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.