November 25, 2020

Litirgical Gangstas 10: The Value of Liturgy

Welcome to IM’s popular feature, “The Liturgical Gangstas,” a panel discussion among different liturgical traditions represented in the Internet Monk audience.

Who are the Gangstas?

Father Ernesto Obregon is an Eastern Orthodox priest.
Rev. Peter Vance Matthews is an Anglican priest and founding pastor of an AMIA congregation.
Dr. Wyman Richardson is a pastor of a First Baptist Church (SBC) and director of Walking Together Ministries, a resource on church discipline.
Alan Creech is a Roman Catholic with background in the Emerging church and spiritual direction. (Alan’s not a priest. If he is, his wife and kids need to know.)
Rev. Matthew Johnson is a United Methodist pastor.
Rev. William Cwirla is a Lutheran pastor (LCMS) and one of the hosts of The God Whisperers, which is a podcast nearly as good as Internet Monk Radio.

Here’s this week’s question: One of the hardest things for evangelicals to understand is liturgy. It is equated with dead, ritualized, rote, repetitive religious observance. It’s assumed to be irrelevant and terminally boring. Many evangelicals glory in being “anti-liturgical.”

Make a brief argument or outline for the value of liturgy, not just in your tradition, but for all Christians. Especially, what would be your response to the typical evangelical complaints that liturgy is a prescription for a lethargic personal experience of faith.

Father Ernesto/Orthodox: So, what is the value of liturgy? There is no brief argument for the value of liturgy, but I will try to cut my writing down. Among Christians, those things have the highest value which also have value with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). That is, if we are true to our calling to be a God-centered people, then what God likes, we are supposed to like also. Moreover, even if we do not initially like it, we are then supposed to learn to like it because as we learn to like it, we will grow more and more into the image of God. Is that not the argument we use when we tell people to learn to read the Bible, to pray, and to fast? We will cheerfully tell people that part of the process of growing in Christ is learning to do things which at first may not necessarily appeal to us, such as a quiet time, or fasting, or serving others, or loving the unlovable. The value of a practice is not necessarily whether we like it, but whether it is something God desires of us.

So, it is just as insufficient and inappropriate to argue that I need not participate in a liturgical worship because I do not “like” it, as it is insufficient and inappropriate to argue that I need not read the Bible, pray, and fast because I find it boring. The question, of course, is whether liturgical worship is part of what God desires of us. I would make two arguments in favor, one Biblical and one natural. But, the natural one will have to wait for another writing because I have too much to write from Scripture.

The Greek word for tradition, paradosis, or a variant patroparadotus, is used in 8 sets of verses in the New Testament. Five times it is used in a negative fashion and three in a positive fashion. The three positive ones are:

1 Corinthians 11:2 — Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions, as I delivered them to you. [Please note that it is this chapter in which St. Paul goes on to state that he will NOT praise them in the matter of the Lord’s Supper because they are not keeping the tradition that he delivered to them, ending up by saying that some of them are dead because they so failed to correctly follow the traditions he delivered. Keeping the traditions can be a very serious matter to God.]

2 Thessalonians 2:15 — Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 — Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. [Hmm, failure to keep the tradition can lead to shunning or excommunication.]

I have heard too many sermons that speak as though any tradition is automatically suspect. I have also read about how “human” traditions are automatically wrong. But, that is not what the verses say. The verses that are against tradition do, indeed, speak about the tradition of the elders and “your” tradition. But, the verses in favor of tradition only say that Christians ought to faithfully keep the traditions which the apostles have taught. There is obviously an assumption that those traditions are acceptable to God, but notice that there is no claim that each and every tradition was taught to them directly by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

In fact, the apostles do not even bother to spell out every tradition! They simply ask the recipients of their epistles to remember to keep every tradition as it was taught them whether in writing or verbally. There is no claim in the New Testament that every tradition has been written down within the pages of the New Testament. There is no claim in the New Testament that only what is found within the pages of the epistles may be used in worship or even enforced. There is no claim in the New Testament that we are free to worship as we will, rather the opposite is stated. In fact, the only claim in the New Testament is that you ought not to be taken captive by the wrong tradition but that you must keep the right tradition. And, all the writings of the Early Church Fathers and of writings such as the Didache make it clear that our worship, our baptisms, our ordinations are all done in a liturgical fashion following the principles and words taught to us by the apostles.

But to me the strongest argument is the Book of Revelation. I know that I could point out that incense is used, as well as pre-planned liturgical actions, as well as special vestments, etc. But, sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. Look at the structure of Revelation. The “camera” moves back and forth from heaven to earth to heaven to earth. In the heavens, a liturgy is taking place, with incense, etc. On the earth, the results of that liturgy are seen in human history. That is, according to Revelation, the liturgy of heaven dictates the history of the earth! Each time the liturgy of heaven “takes a step” something happens on earth, so that even the evil on earth ends up bowing the knee to God, sound familiar? By the way, the liturgy that is being celebrated is a marriage liturgy, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

Which brings me to a final point. All the Early Church Fathers insisted that we were not merely “doing” liturgy as though ritual actions, by themselves, somehow pleased God. After all, from Cain to the people in Corinth, incorrect ritual actions could draw a curse from God. No, rather, they all insisted that when we worship (liturgically) on earth, we are actually mystically joining in the great liturgy of heaven, the liturgy which is guiding the history of the earth. It is not liturgical worship, in and of itself, which is the crux, though liturgical worship does please God, as is well pointed out in the Old Testament and in the Book of Revelation. What pleases God is liturgical worship that is in accord with the traditions delivered to us; is liturgical worship celebrated in the power of the Holy Spirit; is liturgical worship which makes present here on earth the Lord’s death until He comes again; is liturgical worship that can “see” past our earthly expression of worship to “see” the heavenly worship that we are joining (yes, our human worship is an icon of the heavenly worship); is liturgical worship celebrated by a people who do justice, who love mercy, and who walk humbly with their God.

Matthew Johnson/United Methodist:My brief argument for the value of liturgy for all Christians is simple: it’s participatory in ways that other orders of worship aren’t. I’ve spent most of my adult life worshiping in semi-contemporary settings and if you hold high the occasional recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, that’s the limit of congregational participation. A lot of folks don’t even sing the words on the screen but instead listen to the band. We want people to be involved in missions, small groups, Vacation Bible School, and the youth program but we don’t act like we want them involved in worship. Sometimes they don’t act like they want to be involved. Maybe I don’t understand clearly from the church member’s point of view and maybe I’m being unfairly critical of the typical way of avoiding liturgy, but worship is participatory and active, not passive. Jesus told the woman at the well that she would one day worship in spirit and in truth, “The day is coming and is now here when true worshipers will passively engage by listening to others sing in the worship of the Creator God who sent his only unique Son into the world to die for humanity’s sins and be raised from the dead three days later.”

