Why do I use the liturgy? Reason # 5

Guest article by Pr. Bruce Timm.

Previous articles, reasons 1-3, found here; reason 4 found here.

 

Why do I use the liturgy?

Reason #5.  The liturgy teaches the young and sustains the old.

BJS_BruceTimmThis is one of the chief pastoral reasons I use the liturgy.  I grew up in the 70s.  I remember everything was an experiment.  I had three different catechisms growing up.  I went to youth gatherings where we tried something new every time.  When I first became a pastor I was a little more open to variety.  But experience as a pastor and father has brought me to believe that the liturgy is the very best worship we can offer our youngest and our oldest members to teach and sustain them in the faith.

Let me tell you a few stories from my experience.  Adolph Schmidt was a member of mine in a nursing home in Theodore, Saskatchewan.  He was very hard of hearing and suffered some form of dementia.  Some days Adolph was “there” and other days he was not.  On one occasion he pointed to the picture of his wife on his bedside table.  He told me that her name was “Effie” and he was “sweet on her” and was pretty sure he was going to ask her to marry him.  In reality, Effie was his wife of sixty years.  Adolph did not know his wife that day, but when I began the confession from The Lutheran Hymnal, Adolph caught that old familiar rhythm which had been repeated in his ears week after week since 1941.  He joined with me in confession.  As far as I know, the liturgy and a few well known Bible passages were the only way to deliver God’s Words and gifts into Adolph Schmidt.

That experience and others like it caused me to ask, “What lies in store for those people who get a different creed and confession each week (or no creed or confession week after week)?  What a difficult time their pastors will have ministering to them through their deafness and memory loss in thirty or forty years.  The liturgy sustains the old.

The liturgy teaches the young.  Most children think church is boring.  Mine were no exception.  (That topic will be addressed in my next reason and article for using the liturgy.)  They didn’t like going to church in their younger years, especially twice a week (such as during Lent or Advent).  Several years ago when my now oldest daughters were  8 and 6 years old I sat down to catechize them about why we go to church.  They had complained about church being boring.  I asked them, “Why do we go to church?”  I got the standard answers, “To learn about Jesus.”  “To worship God.”  I wanted to teach them the Christian answer to that question, so I asked them, “What is one of the main things we do at the beginning of church?”  I began reciting the confession and they joined in with me.  Then I asked them what I said as the pastor.  They recited the words about forgiveness in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Then we talked about our need for daily forgiveness and about the church being the place where forgiveness from Christ is given out.  The conclusion they reached (although they didn’t want to admit it) was that since we sin daily we should be in church whenever there is a service to attend.  I could teach them easily because they knew the liturgy.  Again, it came from weekly repetition of the same “old” thing.

A few years back at my current congregation a young mother came out of Divine Service and said her young daughter (under two years of age) must have said “amen” fifty times during church.  What more joyful word could a parent hear than the “amen” of faith from her child?  (As an aside: I heard the now-sainted Pastor George Wollenburg say that the first word Christian parents want their child to say is “amen,” not “mom” or “dad.” Amen is the word of faith that in the promises of Jesus.  Amen will carry your child much farther than you can carry them.)   What a blessing as a pastor to hear the little ones of the congregation receive and believe in Jesus?  How did that little one learn to say “amen”?  She learned “amen” from repetition, from her mom and dad and her older siblings saying “amen.”  Faith comes by hearing according to St. Paul in Romans 10.  The liturgy is nothing else than God’s Word.  Not only does it keep us focused on the Word and Sacrament, but its repetition impresses that very Word into our hearts and minds when we are young so we will remember and be able to receive the gifts of Jesus when we are old.

The next reasons for using the liturgy – #6) The liturgy is boring. #7) The liturgy visibly unites us as a synod.

