Thursday, December 09, 2004

216 The Liturgy as Teacher

Sometimes when I attend an “informal” church service, I look around at the 30-somethings and wonder how many of them will remember those choruses and praise tunes when they are in a nursing home or dying? If they visit another church, will they have to start all over with different mind-numbing, repetitious sing-alongs (like Baptist friends who attended our informal service and didn‘t recognize a single praise song). Maybe they will remember--some are awfully simple and seem to stick in the mind like radio commercials for God. Perhaps I underestimate God’s ability to break through in any musical form.

When I was in elementary school my mother faithfully took us to a Lutheran church because a friendly neighbor invited us. We were living in a town with no church of our denomination--even though there were three churches for 1,000 residents. My sisters even attended confirmation classes with their classmates. There was never any intention that we would join, and we always knew who we were--NOT Lutheran. I think we attended there 5 or 6 years until we returned “home.” About 25 years later my husband and I tried a Lutheran church at the invitation of another friend, and much of the service was immediately familiar to me (totally foreign to him), despite the changes in the hymnbook and liturgy over the years.

In an article about the liturgy as teacher, Rev. Richard C. Resch (LCMS) writes:
“The church learns its lessons slowly, usually through repetition. A child is never too young to begin the rhythm, the comforting rhythm, of week after week, year after year hearing and rehearsing the liturgy. It is a rhythm that is blessed and good for saints of all ages. The very prayers that need to be on their lips are put there by liturgy: Create in me a clean heart....Help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord....Grant us your peace. At the same time, the promises of God are remembered again and again: God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins....This is the true body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, given into death for your sins. This is the true blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, shed for the forgiveness of your sins....He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end. . . Where else is memory taught from the cradle to grave by a stable, consistent rehearsing of the same words? Nowhere. From baptism to the last moments of this life, the liturgy is there with just the right words for the child of God to say yet again.”

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