In our more liturgical services the whole church joins in a responsive call to worship, they are praying the Lord’s Prayer together, they are praying out loud a prayer for illumination before the Scripture reading, and they are thanking God for his word at the conclusion of that reading. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we publicly confess our sin and receive pardon, and we participate together in the Great Thanksgiving. I know there are fewer people who like and attend a service like this, but at least it is what it claims to be: a work of the people.

Peter Vance Matthews/Anglican: Peter’s Anglican Church is so busy having great Liturgy this Tridium, that we’ll have to catch him on the other side of the Ressurection.

Seriously, it’s amazing any of these guys got this post in here before Easter. I’ll let you know when Peter finds out what Liturgy is and tries some.

Alan Creech/Roman Catholic: I think this is a great one for the “liturgical” gangstas. I’ve been involved in, “into” liturgy since I was grafted into Christ. I have always found/seen deep meaning inside it. To a certain extent, I can hear and “get” what some Christians from non-liturgical traditions say about it being “rote, religious observance.” It can certainly be that – dead and without life, but I would argue that this is not inherent to liturgy itself. I’ve heard a lot of people argue for a more “organic” church experience. I’ve been known to say in reply, “liturgy IS organic!” To reverse the analogy, natural life is, of course, organic, but it is also very rhythmic, very “regular” – very liturgical.

This is causing me to look into my vault of writing/teaching/thinking about such things, both as a Catholic Christian and as a member of the whole Church in general. When I was an “emerging church” guy, and had some voice within that arena, I was often called “the liturgy guy.” I was known as someone who saw the deep value of not only liturgical worship but of a liturgical lifestyle. As a part of my answer, therefore, I’m digging up the archives and re-publishing some things I’ve said/written in the past about this very question.

The first is the outline of probably the last homily I taught in a larger group setting – at the Easter Vigil service of 2007, with our little community worshiping with St. Patrick’s Anglican church here in Lexington. I taught about the value of liturgy as a rhythm of life, as a formational tool used by God for and in us. This is, as I said, an outline form, hopefully it makes sense…

– This work we are doing is doing a work in us.

– Whatever Teaching or Preaching I do tonight is only a very small part of a larger whole.

– The liturgy itself does something in us. It forms us. It is a tool God uses to mold us into the image of Him Who’s resurrection we celebrate tonight. (I then talked a bit about the analogy of the Potter working with clay – that there are a specific set of tools used in ceramics and the way they go about molding a piece of clay into a “pot” is a “liturgy” in itself – there is a repeated definite pattern to the process.)

– When you, when we count on Teaching or Preaching to do too much work on their own, we throw our life as a Body out of balance. We put too heavy a burden on this pulpit. (I talked about how the small lectern I was behind wouldn’t hold my weight, and pushed down on it – music stand). It was not designed to bear such a weight. (I spoke a little about how some parts of the Church have done this, put too much weight on one piece).

– We must, rather, put ourselves into the whole life of the Church. We are now in Him, a part of his Household. And, so, we’re a part of the “family business,” as it were. (I talked about how it’s as if we’ve been adopted into a family who has a farm – farm life is very rhythmic and seasonal – it is very much like a “liturgical lifestyle”).

– This spiritual life’s work we’re doing is not only the liturgy we’re involved in from week to week, that of the Mass. It is this, tonight, that fire, that great candle, the light of God dispelling the darkness in all of us. It is the constant, joyful din of Alleluia through the whole Easter season – and then, and then, and then… It never ends. The cycle keeps on going – the great Rhythm of our life in God.

– Not always exciting or spectacular (not like tonight’s liturgy, not always a big deal). But always real and True and always forming us, whether we feel like it is or not – over a long period of time – day by day, week by week, month, years. (we don’t like talking about the “years” part but this liturgical lifestyle lends itself to a long-haul perspective of the Christian life, of this life of transformation).

So, let us not give up even after Easter, on into Ordinary time. Let us keep breathing, keep doing our work, keep living. Amen.


Here are some excerpts from a little roundtable discussion I did at my good friends’ Vineyard church in Cincinnati two years earlier probably (2005?)…
Here’s a link to a PDF of the whole thing if anyone’s interested in reading it.

What do you mean “ancient-future”? The term has been thrown around for several years, probably “coined” by Robert Webber of the institute for worship studies (author of ancient-future faith). Basically, it refers to christians in the now rediscovering the ancient roots of their faith – looking again at and using the tools which have been used for centuries to help draw us into a full-orbed worship experience with God. The “-future” would imply that its not merely a matter of doing old things for the sake of doing old things, but of weaving these ancient stable things in with what’s going on now. …

It is about recapturing forgotten things, things which have been stripped out of some of our christian traditions. During the protestant reformation some unfortunate things happened. The churches were stripped of all art, all representation, all symbols – everything except a bible and a pulpit. Some of us have been raised in this atmosphere, where everything is about words – it was all in the mind, never in the guts. God created all our senses. He reveals Himself to us through them all if we pay attention. …

We’re talking about things which engage the whole person in worship – not just the mind or the hearing of words in preaching or teaching. Those things are a part of the whole but not the whole itself. we’re talking about visual things such as icons, candles, the use of film, art in its various forms. We’re talking about getting your body into the experience in ways such as crossing yourself, using your hands in other symbolic gestures, kneeling, laying on the floor, etc. It may mean we even get the sense of smell into this thing by using incense to symbolize the sweet smell of the sacrifice of our lives rising up to God, or the smoke with the smell as out prayers rising up to him as we see in the scriptures. Using these things in tandem with each other in the midst of free-flowing elements, in planned installations, and as a regular part of our gathering times can go far in re-introducing our whole selves into the lifetime worship event.


Here are some excerpts from an article I wrote a while back (while we were still doing church in our home) for the online version of Relevant Magazine…
Here’s a link to that whole article, again, if anyone’s interested in the whole context.

