It Works For All Of Us

To the typical Lutheran, to some on the liturgical side of the aisle even, liturgy is basically insider stuff and the rubrics however the polite etiquette of these who gather for the liturgy. All this is within a stark contrast to the world outside and the objective to the people in the world unconnected from what takes place inside.

This is all very neat and tidy. It relieves those who wish to be set aside from suffering the world – at least during the liturgy. In addition, it relieves those who do not need to be set apart from needing to react wholly within the liturgy. It works for all those.

The grand presumption is that those who value the liturgy do not value missions and the similarly grand presumption is that those who value the mission care almost nothing about liturgy. At least that is our story and the majority of the people would prefer to stick with it than to disrupt stereotypes with the reality.

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In fact, the distinctions are more artificial than substantive. They have been created by us up to justify ourselves. It is quite convenient to write off people according to our stereotypes which is precisely what has been done for some time. There are those people who have disputed this characterization. I think of Bo Giertz and his masterful pamphlet Liturgy and Spiritual Awakening. But we listen seldom.

So instead of attending to and admitting the fallacy, we have fostered it. The liturgical types snicker at the real way the missions play cathedral just like a religious entertainment and variety show. The missions snicker at the costumes and rituals of the liturgical. It works for all those. It really proved helpful for David Luecke when he attempted to put distance between evangelical Lutheran and style material. And it has worked for individuals who insist that the liturgy is only for individuals who already are the folks of God by baptism and faith. But both sides have missed something. The liturgy is not some peculiar language and etiquette of public people who meet behind closed doors.

No indeed. The liturgy is the means by which God posits His Church in the world and the means by which the Church addresses the world with God’s existence and His protecting acts. The liturgy is not self-referential, but neither is the mission to the world. The Church does not exist for itself nor does it exist even exclusively for God. God has made His Church to be the means of His existence and the voice of His Word to the people who have no idea His presence and who have not heard His voice. The neat and tidy divorce between kerygma and liturgy is today’s invention.

Think of this old story of the areas of the Christianization of Russia. The emissaries went their way, and when they arrived at their destination they beheld the disgraceful actions of the Bulgars and their worship in the mosque; then they returned to their own country. Vladimir then instructed them to go likewise among the Germans and examine their faith, and lastly to visit the Greeks.

They thus proceeded to go into Germany, and after viewing the German ceremonial, they proceeded to Constantinople where they made an appearance prior to the emperor. He inquired on what objective they had come, plus they reported to him all that had occurred.When the emperor noticed their words, he rejoiced, and do them great honor on that very day.