Monday, November 10, 2008

Stability in liturgical worship

The liturgies that have been around a while -- those that have not been formed in the spirit of modern innovation -- are most valuable for the way in which they repeat the Gospel and the basic tenants of the Christian faith.

Their greatest value is also their greatest liability, because contemporary people see repetition as boring.

But, I protest, consider the alternatives. In fact, consider two types of fundamentalist worship and one type of innovative worship.

Fundamentalist Type One: The minister or ministers believe themselves to be so full of the Holy Spirit that no reasoned understanding of Scripture or tradition is necessary. This type may present itself with ecstatic worship, spontaneous bursts of unknown languages, and prophecies on par with, or superseding, Scripture.

Fundamentalist Type Two: After well-worn hymns, the preacher roundly condemns The World and sin and reaffirms damnation through appeals to select Bible verses. This type may present itself with a King James translation of the Bible.

Innovative Type: Following up-tempo entertainment, Bible verses are presented as tools to solve life's problems. In varying fashion, either the sermon or the Bible acts like a tool box. If you go to the tool box knowing which tool you need, you can fix any problem. This type may present itself with a can-do attitude and a determination to try harder to make life work.

Meanwhile, the old liturgies primarily seen in Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox services -- their roots in an era prior to the canonization of the New Testament -- continue to return to one singular point, stated explicitly or implicitly: Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast.

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