Liturgy (the work of the people) and monasticism have been a part of the life of the Church for many centuries, but in wider evangelicalism, both these expressions, these ways of being Christian, have been, for the most part, left behind. And this leaving behind has been intentional, the thought being that these things were either illegitimate or useless. It was and is considered rigid, legalistic and unspiritual. It is (gasp!) “religious.” Today, in many of the simple, organic faith communities that are emerging out of the ashes of that movement, we see that philosophy being re-thought. It’s drawing many in who have once discarded all structure in the church whatsoever. Interesting world.

It’s like our skeletons have been ripped out. We have been, many of us for a while, like piles of boneless flesh and organs laying on the ground – no stability, no structure to hold us up, to allow us to walk or sit upright. This is not good. This is how the liturgy can be a helpful thing. It gives us a skeletal structure to stand with, and it’s not just some new made-up thing that hasn’t been tested. It is tried and tested and still standing. It has helped in this way since the beginning. It is an ancient Oak. This, I think, is what we’re catching hold of. Our eyes are open. Our noses are alert. We see and smell something that will give us what we do not have.

As we re-examine the mode of our active Christian lives, we are discovering, it seems, the real value of a liturgical lifestyle, not only the trappings of liturgical worship. We are finding, once again, the real spiritual formation that happens in the context of close Christian community, and we are finding ways of living that out in the midst of “real life.” The monastic life is not merely a life of quiet and solitude, although there are elements of that within it. It is a liturgical lifestyle – a life of “spiritual work” that is done by a community together. …

Sorry for the length, but this is one of my things, so I had to throw it out there. Michael asked us to write about liturgy in general, for all Christians, not just an apologetic from the particular liturgy of our own traditions. I think there’s a good bit of that there. Of course, I deeply value the ancient liturgy of my own Catholic Tradition, but liturgy belongs to us all. I believe it’s one of the amazing tools that God has given us to help us in the journey of our common transformation into His Image.

Oh, and here are a couple of links to two blog posts I wrote a few years ago called “Why Liturgy Helps”, Part One, and Part Two. Hope that… helps too. 🙂 Peace.

Wyman Richardson/Southern Baptist: Me talking about liturgy is about like Elizabeth Taylor talking about marital commitment: it technically can (or “could”) be done, but it’s not very believable. And yet even those who are least in the kingdom can aspire, so I’ll dive in.

The word “liturgy” refers generally to a prescribed approach to worship and encompasses any number of facets that are usually germaine to that particular tradition, though many forms and aspects transcend particular communions and are embraced by many fellowships (e.g., the Apostles’ Creed).

I think I’d want to start with the inevitability of liturgy. Here is something I’ve learned after a lifetime spent in churches that pride themselves in being free of liturgy and dead ceremony (terms used interchangeably in some places): the premise is absurd. There is no liturgy-free worship, and the monikor “non-liturgical” makes about as much sense as “government intelligence.”

The same churches that will ostensibly operate beneath the feigned guise of “free” worship or “Spirit-led” worship will inevitably, predictably, and without fail fall into a liturgy that is so set it makes the Greek Orthodox look like wild-eyed Pentecostals on speed. I’ve heard Baptist deacons anathematize written prayers only to turn around and say the same prayer over the offering plates that they were regurgitating back when Herbert Hoover was in office (i.e., “Father we just…”, “bring into the storehouse…”, “our tithes and your offerings…”, “bless the gift and the giver…”, with about 10 more “just’s” and “umm’s” thrown in). I’ve seen the same Baptist people who mock the formulaic worship of the liturgical churches respond to small changes in the customary bulletin layout with a venom that makes Genghis Khan seem like Stuart Smalley. I’ve known pastors in churches which chide the physicality and symbolism of liturgical churches almost get martyred in the center aisle for suggesting that the flag be moved from the sanctuary, or for putting their Bibles on the communion table, or for projecting a song instead of singing from the hymn book. The same Baptist who will condemn the Catholics for their relics will threaten to murder you in your sleep if you move the black-and-white picture of Miss Bussie from the display cabinet in the foyer. I’ve met more Tetzels in Baptist land than outside it.

The only difference between the “non-liturgical” churches and the “liturgical” churches is that the former’s liturgy is (1) present but denied, (2) inherited instead of intentional, (3) culturally defined instead of ecclesiologically mandated, and (4) largely pragmatic instead of theological.

Now, this inevitability creates an irony but not a dilemma, and that’s where I’ve been trying to lead the church I pastor in appropriate and careful ways. Should not these inevitable structures, ceremonies, and services be intentionally infused with the wisdom of the church triumphant and ancient instead of subterfuged by the implicit assumptions of whatever culture we happen to reside in? Should we not see the siren song of neophilia (“love of the new”) as less desireable than the ancient liturgical practices? Will we not have more genuine “freedom” in worship operating in the context of a living, embraced, meaningful, God-exalting, deliberate liturgy of substance than we currently do in the context of our own assumed freedom which inevitably ends up being simple enslavement to the cultural mores of that odd little patch of earth we happen to live on?

So liturgy is inevitable and it ought to be embraced. To be sure, the old warnings against “dead ceremony” are legitimate and should be heeded. I do indeed relish the Baptist emphasis on the movement of the Spirit in worship and the place for passionate preaching and extemporaneous prayer and testimony. I mean that sincerely. But it would seem that one could not only embrace the best of both realities, but that the liturgical forms of the church can actually aid us in seeking God’s power and movement in our midst. In other words, liturgy could just be the Baptist’s best friend!

The value of liturgy is that it gives parameters to our naturally nomadic hearts, ties us in through concrete means with the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us, is oftentimes multi-sensory and not merely auditory (as Baptist worship can, at times, become) and, as such, ministers to the whole person. It strikes at our sense of isolation by reminding us in vivid and powerful ways that we are part of a two-millennia-old movement. It humbles us, guards us from our ego-driven and naive obsession with the new, and keeps us from our “reinvent-the-wheel” conceit that makes us see worship as merely our creation without regard to the worldwide Church of today or yesterday. And, above all else, liturgy can be Spirit-filled, Christ-exalting, and living. It is the churches cry of “Hallelujah!” to the living and holy God of Heaven and Earth.

William Cwirla/Lutheran: Why liturgical worship?

First a definition and a disclaimer. By “liturgy” I mean the western catholic mass form as it has been handed down by way of the Lutheran Reformation consisting of the five fixed canticles (Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei) pardon the Latin, but it sounds cool and we still use ‘em. “Liturgy” also includes the assigned Scripture texts for the Sundays, feast days, and seasons. I recognize that other Christians (and even some Lutherans) use the word “liturgy” to refer to any order of service, but that’s not how I’m using it here. Most of what I will say about the liturgy of the Divine Service will pertain to “liturgical worship” in general.

