Why do I use the liturgy? Reasons #9, #10, & #11.
- The liturgy is catholic and evangelical. Tested in the church.Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, you belong to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod – you think you will be the only ones in heaven.” To set the record straight, that doctrine has never been taught in the LCMS or adopted by convention, and it isn’t found in the Scriptures or the Lutheran confessions. Sometimes people accuse the Missouri Synod of being narrow minded. This accusation is often the reaction to a public pronouncement by an LCMS pastor or congregation against false teaching or practice.
The liturgy is a great testimony to the truth that we aren’t narrow minded or self-centered or that we think we’re the only Christians on earth.
The liturgy is catholic with a small “c.” The word catholic means universal. Our liturgy has elements dating back to the Apostolic age. It has been used by Christians on every continent and in every age. The liturgy is filled with Scripture. Over the course of history the church has dropped elements and added other elements. It isn’t my liturgy or your liturgy or even the Lutheran liturgy. It is a catholic liturgy — a gift to us from the saints who went before us (even before there were “Lutherans.”) Isn’t it far more narrow minded to craft a service to meet the preferences and particularities of your individual congregation? Isn’t it far more presumptuous for a pastor to imagine he knows better than his sainted elders or than the church catholic?
Someone once said the liturgy is like a fine banquet, prepared over hours under the direction of a master chef. Services that are cooked up on the pastor’s computer each week are like fast food meals – neither nutritious nor memorable. Because the liturgy is catholic – spanning ages and places – it serves to feed us a nutritious and enduring meal – the meal of Christ in Word and Sacrament.
The liturgy is also evangelical. That means the liturgy serves to bring us the Gospel. When I preach a poor sermon I receive comfort that we use the liturgy. In the liturgy I know my congregation hears the Gospel. In the Invocation your baptism is called to mind where God made you His own dear child. In the Absolution you receive free and full pardon for your sins from Christ. In the readings you hear a prophet, an apostle and an evangelist speak to you God’s Word and draw you to Christ. In the Creed you confess all the God has done for you. In the Lord’s Supper you receive the real and risen body and blood of Christ for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. That doesn’t serve as an excuse for me to write poor sermons, but when the sermon is weak, the liturgy still delivers the Good News of Jesus to us.
- The liturgy brings us into heaven while on earth.Around the year 1000 AD, Prince Vladimir of Russia, a pagan, sent envoys to explore different religions and return to him with a report. The envoys who visited the Hagia Sophia Church in Constantinople returned with this report, “We knew not whether we were in heaven or earth… We only know that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations.” Within a year Prince Vladimir was baptized into the Orthodox faith and Orthodoxy became the official religion of Russia.
The liturgy brings Christ to earth and us to heaven. Jesus locates Himself in His Word and Sacrament – wherever two or three are gathered in My name there am I in the midst of them.
By all that He does for us He brings us into heaven. By our baptisms we are made God’s children. By Absolution the Keys of the Kingdom (forgiveness) are used to open heaven’s door for us. With our prayers we walk into God’s presence and petition Him for ourselves, the church and the world. In the Lord’s Supper we sing with angels and archangels to the Lamb who was slain and now lives. We dine not only with Christ, but we share the communion with the whole church on earth and in heaven.
Here in Minnesota we enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, lakes, forests, beautiful night skies, crisp fall days in the woods, even a fresh covering of snow. Many people imagine that their cabin in the woods or their boat on the lake is as close to heaven as they can be. To be sure those places are peaceful and beautiful, but the closest you are to heaven is when Jesus is with you in His Word and Supper. This truth, like so many in Scripture, is hidden from our eyes and revealed by the Spirit to faith. The lake and the woods and the skies appear so more heavenly, but heaven is where Jesus has located Himself for you.
- The liturgy is the best at delivering Christ to us.The title of these posts is “Why do I use the liturgy?” There is no Bible verse demanding that we use a liturgy. There is no commandment that “Thou shalt use page 5 or 15 or 151.” There will be Christians in heaven who do not use the liturgy. (Although the great majority will be from liturgical churches because the great majority of Christians in the world and throughout history have always used the liturgy.) I am convinced that the very best worship service I can conduct is the liturgy – the Divine Service of Word and Sacrament. What I hope you noticed throughout this series of articles is that every reason for using the liturgy is Jesus Christ. I keep the liturgy for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of Jesus Christ, for the sake of those who hear, so that from the beginning of life until the end, people hear and receive the news and benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection for them. Listed below, for one last time are the 11 reasons I have given.
- The liturgy rescues from the tyranny of the old Adam.
- The liturgy rescues from the tyranny of individualism.
- The liturgy rescues from the tyranny of contemporary culture.
- The liturgy was used in the garden of Eden.
- The liturgy teaches the young and sustains the old.
- The liturgy is boring.
- The liturgy is one of the most public witnesses of “synod” we can give to our members and the world.
- Using the hymnal prevents global warming.
- The liturgy is catholic and evangelical. Tested in the church.
- The liturgy brings us into heaven while on earth.
- The liturgy is the best at delivering Christ to us.