A friend of mine recently had a parishioner ask him if they could sing patriotic songs in the Divine Service this Fourth of July weekend. Of course he said no, like the good and faithful pastor he is.
But the Bible doesn’t say not to do that.
Yeah, well the Bible doesn’t say we shouldn’t mud wrestle in the sanctuary, either.
Hearing questions like that always makes me sad because they indicate that a good number of people have no idea why we go to church.
So why do we?
Divine Service IV lays it out simply and beautifully:
Since we are gathered to hear God’s Word, call upon Him in prayer and praise, and receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the fellowship of this altar…
If you’re unsure whether or not something would be appropriate during the Divine Service, whether it’s singing patriotic songs, “Happy Birthday”, or replacing the liturgy with x, y, or z, just compare that with what DS IV says about why we come to church.
1) Does it proclaim God’s Word or aid in its proclamation?
2) Is Christ the content of the prayer or praise?
3) Is it the Body and Blood of Christ?
If the answer is no, then it doesn’t belong in the Divine Service.
What’s more, we ought not give priority to the secular calendar (since it’s not about Christ). This past Sunday was the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, not ‘Murica Sunday. While it may be meet, right, and salutary to include prayers for our nation or sing hymns like “Grant Our Nation Repentance, Lord” (okay, I made that up, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea), we ought not turn the Divine Service into celebrations of the Fourth of July, Groundhog Day, or Fox News Sunday.
Patriotic songs are great. So are llamas. Neither one belong in the Divine Service. There’s hardly anything more sacred than the intimate union of a man and his wife, but we know that shouldn’t take place on the altar in the Divine Service.
Why not? It’s beautiful, it makes me feel really good, and the Bible doesn’t say not to do that.
To paraphrase Solomon, there’s a time and a place for everything. The Divine Service is the place where we hear God’s Word, receive His gifts, and respond in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. If it isn’t about Christ, it doesn’t belong in the Divine Service, even if it makes you feel really good.