OK. Good. Now, why the liturgy?

1. Historic roots. Some parts of the liturgy go back to the apostolic period. Even the apostolic church did not start with a blank liturgical slate but adapted and reformed the liturgies of the synagogue and the Sabbath. The western mass shows our western catholic roots, of which we as Lutherans are not ashamed. We’re not the first Christians to walk the face of the planet, nor, should Jesus tarry, will we be the last. The race of faith is a relay, one generation handing on (“traditioning”) to the next the faith once delivered to the saints. The historic liturgy underscores and highlights this fact. It is “traditionable,” that is, it can be handed on.

2. A distinguishing mark. The liturgy distinguishes us from those who do not believe, teach, and confess the same as we do. What we believe determines how we worship, and how we worship confesses what we believe.

3. Theocentric and Christocentric. From the invocation of the Triune Name in remembrance of Baptism to the three-fold benediction at the end, the liturgy is focused on the activity of the Triune God centered in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Worship is not primarily about “me” or “we” but about God in Christ reconciling the world to HImself and my baptismal inclusion in His saving work.

4. Teaching. The liturgy teaches the whole counsel of God – creation, redemption, sanctification, Christ’s incarnation, passion, resurrection, and reign, the Spirit’s outpouring and the new life of faith. Every liturgical year cycles through these themes so that the hearer receives the “whole counsel of God” on a regular basis.

5. Trans-cultural. One of the greatest experiences of my worship life was to be in the Divine Service in Siberia with the Siberian Lutheran Church. Though I spoke only a smattering of Russian, I knew enough to recognize the liturgy, know what was being said (except for the sermon, which was translated for us), and be able to participate knowledgeably across language and cultural barriers. I have the same experience with our Chinese mission congregation.

6. Repetition. It is, after all, the mother of learning. Fixed texts and annual cycles of readings lend to deep learning. Obviously, mindless repetition does not accomplish anything; nor does endless variety.

7. Corporate. Worship is a corporate activity. “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” The liturgy draws us out of ourselves into Christ by faith and the neighbor by love. We are all in this together. Worship is not simply about what “I get out of it,” but I am there also for my fellow worshippers to receive the gifts of Christ that bind us together and to encourage each other to love and good works (Heb 10:25). We are drawn into the dialogue of confession and absolution, hearing and confessing, corporate song and prayer. To borrow a phrase from a favored teacher of mine, in church we are “worded, bodied, and bloodied” all together as one.

8. The tyranny of the “here and now.” When the Roman world was going to hell in a hand basket, the church was debating the two natures of Christ. In the liturgy, the Word sets the agenda, defining our needs and shaping our questions. The temptation is for us to turn stones into bread to satisfy an immediate hunger and scratch a nagging spiritual itch, but the liturgy teaches us to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

9. External and objective. The liturgical goal is not that everyone feel as certain way or have an identical “spiritual” experience. Feelings vary even as they come and go. The liturgy supplies a concrete, external, objective anchor in the death and resurrection of Jesus through Word, bread, and wine. Faith comes by hearing the objective, external Word of Christ.

10. The Word of God. This is often overlooked by critics of liturgical worship. Most of the sentences and songs of the liturgy are direct quotations or allusions from Scripture or summaries, such as the Creed. In other words, the liturgy is itself the Word of God, not simply a packaging for the Word. Many times the liturgy will rescue a bad sermon and deliver what the preacher has failed to deliver. I know; I’ve been there.

There’s ten reasons off the top of my head in Holy Week. Ten being a number of completeness, I’ll leave it there.


  1. As someone who grew up in rabidly anti-liturgical fundamentalist churches, I have recently come to appreciate the benefits of having a liturgy. Good thought-provoking responses from all.

  2. It seem to me that liturgy helps take the focus off me/us and my/our personal preference. We follow something that has come down to us as a way to worship God whether we particularly like it or not. In fact that isn’t important as I see it, but worship of God is.

  3. It appears to be a bit of a leap from paradosis to liturgy. Thayer’s tells me: a giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing, i.e. tradition by instruction, narrative, precept, etc. Each time it is used positively it relates to something taught by Paul. None of the things described as Liturgy seem to have a Pauline origin, and while the teachings of Paul about the teachings of Jesus are available to us, there is no biblical example of any ritual that was to be preserved by the Church, other than Communion and Baptism. These were recorded and can be administered in an accurate reproduction today of what occurred two thousand years ago.
    It makes sense to this bible reader that the Paradosis referred to meant the teachings of the way to live and honor God in our daily life, not an accepted form of ritual. Liturgy [capital L religious ritual] is instructive, and refreshing to the soul, but if it were what paradosis was to refer to would need to be somehow included in Scripture.

  4. This is a very interesting discussion. I feel a little disappointed that an ardent anti-liturgy type isn’t represented, but perhaps one will show up.

    My personal favorite answer to “Why Liturgy” begins with human nature, and how God created us and the universe. God gave Man the gift of the 5 physical senses. More than that, God gave man the ability to appreciate beauty with those senses. Finally, God gave man the ability to create beauty.

    In the Bible God occasionally used mans senses to communicate with him. The burning bush (eyes and ears), a cloud with lightning, mountain tops, water (washing in the Jordan) etc..

    The Jewish religion had considerable ritual and Liturgy. The Psalms in particular are “rote’ prayers.” They had different seasons and feast days. The Passover was especially liturgical and the outlines of that very liturgy are present in the Lord’s Supper.

    So, it makes total sense to me that our worship of God should utilize our senses and our minds. It makes complete sense to me that Worship should be beautiful and that a worship space should be a fitting compliment to the worship. It makes sense that worship should be filled with symbolism. It also makes sense to me that worship should orient me in the human family both historically and in the society of the world.

    To me, formal Liturgy is what delivers. I am well aware (having contemplated as a adolescent) that it can all look like so much blind repetition, going through the motions, and stale tradition. The other side of that, is when I understand the Liturgy and it’s symbolism, it connects me to God and to His Church in time and space and the beauty, grandeur, simplicity, elegance, poetry, pageantry, etc. draw me into relationship with God and his people.

    I draw an analogy to music. Beautiful music is created by following a design. Often that design is a written piece of music – yet the performance isn’t dead – if the musicians are any good. Even when improvising, musicians are using their understanding of established forms (chords, scales, harmonies, rhythm); improvisation isn’t random.

