Saturday, March 22, 2008

Something for Everyone

When you attempt to stand for everything, you end up standing for nothing. From the brochure for the WELS National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts: “Who should come? Anyone whose church is: Small-with fewer than 75 people in attendance on Sunday mornings, Large-with many members and many musical resources, Traditional-with a deep desire to retain familiar worship patterns, Diverse-with members and visitors of many ages and cultures, Evangelistic-with a congregational mindset for reaching the lost, Evaluating-with a desire to enhance worship that edifies members and guests, Experimenting-with a growing interest in new forms and music for worship, Actually a chapel-where daily worship serves high school or college students, Really a classroom-where children gather each day to worship the Lord.”

It’s all about us. And it doesn’t seem to matter what you are doing or what you believe. If there is an underlying theology, it is well-hidden. Lip service is paid to Lutheran heritage and Gospel proclamation, but WE predominate. Pastor Aaron Christie in the March WELS Connection said that decisions about music need to be made in love. “What I like may not be what my brothers and sisters like.” We “need to experiment with musical styles in love.” Again, it’s all about us. Worship is what WE do for God, and lucky Him, He can hear both my bad taste in music and your bad taste in music. Hey, it’s all the same anyway.

Another telling statement from the March WELS Connection came from Grace Hennig, a presenter at the upcoming conference, “The wonderful thing is that more people are getting involved in the worship.” She was referring to the extra musicians and singers who are recruited for performances in church. This gives evidence of a common and faulty mindset in American Lutheranism, the only people involved in worship are the ones who are actively, outwardly doing something: pastor, musician(s), singers, readers, flag wavers, liturgical dancers, etc. This is simply not true. All members of the Bride of Christ are involved deeply and meaningfully. They receive God’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, and pray, thank and praise God for them. We are not there primarily to “do stuff” but to “get stuff”.

From the director of the high school Honors Choir for the National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts, Michael Goede: “If the mission of the Church really is to spread the Gospel to all nations, how do we reflect the global church within each of the congregations and really recognize the different cultures that are coming in? And to integrate that into our worship, I think, is really important.”

We have an easy solution: the historic liturgy of the Church. Because of its age and multitude of geographical sources, the liturgy reflects the true multiculturalism of the Church better than any new, contrived program could. Parts extend back to before the time of Christ in Jewish synagogue worship. Other parts come from North Africa, Syria, Greece, Rome, Germany, France, England, and Spain. In every place the liturgy is used, those who pray it add their own stamp through hymnody. All three sons of Noah (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) are represented by their descendants’ contributions to the liturgy of the Church catholic. The liturgy of the Church is not exclusive to one culture, it transcends all human cultures. Though the contributions came from different locations, the source for all of the liturgy is Scripture. To say, as some have, that when “ministering” to certain ethnic groups we should ditch the liturgy in favor of pandering to human culture, is racist. To assume that because of the color of someone’s skin, where they live, or their socio-economic situation, they should be fed thinly veiled Pentecostalism, Methodism, or American Evangelicalism by “Lutherans” is judging, condescending, and wrong. There is not a black form of Christianity, or a white form, or a Hispanic form. There is one faith, one Lord, one Baptism. Through the historic liturgy of the Church, we transcend our earthly ethnicity and embrace our ethnicity as the people of God. We have unity with Christians around the world, as well as those who have gone before us into the Heavenly Feast, and God-willing, those who will come after us.

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