Why do I use the liturgy?  Reason #6

Guest article by Pr. Bruce Timm.

Previous articles, reasons 1-3, found here; reason 4 found here; reason 5 found here.

 

The liturgy is boring.

 

BJS_BruceTimmI am tempted to say, “Good” whenever anyone tells me the liturgy is boring.  Air isn’t really exciting either, but that doesn’t stop me from breathing it. The meals at the Timm household aren’t always one dining adventure after another, but that has not prevented me from eating them.

From time to time, the air is filled with wonderful smells and it is a delight to breath, but I do not limit my breathing to the Springtime when flowers are blooming and rains are falling.  We regularly have wonderful meals at our house, but those aren’t the only times I eat.  So it is with the liturgy.  Sometimes we partake of joyous, exciting, and refreshing feasts.  Christmas, Easter, and Reformation are festivals that come to mind.  However, many Sundays are regular, ordinary Word and Sacrament Sundays, about as normal as a sandwich and a salad.  We might even consider them boring, but that should not stop us from hearing the Word or receiving the Sacrament.  For these gifts of the Holy Spirit are the means of life.  These are the only places where we have the certainty that the Holy Spirit is at work to deliver to us the forgiveness which Jesus won on the cross for us.

Do not misunderstand my point.  We should never try to make the liturgy boring.  On every Sunday, even the ordinary Sundays, the pastor, choir, organists, elders, and ushers should strive to offer their best to the Lord.  The pastor should be diligent in his studies, in his writing and rehearsal of his sermon.  The choir and organists should practice and prepare their musical offerings in accord with the menu set for that day.  The ushers should be watchful and ready to serve.  The elders should make sure everything is prepared for an orderly service.  This is after all the Lord’s house, the Lord’s Word, and the Lord’s meal.

Regardless of the feelings we might have about a particular service or hymn or sermon, we should remember the liturgy is chiefly about life in Christ.  The liturgy is nothing else than a feast of God’s Word, woven together by His faithful people over hundreds of years, to feed us Christ and His benefits.  The angels in heaven, John the Baptist, aged Simeon, and many other Saints had a hand in preparing this feast for us.

When you are bored, recall what Luther taught you in the Small Catechism, “Where there is forgiveness of sins there is LIFE and salvation.”  If the liturgy is boring to you,  remember it is life.  The liturgy is the framework in which Christ’s gifts are delivered to you.   If you remember the liturgy is life, if you realize you are receiving the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection, I don’t think you’ll be bored with it again, or at least your boredom will be overcome by your necessity of receiving forgiveness.  What could be more exciting and enlivening than the forgiveness of your sins, the resurrection of your body, and the life everlasting?  That is the feast set for you in the liturgy.

Next week reason #7: The liturgy is one of the most public witnesses of “synod” we can give to our members and the world.

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 #6 — 11 Comments

  1. If people complain that “the liturgy is boring” check the tempo of the hymns! (The fact that it’s many times left to the discretion of the organist …no staff signature… does NOT mean that all notes are whole notes!)

    If the congregation is in a Ger-manically slow rut (but the organist does understand tempo as evidenced in the preludes!) have him/her play the hymns as preludes up to tempo till the congregation gets used to it and expects to sing them that way. “WADITWB” is no excuse for dragging good music! [If the organist doesn’t understand tempo, buy her/him a metronome and advise practice!]

  2. @helen #1

    Dear Helen,
    Are you saying our hymns within liturgy are to be sung with tempos other than a dirge?
    But right you are…tempo IS important, as song selection is too. Teamwork between pastor to organist (or worship director) is key. Note: my opinion, pastor is the lead on the worship setting with music (OK, as long as pastor has some musical training, I do since 4th grade).

  3. The liturgy is exciting, not because of it’s format, but because of its content. That any emotional stimulation/satisfaction is achieved through the aesthetics of music or other vehicles of delivery is incidental at best.

  4. The Gospel is the framework in which Christ’s gifts are delivered to you. Not the Liturgy. The Liturgy is man made. The Gospel is not. The Liturgy is NOT the gospel. The liturgy CAN be changed. I was just talking about this in a class of mine today. In chapel we use page 152 almost every single day. We could say the entire page from memory. The class said that when we go through it, they tend to zone out because it is so repetitive. They have heard it hundreds of times. It makes no sense to me why we say the exact same words every single day. It causes it to loose all meaning. You said that you would want to say good if someone said that the liturgy is boring. What if that meant that they were zoning out because it was so boring and repetitive. Then they aren’t hearing the gospel proclaimed to them through the liturgy. There are many different ways that the gospel can be proclaimed. One great way is through the liturgy, but it is not the only way. There are hundreds of other resources that churches can use, that are still theologically correct with the Bible. If you only use the liturgy, you are cutting yourself off from the other ways that can be used. Some might say, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. That’s not what God says. He says, sing to me a NEW song.