    Just as with music, Liturgy doesn’t just happen, even when it is improvisational. And, although we may not all agree on our Liturgical preferences, I think God created our human natures to appreciate what liturgy creates which is harmony and beauty.

  5. Willoh,

    What do you make of I Corinthians 14, particularly verses 26-40? Link

  6. I have this theory that’s been kicking around in my mind for a few years– I should write it down and codify it someday– briefly stated, it says that there is something deep within the human psyche that tends to ritualize nearly everything in life. Rituals are everywhere, from the graduation ceremony to the wedding to the funeral to the (insert a religious practice) to the way we execute a criminal. Heck, most of us even have a nightly ritual we go through while preparing for bed!

    Not only do we ritualize life, but we instinctively relate to rituals already in place. Perhaps it helps us to understand what’s going on, to know what to expect, and to more easily participate in it. Conversely, to be dropped into an unfamiliar ritual is uncomfortable and awkward.

    [This is where chapters 2 – 35 of the book would go.]

    Ritual has a huge connection to the notion of liturgy in worship (obviously). And that, I believe, is the genius of liturgy– it affords an immediate place to connect. Once one learns the rudiments of the liturgy (ritual) in one’s own setting, one knows how to act, what to do and when, and what to expect next. It’s very comforting. Very safe, in fact.

    Being in a Pentecostal tradition for most of my life, I completely endorse Wyman Richardson’s observations. We have forms, traditions, rituals, and denied-yet-exisistant liturgies throughout our worship. Vehemently denied. Officially denied. Institutionally, traditionally denied. But I didn’t grow up here, I grew up in the Disciples of Christ where there are more “forms” used. I know rituals when I see them, and I’m telling you: this emperor dude ain’t wearin’ any clothes. I know the reason for it, too. If we are going to be the people whom the Spirit has filled, and enervates daily, and leads in all things, then we certainly shouldn’t get “set in our ways”, because that would interfere with the free moving of the Spirit in our assembly. Or so goes the logic. It totally begs the question of whether perhaps the Spirit might be present in a more “formal” (i.e. using a form) style of worship. Or, to put it another way: perhaps the Spirit can also meet us in a setting where we feel comfortable, and safe, and know what to expect? After all, that’s what we essentially do in our Stealth Liturgy already. Just go ahead and admit it, and use it?

    Just some ponderings from the Pentecostal side…

  7. Paul in the GNW,

    Of the Gangstas themselves, I probably should represent the “ardent anti-liturgy type.” Many in my own communion of the SBC would fall in that camp. Interestingly, in SBC circles an affection for liturgy may get you labeled a “moderate” (or even a “liberal”).

    Many younger pastors are coming to see the value of liturgy, however, and I do suspect we may see a healthy flowering of positive liturgical forms in the SBC.

    But I suspect if we all wait a few moments, the type you speak of will show up! 🙂


  8. JimBob,

    Great comments. I wish I would’ve thought of “Stealth Liturgy.” You are correct sir!


  9. Wyman,

    Just listened to your Palm Sunday sermon. Excellent application. I want a longer invitation though.

    Come to Murray.



  10. Bless you iMonk.

    That is high praise indeed! (Seriously!)


  11. Irony – I find it Ironic that in “12 step” recovery meetings people make the biggest fuss out of being free from religion and non-conformist – yet – “12 step” meetings are rigidly Liturgical with a very fixed “format – opening statement – set readings – introductions “Hi, I’m Dave and I’m an ____” “Hi Dave” – and closing prayer with lots of peer pressure to hold hands and chant a closing Doxology “Keep coming back, it works if you work it”

    The only people who could possible claim that a “12 step” meeting isn’t Liturgical are people who have no clue what “Liturgical” means. And you wouldn’t believe how upset the most vocal “non-conformist” gets if you violate the protocol.

  12. “…it says that there is something deep within the human psyche that tends to ritualize nearly everything in life.”

    Twelve step programs are a fine example. So are sporting events. The bigger the event, the more liturgical. Look at the Olympics! But even a regular season baseball game has a liturgy. The military is also quite liturgical, especially when it comes to burial of their dead. There is something very comforting about ritual.

  13. Paul in the GNW , I would love to pursue the 1Cor. 14 thing, lets do that soon, but Imonk’s subject is Liturgy, and I am learning too much to get off thread.
    I was once so anti-liturgical that we never held the same order of worship. Still at times we start with a sermon, and sing later, or just stir things up. I think now I was a bit [a lot?] paranoid in my anti- liturgical obsession, but I only meant to please my God.
    I now pastor many who have left Catholicism, and while I have mellowed, Liturgy is still a sore point.

  14. I greatly appreciate this paragraph from Gangsta Richardson:

    “The only difference between the “non-liturgical” churches and the “liturgical” churches is that the former’s liturgy is (1) present but denied, (2) inherited instead of intentional, (3) culturally defined instead of ecclesiologically mandated, and (4) largely pragmatic instead of theological.”

    I’m not certain it is the “only” difference, but these are the differences in their respective approaches to worship. Nicely put.

  15. “Peter’s Anglican Church is so busy having great Liturgy this Tridium, that we’ll have to catch him on the other side of the Ressurection.

    Seriously, it’s amazing any of these guys got this post in here before Easter. I’ll let you know when Peter finds out what Liturgy is and tries some.”

    That’s Triduum (three days). We’re quite in the middle of it all ourselves, having completed the three hour (Tre Ore) vigil from Noon to three, now awaiting the Adoration of the Crucified this evening.

    One reason we can come up with posts in Holy Week is that we don’t have to wonder “what are we going to do for Easter.” That’s the beauty of liturgical worship – no need to reinvent the worship wheel.

  16. I really would have appreciated seeing the Anglican view in here but hey, I guess the Triduum takes precedence. Lol.

    As for Wyman Richardson’s response, that has got to be one of the best responses about liturgy that I have heard from a Baptist (of any persuasion) on the topic. Ever. Period.

    Can’t wait for the next instalment from the Gangstas. Pax.

  17. A couple years ago, right at the end of high school, I was very much against any kind of tradition, particularly liturgy. I thought it was boring, rote, meaningless, etc… Basically every reason you could come up with to dislike tradition, I had embraced.

    It took me a while to figure out that tradition takes on whatever meaning you assign it. If it’s nothing more than tradition, of course it’s meaningless. But Christian tradition has meaning everywhere. It’s when I began to think about the symbolism, the theology, the real meaning in what was being said that I began to appreciate what was once just routine.