 

Pastor Bruce Timm

About Pastor Bruce Timm

Pastor Timm serves Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. He is married to Valerie and they have four children - three "mostly grown" daughters and one son at home. Pastor Timm was ordained in Lutheran Church - Canada in 1988 and served in the LCC until 2001 when he began serving Redeemer. He "enjoys" maintaining the fleet of cars he owns for his children, exercising his second amendment rights, and discovering the delights of single malt beverages from Scotland. He is a Saint Louis grad, but is regularly confused with graduates of Fort Wayne. He takes that as a compliment.

Comments

Why do I use the liturgy? Reason # 5 — 8 Comments

  1. You make very valid points, and all are reasons why I stick to the liturgy in our services. However, is our European approach to liturgy and worship useful in cultures with utterly different foundations?

    One of our local (Reformed) ministers spent a number of years as a missionary in Africa, and came away with the strong conviction that the insistence on the use of European style worship and teaching in these African tribal cultures, has caused great harm in the mission effort.

  2. @David Hartung #2 “…that the insistence on the use of European style worship and teaching in these African tribal cultures, has caused great harm in the mission effort.”

    The LCMS has been sending missionaries overseas since the late 1800s. Was the pastor who made that claim a Baby Boomer?

  3. @Tim Schenks #3

    I think he is immediately post baby boom. He actually still returns to Africa to teach the occasional course at a Reformed seminary. Currently he is serving as the pastor of a church plant in our area, and their approach to “church” is very unique.

  4. Quoth David Hartung:

    “One of our local (Reformed) ministers spent a number of years as a missionary in Africa, and came away with the strong conviction that the insistence on the use of European style worship and teaching in these African tribal cultures, has caused great harm in the mission effort.”

    You don’t suppose that some of this “great harm to the mission effort” might be due to the Reformed (i.e. non-Sacramental) approach to worship, do you?

    It never ceases to amaze me that many of those who tout the so-called “Great Commission” as the be-all and end-all of the church’s mission so easily forget the specific instructions that Christ Himself gave on how this mission is to be carried out. Teaching and baptizing. Word and Sacrament.

    By the way, if you would like to hear about African missions done in the right and proper manner, I suggest that you contact Rev. James May about the work that Lutherans in Africa is doing.

    #We’reScrewed.
    Tom W.

  5. @David Hartung #2

    Pardon my snarkiness. It’s one of my spiritual gifts. But I have not mentioned Europe in anything I said. I was born in Montana, grew up in Minnesota and other than a dozen years in Canada I’m pretty much an American.

    I’m quite sure (and liturgical historians can correct me) that much of the Western liturgy comes out of north Africa and Asia Minor. At my congregation everything we do is in English. We sing hymns from all the continents. We occasionally use Divine Service 4 from LSB which departs from “chorale” type music.

    I think this European comment is another straw man. The liturgy transcends Europe and our infantile United States. The greatest hindrance to true worship is in reality the clear confession of the Word of God. The call to repentance and the delivery of forgiveness from Jesus are offenses to the Old Adam who thinks he does not sin and surely needs no help from God. No one is naturally attracted to the liturgy or to the Triune God – that can only be worked by the Spirit through the Word preached in truth and the Sacraments administered rightly.

    End of snark.

  6. @DCO Tom #5

    By the way, if you would like to hear about African missions done in the right and proper manner, I suggest that you contact Rev. James May about the work that Lutherans in Africa is doing.

    Thanks, I will.

  7. @Pr. Bruce Timm #6

    I have not mentioned Europe in anything I said. I was born in Montana, grew up in Minnesota and other than a dozen years in Canada I’m pretty much an American.

    No you didn’t, but the liturgy we follow is from a Church which grew out of a European culture. Our American culture is still Euro-centric. We have different ways of approaching things than the tribal cultures of Africa.

    I stick to the liturgy, in our Euro-centric American setting there is absolutely nothing better. I wonder though if our liturgy would be as good in equatorial African tribal culture.

    I think this European comment is another straw man.

    You may be right, that is what I am trying to learn.

    The liturgy transcends Europe and our infantile United States.

    Again you may be correct.

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