  5. @J. Dean #3

    The liturgy is exciting, not because of it’s format, but because of its content. That any emotional stimulation/satisfaction is achieved through the aesthetics of music or other vehicles of delivery is incidental at best.

    The liturgy can have all of the “excitement” wrung out of it. That the content is most important is no reason to neglect giving it the best delivery you can achieve.

    Diamonds are set in gold… not tinware.

    [God Himself gave instructions for every part of OT worship, including professional choirs.]

    We could say the entire page [liturgy] from memory.
    Good, then when you get old and lose it, (or do so sooner through accident) you’ll still have the liturgy with you. (And, we hope, hymns and, most important, the Gospel, because they have been repeated all your life.)

  6. @Bob #4

    Your students clearly have little understanding of history or the importance of memorization. I hope that you will take time to teach them the importance of knowing things and repeating things over and over until they are blue in the face. There is a reason why soldiers are able to disassemble and reassemble their weapons quickly, and do so over and over and over. It might just save their life if something goes wrong with their weapon and they need to repair it in a hurry. It is dangerous to assume that we will always have the luxury of being able to worship however we want with our fancy power point, projection screen, printing ten million bulletins a year, style of doing things these days. What happens when we are not able to do so any more? What happens if the Church is persecuted, her books burned, congregations disbanded and scattered? It might come in handy to know the liturgy by heart to the point of boredom so that the body of believers can preserve the tradition handed down to them, especially in the face of persecution. Being united in practice helps scattered believers to come together in a variety of places and gives them the ability to worship together. Your students don’t get that because we live in a culture of entertainment and immediate satisfaction. They don’t get it and they won’t unless someone teaches it to them. Christians have worshiped for many years in lands of persecution thanks to memorization of liturgy, of Scripture, of the catechism, etc. If you are constantly doing something new each week for the sake of keeping minds entertained, then it is likely that very little will be retained. And that is just one small reason why the liturgy is so important for the Church. Liturgy preserves doctrine, it unites believers, and it sustains the Church in tribulation with the Word of God that has been drilled into our heads every day for years upon years on end.

  7. @Bob #4

    I would agree with the follow-up comments in reply to your post. Your students have 1st world problems with boredom. If the liturgy is the framework of “Word and Sacrament” (and it is), then there is no other way for us to receive the gifts of Christ. Also I would argue that the liturgy is not man-made – it is “saint-made.” It has been crafted by our sainted fathers and mothers in the faith. No small amount of blood and persecution was endured to bring us the liturgy – so if you’re bored with it and zone out during it I really think that’s on you, not the liturgy. Once again – we should never use any of this as an excuse for poor preaching, funeral like singing, or lack of practice and order in the liturgy. I would encourage you to encourage your students to love the liturgy for its nutrition, even if they don’t find it that appetizing. Just as they will grow up to learn that while ice cream tastes great, carrots are better for them (while far less exciting).

  8. @Pr. Bruce Timm #7

    Also I would argue that the liturgy is not man-made – it is “saint-made.” It has been crafted by our sainted fathers and mothers in the faith. No small amount of blood and persecution was endured to bring us the liturgy…

    “Saint assembled?” Most of the liturgy is taken directly from Scripture.
    Anyone “bored” by it hasn’t learned its history and that reflects on the pastor responsible for teaching them! There are resources for explaining “why Lutherans worship as they do”. Arthur Just of CTS has produced one; there are others also. Some Pastors do an excellent job for their own congregations.
    [All of them should, but I’m afraid some were “bored” with it in seminary.] 🙁

  9. I believe comments #4 and #5 are probably the best summaries of both sides I’ve ever read on this subject.  Thanks Bob and Helen. 

  10. @Rev. William Ringer #6

    AMEN Pastor Ringer. My fear is that this persecution is here and now. And we need to be prepared. Memorization is one way. I am saddened to know kids are not required to do memory work before Confirmation day.

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