I happened on this today over on Pastor Peters’ Pastoral Meanderings blog .. a home run to me. It talks about the first encounter in a liturgical church by a generic Protestant visitor. We all know how much of the bible we encounter in the liturgy, but we need to think about the visitor to our churches and how they may not realize that. Pastor’s Wife came up with the term Musical Word which sounds pretty accurate.
Check out other recent items on Pastoral Meanderings, including A Minnesota Conundrum — everyone’s a Lutheran, but what type of lutheran, If Everyone Sweeps His Own Stoop, the Whole World Will Be Clean about Personal Responsibility, and When grace is no longer grace… about outside activities affecting Church attendance and how we deal with it. One comment on this last is most telling — “It is so easy to live as if God did not matter, and we mattered most. Something we all must confess. Such a shame that so many of us live in the town of ‘Cheap Grace.'”
Recently a young woman visited our parish and had her first experience of liturgical worship. She was not sure what to make of it all. She sings so the singing of the liturgy and hymns did not put her off. She liked the sermon (no, I am not looking for a compliment here) because it was textual (in her contemporary worship generic Protestant home church the sermon is more feeling than fact, more story than Gospel). But there was no mistaking the elephant in the room – the LITURGY.
Why didn’t anyone have a Bible? This was the big question. Of course, in her home church everyone brings their Bible. But in discussing this it was clear that though everyone carried their Bibles to church and the sermon was kind of a thematic Bible study instead of a classic sermon form, there was more Scripture in the liturgical service than in the contemporary service she called home. Walking through the bulletin (we print it all out) it was clear that much of the Scripture was missed because there was no citation next to it. We do have a small left column with the references listed and when this was pointed out, it was overwhelming to here how much Scripture was there within the liturgy.
In discussing this later with my better half, we picked up on the amount of Scripture within the liturgy. In our Sunday bulletin we call liturgy sung Scripture. My better half came up with a new moniker – the Musical Word. Now that is profound. In the ordinary of the liturgy, in the choir anthem, in the hymns of the liturgy – the Word is sung. It is the Musical Word – set to music but no less the Word than if spoken or read.
My better half mentioned to me that if she were left alone on a desert island, she would rather have the hymnal than the Bible. Now to this young woman above such a comment would be seen as certain heresy. Not the Bible? OOOOOH NOOOO! But if you look at it in terms of the Musical Word, it make sense.
With the hymnal, you have the Musical Word, the Psalms, the texts of the Divine Service, the Catechism, a prayer book, and, of course, the hymns themselves. You have the Word in forms that can be sung as well as said, prayed with the voice to the familiar tunes of the hymnal as well as spoken and sung as proclamation. It makes perfect sense.
When the children in our parish reach about 10, we give them a Faith Alive Bible which includes the catechism and a number of helps. It is for Sunday school and catechism classes. But when they are confirmed we give them the hymnal. It makes perfect sense. The Scriptures are the tool of their classroom, the hymnal is their prayer book, their worship book, and their song book – for the rest of their lives.
So think about it…. the Musical Word… what a great way to look at and defend the hymnal for those new to liturgical worship… In the hymnal we have it all… a book for all seasons, all ages, all circumstances, and all needs…