Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Conversation Continues

I received plenty of great responses to my previous post on  This was my second posting in reply:

I’m very thankful to all of you for your respectful, deliberate, and engaging responses. I had no expectation of a real conversation here and I’m delighted to see that I was wrong.

Eric (#9), I am also a layman with limited theological training and I appreciate your eloquent response. I am in fact a marketer by formal education and by profession, which leads me to address your concern for the language I used in my comment. While identified almost exclusively with profit-seeking corporations, marketing boils down simply to the equation of human communication; i.e., there is a transmitter and a receiver. Allow me to explain what I intended to communicate.

Take, for example, the conversation we’re having right now. My mind is formulating an idea and wrapping that idea in language, while my fingers are capturing the language in type. Your eyes are viewing exactly the type I transmit to you, and your brain is decoding the language back into ideas. So we have a 5 stage process (by the way, this is also true of all non-verbal communication): idea > language choice > transmission media > receiver > interpretation. Because I intend to express my ideas only to you, you are my audience. Because you are only one person, you are a very small (niche) audience. With context clues (the purpose of this conversation, this website, its historical context, and what little else I know about you from your post) I would be wise to choose the first three of those stages deliberately, so that you are most likely to accurately execute the final two stages and capture the desired idea.

Jesus did exactly that by teaching heavenly Truth in parables. Not only did he choose language familiar to his audience, but also subject matter and social contexts familiar to his audience; communication media that they were most likely to receive and interpret accurately. My point was that liturgical worship (in my experience) makes very shallow (if any) consideration for the contemporary context of its audience. In this way, liturgy fails to follow Christ’s example of communicating heavenly Truth - reaching into the lives of his audience with relevance.

I suspected it was a misstep when I used terms like “niche market” and “audience” in my post above because my understanding of those terms was different from yours, therefore ineffectively communicating my point. Ironically enough, your response has served as opportunity for me to prove it. The Message that liturgy carries is far too crucial to be allowed to be obscured by its antiquated and irrelevant media of delivery, let alone steadfastly obscured.

Pastor Rossow (#11), you have clarified several other points of miscommunication for which I am responsible - many thanks to you. The first is this:

No on has claimed divine authorship of the liturgy.

Perhaps I’m thicker than the average bear, but I do understand the liturgy in question to be referred to as the “Divine Liturgy”, which is also understood to be “inerrant”, correct me if I’m wrong. You (and others) clarified the difference between liturgical style and liturgical content. Liturgical Lutheran content is strictly scriptural and I 100% agree that scripture is the sole reliable source for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (divine and inerrant). However, I think liturgical style has been the greatest source of my frustrations in the traditional Lutheran church (hence my certain ethnic musical association, also mentioned by Eric in #4), because things like order of worship, chanting, hymnody (which is a word I’ve never seen before yesterday) and musical style are entirely social constructs. They were social constructs in ancient times, in Luther’s time, and in our time today. How can we claim the inerrant nature of any of these things? They were not laid out in scripture as instructions for us. What makes an ancient or medieval style more worthy than a contemporary style? What is the purpose of trapping scripture’s crucial message of Truth in irrelevant, outdated social media that acts as a barrier between the message and its audience?

I am a huge fan of Martin Luther and his story of church reformation was the unadulterated work of God. God most certainly used him to break the message of Truth free from the established religious hypocrites, back into the language of the people - back into relevance for the desperate masses for whom it was always intended. I don’t know how happy Martin would be with a church under his very name that chooses, steadfastly, to limit the transmission of the Truth for which he fought so radically by winnowing away the otherwise available options for its transmission. We are not called to be of the world, but we are called to be in the world. So who are we to be cloistered away, poo-pooing the worship and outreach of the active majority of Christ’s body while their hands heal and hearts feel and feet walk - constantly striving to live into Jesus’ example?

Sure, the Lutheran church is theoretically and rhetorically accepting, but in practice it has placed far too many barriers between it and the world it was commissioned to reach, all in the name of preventing error from entering worship. My reference to David merely served as one example where genuine worship and praise to the Lord existed outside the Lutheran liturgy - to prove that it’s possible. Not only that, but to remind us all that humanity has been worshiping our Creator God for millennia previous to liturgy’s conception, and that the Holy Spirit is alive and well among the believers who worship daily and weekly without it, despite their errant ways.

I assume your reference to I Corinthians points to the second half of chapter 14. Here Paul encourages orderly worship so that those led by the Spirit to speak or prophesy can be heard one at a time, allowing those in attendance to receive the message. Again, the Paul’s point is on effective delivery of the message to its audience. Whether by oration, gregorian chant, ancient hymn, or set to rock and roll music, Paul simply advises the clear communication of the Gospel message. If I missed it, please point out the scripture that infers a preference of one order of worship over another, or one style of delivery over another.

I have many more thoughts on your collective responses, but it’s really late here on eastern time. I hope to post more later, specifically on these subjects:

–“How do I a sinner stand before a holy God?”
–”You are more interested in ‘moving’ people than having sins forgiven.” (directly related to the first)
–”The Spirit is found where Christ’s word is preached and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s command.” (By virtue of the fact that this takes on more forms than merely the Lutheran liturgy, the steadfast denial of those other forms intentionally limits the media by which the Spirit may choose to move. The Spirit is active and dynamic - meeting us in our hearts - living.)

Comment by Jesse — September 11, 2008 @ 12:43 am

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