    From my own experience, “The Great Thanksgiving,” as used in the Methodist Church is a perfect example. I could probably recite the entire thing, just from having sat through it for so many years. At a young age, I had no idea what it meant, but by the time I could have understood it all, it was just words in a book I didn’t even have to open anymore. I thought I understood the significance of communion, but when I began to actually consider the words and the events surrounding the Last Supper, the bread and wine (or grape juice) took on a whole new meaning. Nobody, not even my dad, who was a Methodist minister for the first half of my life, bothered to explain everything.

    Perhaps the reason liturgy is considered meaningless is because, for many, it really is.

  18. Being new here I want to say that I appreciate the website and all the contributors. I come from an evangelical perspective, and I agree that we all have “liturgies”, if by “liturgy” we expand the definition to mean a structure, worship actions, or even certain verbal phrases we repeat.

    The worship service at our church is composed of music, video clips, and preaching, and we are intentionally biblical in how we try to structure the service. I’m open to incorporating ancient liturgy and we occasionally do ancient prayers or readings, but I think I would find it difficult to repetitively do exactly the same reading and/or rituals every week from the standpoint of keeping people focused on the Word of God and the work of the Spirit in our midst.

  19. I pastor a “nonliturgical” church. We introduced reciting the Lord’s Prayer and singing the Doxology on Communion Sunday. No one said a word. Then, in our very Bible oriented church, we began with the “this is the word of the Lord/thanks be to God” at the end of our Scripture reading. The reaction was amazing, some people flipped, saying we must be trying to become Catholic? Huh??

  20. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian says

    Excellent essays all around. Well done, gentlemen.

    A personal point: this probably reveals my lack of good taste more than anything else, but I absolutely hate “church music” with all those organs and choirs. It just grates on my ears–I can’t explain it. (Maybe some people feel that way about incense.)

    Now I realize that some churches don’t do that–the groovy, “with-it” churches might have some long-haired guy playing the guitar, the Orthodox and Churches of Christ do their a capella thing, and then there are all those black-black churches moaning hallelujiahs–but what if none of that fits either? Am I being obstinate in avoiding the opportunity to either pipe or dance, so to speak?

    I think a lot of people find the whole “church experience” dull, but when they try to replace it with something cool, that inevitably falls flat. What to do…?

  21. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian:

    Are you surfnetter?

  22. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian

    You are probably not interested for a lot of reasons…..But it sounds like you might appreciate a very simple “low” Mass – particularly a good daily Mass or an early Mass on Sunday (7:00 AM). I often find these services beautiful for the simplicity. No music, no choir, no hyms. I personally appreciate a Priest who might Chant a few of the responses.

    My mother-in-law can’t tolerate the music either. She’s gone to the 7:00 AM service at her Church every Sunday since 1957.

  23. While I attend an SBC church where we do not regularly do any liturgy, I do encourage my pastor to include it at times. I think it is important to remind believers of the creeds, especially the Apostles and the Nicene. Every March (close to the 17th) I read “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” for our benediction. Our people love it.
    When I first became a believer I attended a community Bible Church that read Liturgy about once a month or every other month. I thought that was an appropriate blend, especially helpful to those who had left Catholicism or high churches because of non-biblical teaching assimilate into a different form of worship.

  24. Father Ernesto said, “But to me the strongest argument is the Book of Revelation.”

    I am reading Scott Hahn’s book, The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, and Hahn also discusses the Book of Revelation in explaining what is going on during mass. I am enjoying the book and am only halfway through it so far.

  25. On the subject of liturgy and the reading of the Gospels and Epistles, Louisiana Catholic mentioned the “Procession of the Gospels.” This occurs usually in both the Ordinary Form (OF/Mass of Paul VI) and the Extraordinary Form (EF/aka Tridentine or Masses of Pius V thru John XXIII). I will discuss the symbolism of the forma of the EF.

    Facing God: In the EF, direction is highly symbolic. The Liturgy is meant to be vertical when dealing with prayer to God, and all are oriented (a word which literally means “east”), hence, in RC liturgical usage, you’ll hear the term -ad orientem- used or also -versus Deum- (facing God). They are synonymous, as Jews faced to the East when worshipping God. Mass facing the people -versus populum- is a 19th Century innovation. Even in the early Church, if the celebrant faced the people due to having a “disoriented” Church (sanctuary in the western part of the Church) the people also would face east (with *gasp* their backs to the celebrant).

    However, when the celebrant or his deacon and subdeacon read the Gospel and Espistle, they would face certain “liturgical” directions. For simplicity’s sake, the altar is the east-seeking arrow from the pews, and north is to your left. The Mass starts with the Altar Missal on the “liturgical” south side of the altar (pew right, altar [think stage] left). The priest-celebrant reads or chants from the Epistle facing “Liturgical” East, i.e. towards God. If there is a deacon and subdeacon, the subdeacon exits the sanctuary (in Catholic terms) and, likewise, faces “Lit.” East, chants the Epistle. After which, the servers or, if a High Mass, the deacon and subdeacon, swap the Missal with the chalice and paten (if I recall correctly) so that the Missal is now on the Lit North side of the altar, and is canted about 45 degrees to allow the priest celebrant to face generally lit. north during the reading or chanting of the Gospel. If a Solemn High Mass, the deacon and subdeacon will process the Book of Gospels out of the sanctuary, where the sub will hold the book for the deacon to chant. The deacon will be facing lit north on the lit north side of the nave (to the left front of the pews.)

    The reason why the directionalism of the Gospel being preached “North?” you ask. Simple. In the bible, Jesus said to preach the Gospel to all nations, etc. “All Nations” (Goyim) were in the north.

    We lost the tremendous symbolism in the Procession of the Gospels (in it’s minor and major forms, both of which occur in a Solemn High Mass) at the start of the OF of the Mass, until it was partially revived in very recent times (last 10-15 years or so, if at all), but the full symbolism is still lost in the OF as we don’t face any liturgical direction except -versus populum-. And I would submit that from an evangelical (small e) standpoint, that symbolism is the greater one.

  26. There is a reason the NIV and a couple of other very evangelical Bibles conveniently translate paradosis as teaching when St. Paul speaks of it in a positive fashion but tradition when it is spoken of in a negative fashion. Why is it not the “teaching of the elders” but rather the “tradition of the elders” when it is rebuked? Because it does not match “low” Protestant theology. Here is the problem. If we translate to match our theology, how can the Bible speak into our lives, either corporate or personal?

