Sunday, March 30, 2008

Oh, Fill us Lord...

In my last post, a question was asked about what I meant when I wrote about liturgy as: "Some days are good, some not so good."

So, if you'll allow me a little leeway, I'll try to explain in a roundabout way via something that happened at church this morning:

Now all the vault of heav'n resounds
in praise of love that still abounds:
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!"
Sing, choirs of angles, loud and clear!
Repeat their song of glory here:
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!"
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Eternal is the gift he brings,
therefore our heart with rapture sings:
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!"
Now still he comes to give us life
and by his presence stills all strife.
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!"
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Oh, fill us, Lord, with dauntless love;
set heart and will on things above
that we conquer through your triumph;
grant grace sufficient for life's day
that by our lives we truly say:
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!"
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Adoring praises now we bring
and with the heav'nly blessed sing:
"Christ has triumphed! Alleluia!"
Be to the Father, and our Lord,
to Spirit blest, most holy God,
all the glory, never ending!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Emotionally speaking I'm very low maintenance but I choked up on that third verse. That one verse sums up, with frightening clarity, my Christian vocation. Coupled with a beautiful (and well known) tune it was a powerful moment that is special because of its rarity. Made all the more powerful because the liturgy
set the stage. Like the setting of a precious gem, the liturgy should focus all our attention to the gem that is the Triune God and the means by which we know the Trinity: Baptism, Eucharist, and the Word (though not technically a sacrament seems to function like one). So when I say that some days are good (liturgically speaking), I mean days like today. It was good.

Alas, not every Mass is this good. For various reasons, some of the liturgical settings (there are ten of them!) in the ELW seem to be lacking. Unlike the Orthodox Divine Liturgy or the Roman Missal, Lutherans have more choice in liturgical settings. And with more choice comes more responsibility. Maybe this choice is our (Lutherans) cross to bear. Maybe this is God's way of showing us what is, and is not, right and salutary. I'd like to think so. I'm sure that in the fullness of time, consensus will emerge amongst worship leaders in the ELCA on which settings do the job, and which are dross. I am hopeful. The Spirit will guide us as always. In the mean time, I'll enjoy those Sundays when the liturgy is not just the liturgy but becomes that which moves us towards God.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Faith of our Fathers Lutheran Colloquium

A friend of mine who is going through the Orthodox catecheses shared a web page on a Lutheran to Orthodox colloquium which I have linked to the title of this posting. So far I've listen to:

The Church in Orthodoxy: Scratching the Surface



They are both quite interesting. In a nutshell both describe their spiritual movement from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy; the former stresses the ecclesial nature of the Orthodoxy church (i.e. the role of Bishop), the latter about the OC understanding of the hallowed Lutheran topic of justification. Not so surprisingly, both stress the importance of the liturgy in the life of the church. Coming as I do from a Lutheran church that actually does liturgy, it struck me that neither speaker had much of a rich liturgical experience when in Lutheranism. Of course I can only speculate as to the extent of their liturgical worship life, but if it's what passes as liturgy in the Lutheran church these days I'll bet it wasn't much.

As I said, my church does liturgy. For all of its faults at least in this case it has it right. Some Sundays are good; some not so good. But at least we live out our fellowship of, and worship in, Christ *through* the liturgy and don't try to water it down. Much has been said of the importance of liturgy in the Orthodox and Catholic traditions, but not much has been said about its importance in the Lutheran, much less, Protestant tradition. What a shame. No wonder people search and search for genuine spirituality; they get little of it from most church worship services. What an opportunity for the church! Maybe this explains the movement from Protestantism to Orthodoxy and Catholicism?