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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

This is What the Liturgy Prevents

by Larry Beane

When the altar is transformed into a stage, and worship moves from received ritual to given performance, there is an inevitable shift of emphasis from Christ to the performer, from the reception of the forgiveness of sins to the expectation of some means of entertainment. The result has become common in American Christianity: replacing the Word of God with a theatrical spectacle with a few perfunctory references to Jesus thrown in.

This is also the predictable result of seeing worship as an adiaphoron and the Gospel as information. Worship, as the argument goes, is not mapped out in Scripture, and as long as one's doctrine is correct, any and all techniques to communicate that information are not only acceptable, but preferable.

And this is lived out in such sad displays as above.

Standing in the way of this decay is the traditional Liturgy, which serves as a boundary between the holy and the secular, between the City of Man and the City of God, a signpost to indicate where one leaves the temporal and its sinful corruption for the eternal and its divine glory. When that boundary is transgressed, the result is not the blessed spilling over of the sacred into the profane, but rather the very opposite: the cursed encroachment of the world - with its never-satisfied promotion of the self and of the flesh - into the Most Holy Place where the Lord should be the center and the focus.

This sad reality has become a huge blind-spot to pastors, "worship leaders," bureaucrats, and "experts" who argue that the Liturgy is outmoded, or at very least, insufficient in some contexts and among some demographics.

There is the old saying about good neighbors and fences. The Liturgy is not an adiaphoron. It is a fence that makes for a good neighborly relationship between the Church (our eternal citizenship) and the world (where we sojourn as pilgrims) in which, but not of which, we Christians are part. This is what we mean when we confess together:
In this case the words of Paul must be heeded: "Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Therefore come out from them and be separate from them, says the Lord." (II Cor. 6:14, 17). Neither are useless and foolish spectacles [unnueze, naerrische Spektakel [Shauspiele]; inutiles nugas et puerilia spectacula], which serve neither good order, Christian discipline, nor evangelical decorum in the church, true adiaphora or things indifferent. (FC SD X: 6-7, Tappert)
Rather than drag the Church down to the world and make it "krunk," it has always been the desire and strategy of the Christian missionary endeavor to draw those in the world up to Christ and make them "blessed."