    As with all things Greek, it is not sufficient to see how it was used in classical Greek. One must look both at how it was used in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew words and concepts and compare that with how the phrase also moved into Latin. Paradosis is used in Wisdom with the sense of a thing handed over, not just a teaching, for instance. And, the word is translated into the Vulgate as “traditio” or tradition. That is the surrounding usage of the word in other Judeo-Christian settings is not just teaching, though that may have been the classical usage before the time of Christ.

    However, traditions do have to be taught, so any tradition is automatically a teaching, but it is more than just a verbal classroom teaching. Note that in 1 Cor 11, St. Paul speaks of the Lord’s Supper and how they celebrated it wrongly. Did he have to teach them how to celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Yes, he says he did. But, they did not do it in the way in which he taught it. The reference is not to a set of teachings per se, but to a way of worship which was not being followed. This is why I did the study on paradosis, to point out that we were taught the Lord’s tradition of worship.

    Moreover, the allusions to liturgical worship in the New Testament are many, from St. John 6, all the way, and most especially including, the Book of Revelation. In fact, St. John wrote the books that contain the largest number of liturgical allusions.

    But let me go farther. Beginning in the second century BC, and most especially in the Septuagint, the word leiturgia came to mean cultic worship. In the Septuagint it is used to translate the work of the priests in the sanctuary. That is, the priests were liturgizing, if I may construct such a word into English. That same use of the word is found in Acts. The passage is Acts 13:2 which in English is translated as “while they were worshipping” or something close to that. In the Greek it is “leitourgountoon” which in the light of the Septuagint might be better translated as while they were liturgizing or while they were in the midst of their ceremonies. That is, in parallel with the Septuagint, it would clearly imply or point to while they were performing the rituals of their “temple” service. In other words, in the midst of their liturgical ritual, the Lord spoke and separated out St. Paul and St. Barnabas.

    One way of saying that is “while they were worshipping.” But, because we do not see the Greek word that is being translated, because we do not know that the Septuagint used the same word to translate the priestly ritual service of the Temple, because the word paradosis is translated as teaching so that we do not catch that St. Paul is urging the Corinthians to follow a taught ritual of the Lord’s Supper, we come to believe that it is never mentioned in the New Testament that the Church engaged in liturgy. The opposite is true. The Church taught traditions and engaged in liturgy, and the writings of the Fathers, and the historical practice of the very early Church confirm that interpretation of Scripture.

    By the way, that same usage of leiturgia is found in Luke 1:23 where it is translated, “when the days of his priestly service were ended.” In Hebrews 9:21, the same word is used and the NIV translates it as, “In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies.” Hmm, so when it is used in certain settings it means “ceremonies” or “priestly service” but when it is used of the early Christian worship at Antioch it is not translated, “when they were in the midst of their ceremonies?” Does that not seem like translating to fit a theological view rather than letting Scripture speak to one?

    You see, there have been some serious games played with the translations, games that can lead one to believe that certain things are not found in the New Testament, when they in fact are.

  27. “I think a lot of people find the whole “church experience” dull, but when they try to replace it with something cool, that inevitably falls flat. What to do…?”

    Go liturgical. It’s an acquired taste, but at least it lasts.

  28. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian says

    iMonk: No, I had to go to google to find out who that was.

    Paul: I do appreciate the sort of service you have in mind. Monastic psalmody is probably my ideal, especially when they do it all through the day and “live” the words.

    Has anybody gone to a Hare Krishna service? They bang drums and dance around singing “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna” (which has got to be the most easy-to-learn hymn in the entire world), then sit down for a vegetarian Indian feast. Great fun. There are You-Tube videos of these guys dancing through the streets of New York, beckoning passers-by to join in, and a lot of them time they do! As a joke, maybe, but half of Times Square can end up dancing. Why can’t Christianity be that interesting? (Of course the Krishnas can only have sex three times a month, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

  29. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian says

    wcwirla: Thanks. Which liturgical do you have in mind?

  30. Father Ernesto writes:

    “That is, if we are true to our calling to be a God-centered people, then what God likes, we are supposed to like also. Moreover, even if we do not initially like it, we are then supposed to learn to like it because as we learn to like it, we will grow more and more into the image of God.”

    Growing up, there was a point in my life when I felt God calling me through the Liturgy (I was about 8 at the time). By the time I was in my teens I was bored to tears with the repetition! But as I continued my faith jouney in my thirties and grew deeper in my faith now in my forties, I grew to love the liturgy, the feeling of holiness, the chance for me to worship at a deeper level.

    Matthew Johnson writes:

    In our more liturgical services the whole church joins in a responsive call to worship, they are praying the Lord’s Prayer together, they are praying out loud a prayer for illumination before the Scripture reading, and they are thanking God for his word at the conclusion of that reading.

    Right there with you. I guess my focus has changed from a narcissistic “I’ve come to be fed” to “I come to worship as a community”.

    Great job by all the Liturgical Gangstas on this one. But then I guess I’m a liturgy person…

    Went to our parish’s Tenebrae service tonight and I took my three oldest kids (17, 15, and 13). This is something I look forward to each yesr and I know they enjoy it as well. The community slinging Psalms back and forth (kind of like a Liturgy of the Hours) is a great teaching moment and bonding in the community. Just thought I’d share.

  31. The Independent Bible Church (very non-liturgical) that we attend just held our second annual Tenebrae Service. In addition, our student ministry sponsored their first “Jesus Experience” which is a type of Stations of the Cross. We, along with many other evangelical churches across the US, are discovering or rediscovering the value of liturgy and tradition. I see it as a very good thing.

  32. I was raised in the Episcopal Church. I love the liturgy and would be lost without the BCP. When I am at church, it is neat and comforting to know that all over the world, other Episcopalians/Anglicans are saying the same words of praise to God that we are.

    My wife was raised in Baptist and non-demoninational churches. She likes the liturgy because she feels that she’s taking part in the service and not just sitting there being preached to.

  33. “wcwirla: Thanks. Which liturgical do you have in mind?”

    The western evangelical catholic mass by way of the Reformation = Lutheran.

    But then, I’m biased. ; )

    Blessed Holy Saturday to all. Tonight the Vigil of Easter!

  34. >non-demoninational?

