reverence, its saturation with Scripture, its enabling full participation of the gathered worshippers, its expression of a common bond with other congregations, both present and throughout history, and its expression of durability and permanence.

My concluding argument has to do with the comprehensive scope of the liturgy. To cite but one example in the Divine Service from the Lutheran Book of Worship, the brief order for confession and forgiveness reads, “Merciful God, we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.”

That pretty well covers any imaginable sin we might be guilty of!

The prayer continues to read, “For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we might delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.”

During the silence following this confession the individual worshiper is able to call to mind specific sins prompted by this inclusive confession of sins. And then he is able to hear the absolution.

In similar fashion of being wide-ranging the rest of the liturgy brings to mind the mission of the Lord Jesus, which begins to unfold already in Genesis, to all the nations and even includes the redemption and renewal of the whole creation. Particular Sundays may emphasize more narrow themes, but not without a much wider context. And with the aid of a lectionary, all the Biblical themes are rehearsed each year.

Since You Asked…

Why do we say in the Creeds that Jesus Christ “is seated at the right hand of the Father”? Does this mean that our Lord is far away from us?

This has little to do with Christ’s physical location. Instead it has to do with the authority he assumes. For a King to be seated on a throne is a symbolic gesture of his rule and authority. Heaven itself is a reality that transcends time and space. It is the unseen and timeless realm that underlies the visible and temporal world. We confess Christ to be seated at the right hand of the Father because we believe him to be the rightful King of the universe. Indeed, Jesus is Lord!