My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected. If not, visit
http://burrintheburgh.com
and update your bookmarks.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Liturgical Stuff: Why We Do It

When I was a pastor in Pittsburgh, for the first few years, I used to put a little blurb at the end of the Sunday bulletin called "Why We Do It." I should have kept doing it, but let it slip after a while. This was just a paragraph I wrote each week explaining the reason for some particular worship related practices. Why we bow at certain times. Why we make the sign of the cross. Why the pastor wears vestments. Why we take an offering. Why we stand for the reading of the Gospel. And so forth.

I got a lot of favorable responses to this, mostly from new church members, but also from life-long folks. What was the purpose? Sadly, the Lutheran church in America is experiencing nothing less than liturgical chaos. In our own biblically conservative denomination of Lutherans, the whole gamut exists.

I was talking with some seminarians this evening over beer and pizza about these matters. And here are a couple of my observations:

  • Recognize that you can't know another man's motives for doing something. "Oh, he is just being showy." Or "That person has no respect for the history of the church." Assume the best of others' intentions.

  • Give each other liberty. I won't judge you for not using incense or making the sign of the cross or using ashes on Ash Wednesday. Don't you judge me for doing so.

  • Don't misunderstand my call for liberty as a defense of liturgical chaos. Just because I think some things are not points to fight about does not mean I think anything goes. Doctrine and practice go together. Faith and life. Belief and worship. Substance and style. These things cannot be divorced from each other. You reflect your beliefs in your worship practices.

Sphere: Related Content

9 comments:

Chaz said...

These are great insights. Most of them only began to make sense to me on vicarage.

It was a great vicarage for many reasons, but chief among them were:

1) My pride and arrogance, particularly my opinion that I knew what people's thoughts and motivations were, were utterly crushed.

2) I saw liturgical worship at its best, with people who knew what they confessed by it.

3) I started reading a lot of Luther and learned what binds us and what doesn't, and started to learn the humility to let that guide me.

I still fail in every area, all the time, but I know what direction to make the baby steps in now.

Carl Vehse said...

CPH published a informative but easy-reading (for children and new Lutherans) book on the Lutheran liturgy, Worshiping with Angels and Archangels, (CPH, 2006, $6.99).

It uses excerpts from the Lutheran Service Book, Divine Service I.

Preachrboy said...

Scott,

Would you be willing to post those notes for others to download and use?

VirginiaLutherans said...

I am sure all of that time on the bus with the Kantorei has provided invaluable insight into their thoughts and hopes. I also hope a little parish wisdom flows the other way! ;-)

I think Western society in general has suffered a kind of amnesia. We have forgotten the age-old distinctions and why things were done. Then we have to reinvent and rediscover everything all over again. This applies to Christianity as well. We have forgotten the fundamentals. I try to answer the why when it comes up, either to my kids or a fellow layman. Personally, the best place to start is with your kids. They force you to check on the most basic things, things you take for granted. Besides, inevitably someone will ask them "Why?" I want them to be ready with an answer. And if I don't know it, I need to find it out and show them how to do so (another valuable lesson).

I would like to see a little thing occasionally on your blog about the "Why"'s. I think we all could use the reminder.

Pastor David said...

Thank you for your great reminders. It is so easy to get self-righteous and pig-headed about litugical practices.

And thanks for the great idea about the "Why" blurbs, I think that may be something I start doing.

Happy New Year

Dan said...

I used to make the Ash Wednesday ashes out of the previous year's hate mail.

Melissa said...

I loved reading your "why" blurbs. It was always nice getting more information and/or a different perspective. It was a creative way to include an additional “little lesson”. I agree that it would be a great addition to your blog if you were able.

Melissa said...

I loved reading your "why" blurbs. It was always nice getting more information and/or a different perspective. It was a creative way to include an additional “little lesson”. I agree that it would be a great addition to your blog if you were able.

Seminarist Osbo said...

I've seen this done in several places, and it is always well received. It's amazing how people will cling to the liturgy and tradition even more once they understand why we do what we do.

Do you still have any of those paragraphs or did they all stay at the church?

New Curriculum at Concordia Theological Seminary