Full Text for Are We Getting Through with the Gospel in our Liturgy? (Text)

Are We Getting Through With The Gospel In Our Liturgy? W OULD YOU LIKE to live in a house, to which over a pcriocl of several hundred years have added rooms and bal- conies, staircases and steeples, awkward corners and doorways? In such a house a visitor or guest would wander about as in a maze. He would hardly be able to reconstruct the ground plan. IVhile \ve, as the owners of the house, ~vould soon get nccustomecl to that confusing location, he, our ~isitor, nrould merely see a senseless colllpilation of architecture. In the eyes of guests and visitors the liturgy in our Lutheran serviccs iriust look like such a house. The different parts, such as the Introit, I<\,rie, Gloria, Salutation and others have been added to the order of the Alas in the course of thc centuries. We have reliable sources ~vhich testifv that the Introit was adcled to the order of the \lass in thc se\ enth ccnturr. The Introit used to be a psalm which was sung 21s long ;IS the clergy proceeded through the church to the altar. \l111e1~ the clergy reached the altar the Pope or bishop gave the sign for the Gloria Patri. Our Introit has melted down to two or three verses of a psalm. \\'hat I sa! is this: Ow gencratio~l is utzable to see the grotirrd plan u{ the horrsc or the interltion of the architect. TO the people of our clays thc liturgy is a perplexingly entangled and compli- catccl matter \\llic11 the! do not understand. No one, unless he is an cxpcrt in liturgics, a ~>C~SOII constantly clealing with the intricate mat- ter, is in a position to understand the purpose of our liturgy. To many l~oplc thc ~>:trts of our liturgy ilre simplv pious phrases which are said or sun?: for tllr solc purpose of conncciing the more important parts '1s thc readings From Scripture, thc sermon ancl the Lord's Supper. :\I1 this rcfcrs to thc concept of liturgy as well as to the IIIUS~C and the la~~guagc. of Iit~~l-g!, . Our question 'ir\re \vc getting through wit11 the Gospel in our liturg!.?" nlust be reduced to the simple question: "Do tve reach the Ilcarts and niincls of our service visitors? Rllv observations refer to the situation in Ccrnlan!. The conclusions I draw however might be of ~li~i~crs:tI interest and \.aluc. I like to add, that I dare not claim to ~nakc st atenicn ts of irrc~rocnble truth. Rlv paper cannot cover the cntirc liturg! of tlie full morning servici \\7ith Holy Communion. Thus I simpl!. put III\ finger 011 a few of the more important parts of the ortlcr of sen icc. ?'he J~rtroit. 'L'hc Innguagc of the psalms is of a very poetical char- irctcr. Fonucr ~cnerations had a fine sensatioll and for l~octr!.. 7'1111 gcncralio~~s growing up no\v seem to have only a vague and imperfect notion cjf what poetry is like. Thus they hardl!. understand thc pictorial ant1 colorful verses of thc psalms. '1Vl1en we try to evangeli;/c modern people, espcciall\7 young follcs, we have to take in due consideration that fact. ~hcl~ol~ men who rvrotc the Scriptures used the common languagt. of thcir time, the Grcek koi~~c. \\7hcn the Bible was translated thc tr:lnslators used thc vo- cabular! of the common peoplc ;rnd c\lcr\~bodv's language, not some artificial manner of expression. On the other hand ~ve want to con- tinue what God's people started when the); sang thc psalms of t11c Old Testament. One strange thing about the sinping of thcsc l>salnis is t11c fact that \\c ha\len't dc\~elopcd an!? new forms and mcIodics since the Grcgorian Chant came up in the earl! Aliddle Ages. Do the ptml>lc of our t\ventieth century young generation undcrstand such ecclesiastical singing? I doubt if the average churchgoer senses the beauty of thc ancicnt melodies of the Introit. Though \vc know that hardly anybodv is in full accord \\-it11 the Gregorian Chant, 11-c, the liturgical minded ministers and the church at large keep on using it. \\7hy arc churches all over thc \vorld? Could it be that \vc hang on to ancient rites and ceremonies? It's high time to find new forms for a trcneration 1vhic.11 is about to move off to nelr hori~ons. O. The Kyrie. Originally the Kyrie eleison was thc response of the con- grcgation aftcr the n~inistcr hacl prayed the intercessions. After cach one of thcm the congregatioi~ said or chanted thc K!rie cleison. Thc Gregorian Reformation in the cighth century placed the intercessions into the comn~union part of the hlass. Onlv the ninefold K!ric was left, it was later rctlucetl to a threefold 1roclamntion of the Gospel must be in full X- corcl \\.it11 tllc siti~ation of modern men. Our practice of reading from thc Scripture!, ;is part of the liturgy of our services must be changed sooncr or latcr. Othcrnisc people n7on't understand ~vhat ~vc read to tllcm and lil~at it incans to them. They might think that reading from Scriptures is some sort of a mystic performance by which we tr! to conj~11-c 111~ ~xtst. 1 have intervie\\7ed quite a number of people of :ill ~~alks of life. They all told n1e two things, nanlcly that most of thc readings of oi~r present epistles and gospels arc far too long and too hart1 to untlerstand. In my Rielefeld congregation 1 have a very i~ctiic group of people, who arc very eager to pronlotc stc~vardship. lhc! itre all convincctl that nlodern men's ability to hear and ponder is lirnitctl b! the c\cessive consumption of newspapers, television ant1 othor mctlirl. Thus no one is able to understand and contemplate three difficult tests of Scripture in a one-hour service. From opinions and rei~ction* Iihc that 1 am inclined to sav that, as far as the readings are ~o~~ccrnctl, less n auld be more, far &ore, I an1 an ardent practitioner of the liturg! of our Lutheran Church. Yet 1 doubt if all these wonderful texts have a meaning to the members of our congreg;ltions. Yes, the! co~ne and worship, often with glowing hearts. Hut of \\hat use is a servicc when the parts have to be explained with great care: Although I personally \vouldn't want to lose the liturgy of our services, I cjuestioll the usefulness of our liturgy for niodern people, especially for those ~vhom \ye want to lead to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Being appropriately careful of their practices we have to concede the Roi~~an Catholics a good por- tion of insight into human character. They reduce thcir liturgy n~ore and more as they have found out that Gregorian chant and German or English language don't go together. And above all, mhv should an invention of the sixth ccnti~rv dcter~ninc the entire liturgical practice of all future generations? If n7c want to go back to the original we would have to start with the first Christian congregation in Jerusalem. And that's just \\hat we ought to do-in my opinion. T11e Constan- tian age of the Christian Cliurch lias clefinitel!, conlc to an end, of course as far as Europe is concer~lcd. Thc enornlous burden of two thousand years of tradition lias made the church unworthy of con- fidence. \Vhen the small church of tlic future-and the church will be small in the futurc-wants to regain confidence she has to de- velop crcdiblc forms of divi~~e worshil~ servicc. The often sober, dispassionate and cool-headed pcoplc of our clay arc suspicious of orders and forms of the past. What c.nn he done' Saturall\r \yc ci~nnot abolish the traditional liturgy of our Lutheran \,.orship services all of a sudden. But II~C ought to study thc situation in which we live and practice. \iTe haw to study the hearts ancl minds of our people. IVc have to determine how much of the liturgy they actually understand and hon7 ni~cll of it call he explained and taught. T am con\linced that not too much \\.ill be left. But what's the difference, if 01-11! Christ, our crucificd and risen Lord is preached. Ht. has given 11s his holy wort1 ancl the sacra- ments, not a certain hol!. liturgy. If Ive hat1 a procedure of accul-iltcl! testing the opinion of all our n~emhcrs, I am sure we nlould find out that there is not much understanding for the intricate liturgy of our services. It inight even be dangerous to keep on with a liturgy which could obscure the vcrified ancl indisputable facts of our sal~ation. I ain absolutely surc that ~ve sin against the first commandment when we adhere to a litilrg which endangers worship, understandinp and belief of many people. IVe make our liturgy a golden calf, an- nother god. Therefore we ha1.t. to add new orders of service now. The Roman Catholic Church has such services. I asked a friend of mine who is a Roman priest and he told me that they regularly haw services with only olle reading, two or three hymns, olze prayer and a short sermon. And people really go for such services. Some of the members of mv congregation told me that they \rould favor new orders if they u:ould bc held parallel to the traditional services. After a certain tinlc of transition, maybe ten years or so, would decide by their attendance which orclers they favor. Let me sum up my thoughts: Although I am fully in favor of our Lutheran liturgy I am not convinced that this liturgy is suited to proclaim God's lncssagz in our time. Too much of the liturgy is hard to understand. Nobody talks like people used to talk more than thousand years ago. Nobody likes to Iive in houses of such an age. Therefore I am in favor of trying out ne'iv orders for our services with a new biblical liturgy containing the essentials of service: We serve God 'i'i7ith adoration and prayer, God serves us with word and sacra- men l.