Friday, September 12, 2008

Why I Like the Old Stuff

Scott McKnight on his Jesus Creed blog just asked his readers what they have been observing of the supposed trend toward "ancient-future" worship practices in their churches. On respondant gave a particulary good summary of why traditional liturgies are good. Liked it so much, thought I'd just post it up here. You can read all the comments (as well as the question) here.

In answer to T #10, for me it is not so much that I find particular parts of the liturgy attractive (although I do), it is the actual structure of the service, which is determined by tradition. The serivce is meant to build anticipation toward the focal point of the service which is the Eucharist and it will always be the Eucharist, not whatever worship leaders wish to highlight. I also like the idea that Anglicans around the world are reading those same scriptures, saying the same prayers, exploring the same themes and that I am tied into that larger body of Christ. I like the way the service is centred on Christ, rather than on the “worship leaders”. I like the fact that the set selection of scripture determines what the speaker will speak on, rather than the speaker determining what scripture he/she will used to prove his/her point. In that vein, I like the way we move through the whole bible rather than concentrating on certain parts and that each service has something from the OT, the NT, the Psalms and the Gospels, in which preeminence, signalled through a variety of rites, is given to the Gospels. The message is that Jesus is the lens through which we view scripture. I like the fact that the sermon is short (and in my experience so far, offered with humility) so that the thought is centred on prayer and scripture, rather than the notions of the rector. I like the hymns which are drawn from 1,000 years of music. I like that each week we say the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed. I like how the prayers of the people are part of a cycle so that our intercessions are broadened beyond our own needs, our own community, our own church. I like the fact that a couple of times a year we pray in our cycle for each of the local evangelical churches even though they seem to view us as not really Christian. I like the way we think individually about our errors in a period of silence but then pray communally for forgiveness. I like the way all of this directs our focus to the Eucharist. So that having contemplated Jesus’ words, prayed for forgiveness, extended the hand of love and friendship to our fellows we quietly wait in line, like lost, weary traveller’s glimsping the lights of home, anticipating our turn at the Lord’s table where the celebrant will place a piece of bread in our palm, touch us and say quietly, “Christ’s body, broken for you” and bring the cup to our lips and say, “Christ’s blood, shed for you.”

1 comment:

solarblogger said...

I especially like "The serivce is meant to build anticipation toward the focal point of the service which is the Eucharist and it will always be the Eucharist, not whatever worship leaders wish to highlight."

Before becoming Lutheran, I made my home in Episcopal churches for my two years in Massachusetts. Some of this was on account of reading Robert Webber's book Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail. I remember about six weeks into the trek thinking, "Okay. I think I've gotten as much out of this liturgy stuff as I'm likely to get." Man was that ever wrong! (Thankfully other evangelical choices didn't appear, so I stuck with the liturgical church despite this vain thought.)

It was only after being through the three year lectionary at least a couple of times that some of the longer term benefits of the lectionary became visible to me. I think that the liturgical service is good in so many long term ways that few are really able to articulate the benefits.

Now there are a lot of good reasons that can be given for a liturgical service. Some that might even be compelling on reading them without any real experience of the service. But my default assumption has changed. Now I believe in the service in part because I know that I'll never know all that is better about it than some rationally constructed service. I value it for what it is, way beyond what it accomplishes in some "purpose driven" sense.