  35. Father Ernesto….regarding the translation of “paradosis”: all translations require semantic decisions about what particular word to use in the translation, which are certainly influenced by contemporary context, whether theological or cultural. We can just as easily say that your argument is influenced by your theology. Calling these decisions “games” is a very ungracious and inaccurate statement.

  36. MAJ Tony, your lovely explanation of liturgical directions recalled to my memory the long-ago days of my childhood when it was still the custom in Irish country churches for the women (and children) to sit on the “Gospel” side of the church (as you say, the pews on the left) and the men to sit on the “Epistle” side 🙂

  37. By “liturgy” I mean the western catholic mass form as it has been handed down by way of the Lutheran Reformation consisting of the five fixed canticles (Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei) pardon the Latin, but it sounds cool and we still use ‘em.

    (Pssst. “Kyrie” isn’t Latin!)


    Blessed Holy Saturday.

  38. sue kephart says

    I love to visit a variety of churches and be apart of different worship styles. God’s people worshiping God in different and various ways. WOW!

    But liturgy is my home. I had a pastor explain why using liturgy is important. It keeps the central things central. Because we like Peter want to focus on earthly things. Liturgy isn’t about ME it’s about HIM. Not what I am doing but what He is doing, has done and is continuing to do.

    I also want to put into the mix the lectionary. Most Liturgical Churches are using the same or nearly the same readings. I like that. Also I was raised not to take the Bible out of context. We don’t throw Bible verses or verses fragments at folks. After all the Bible says,”There is no God”. I also like the idea my pastor is suppose to preach the Gospel. So this means using the Gospel and accompaning reading for her (yes, her) sermon. Even if it doesn’t speak to her. Maybe she needs to do some study or strech and grow!! Too bad she doesn’t get to pick her favorite verses to preach on every week. Some reading she might like others not. Maybe some she needs to pray about. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

  39. While I sponsor the Catholic campus ministry at our university, I and several others attended a pizza sociual at the local Baptist student association. I recall one of the young men set on evangelizing us being befuddled by the mention of the word “liturgy”. It was an unknown concept.

    Thus, Wymann’s response was much appreciated. Good to know thqat some Baptists are aquainted with the concept.

    Charlie’s comment on the use of Stations of the Cross by evangelical churches is intriging and I would love to read more on the adoption of that liturgy by evangelicals.

    Thom beat me by minutes on “Kyrie”. My own daughter once proudly announced that the Kyrie was Latin. She seemed amazed when I pointed out that it was the “other” western liturgical language.

    Kalí Anastási

  40. Hijack Alert 😉

    Just another jump on the Tenebrae note. During Holy Week of 1985 I was a senior in HS who wanted out of the house on a Wed. night. It was Holy Week, so no go on anything social. My friends and I (6 of us) decided to go to Tenebrae at the Cathedral. None of us had any idea what Tenebrae was, it was just something to do.

    BLEW US AWAY! I still get chills. I hadn’t really given it much thought, but at that time I was all for wild experimentation and improvisation in the Liturgy. That Tenedbrae service might have been the first awakening of my ‘traditional’ side. This particular service was full on ancient Catholic chanted in English with a little Latin.

  41. Jared Nelson says

    I’m still confused why an SBC guy is in the liturgical gangsters and a PCA guy is in the evangelical group…

  42. Jared – because every denomination has liturgy.

  43. I for one wish the SBC would go back to some of it’s historical liturgy – like having Good Friday Service be at 1pm and not involve some dramatic dance/play/outreach at 5, 7 and 9 pm.

  44. Jared Nelson:

    Because the PCA is confessionally opposed to anything Catholic and typical large Southern First Baptist is fairly open to liturgy.

    WHich churhc is more likely to use an advent wreath?

    Believe it or not SBC.



  45. Gangsta Fr. Peter (the Anglican) here.
    Apologies for not completing my post.

    To add a point to Fr. Ernesto’s fine work on leitourgia and its use in the N.T., let me suggest one also look at Hebrews 8:1-2 and ask, “What is Jesus doing right now?” Well, among other things he is carrying out his high priestly ministry in the true tabernacle in heaven. Here is how the ESV puts is:

    Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.

    The Greek for minister is leitourgos and is clearly used not of worship in the sense of personal, affective sentiments of devotion, but temple centered ritual acts. In this case, Jesus bringing his blood to the Father in the heavenly tabernacle/temple.

    Public Christian worship is never something the Church does in and of herself — it is always done in Christ. It is a participation in the worship of Christ. (To use contemporary worship jargon, Jesus is the “lead worshiper.”) The Church’s worship is participation in the liturgy Jesus is conducting in heaven — a participation in the liturgy of Jesus. Jesus is the chief liturgist. We are just following him.

  46. Tom,

    You seem concerned about using the same Scripture all the time as a focus. Catholics do use the Nicene (sp) Creed at almost every Mass.
    But as far as Bible readings, we are on a 3 year cycle. So we get different readings, from the Old Testament, the Epistles, the Psalms and the Gospels every Sunday. About the only time when it is the same every year, is Easter. Most of the parishes where I have been tend to use John’s gospel then. (Probably because I like going to the services that the incoming members are.)

    I’ve noticed that many preachers, who don’t have a lectionary to guide them, choose the same Bible passages over and over again. To the neglect of the rest.

    May you and everyone here have a blessed Easter.

  47. (Pssst. “Kyrie” isn’t Latin!)

    Pssst. Transliteration. Like Amen, Alleluia, Hosanna, and Maranatha.

    Κύριε ἐλέησον, Χριστὲ ἐλέησον, Κύριε ἐλέησον.
    Kýrie, eléison; Christé, eléison; Kýrie, eléison.
    Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.

  48. Umm, yeah. But it still isn’t Latin! 🙂

  49. I see Mr. Thom is an educated man.

  50. Peggy Noonan wrote a column in Wall St Journal a couple of years ago about the Gerald Ford funeral and how the ritual of such events binds the nation together. You can say the same about our church liturgy. Here is a taste:

    We do all this to remind ourselves who we are. We do it to remind ourselves what we honor, and what we believe, as a nation and a people. We do it to remind ourselves that America yields greatness, that here a seemingly average man raised in decidedly average circumstances can become someone whose passing deserves four days of a great nation’s praise.

    Praising these things reminds the old of what it is we should be aiming for each day, and instructs the young on the elements of a life well lived.

    We do it to make the picture broader for a moment, and free ourselves of our cynicism. And we do it finally to enact what so many feel and rarely say, not only because it’s corny but because if you mean it, it’s beyond words.