Wednesday, March 28, 2012
And I believe what I believe is what makes me who I am. I did not make it, no it is making me. It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man.--Rich Mullins, from the song Creed
Rich Mullins knew what he was talking about with the lyrics posted above. While he was speaking of the Apostles' Creed, I believe what he ways really applies to the whole of liturgy.
Liturgy plays an important role in our worship in many ways, but I think that the most important is how it forms us into "better" believers. Everything that I have said before danced around this notion. Liturgy gets into us, it is habitual and repetitious, it teaches us theology and practical prayers for life. All of these things are formation. Liturgy forms us into who we need to be.
"Wait a minute," you may think, "I've known a lot of people who certainly didn't seemed formed by the liturgy! It can't really do that, cant it??"
Well, I've known a lot of people who went to church who certainly don't always act like Christians (I see one in the mirror everyday!). All rules have exceptions, but I haven't even mentioned the rule yet. To me, liturgies formative nature is much like faith that saves. You can have faith, but if it is really meaningless to you, it is of no good. The same with liturgy. If you don't actually pay any attention or aren't really in church to worship God, then it is of no good in forming you.
Now, it may start that you are one of those people and it may be that eventually you quit being that kind of person, but one doesn't always know when that transition happens or how, really. Really, my point is that just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't happening. The Word of God changes hearts, but we don't see that all the time (or very often since it works deep down), but we aren't quick to criticize it for lack of effectiveness. And besides that, the traditional liturgy is mostly Scripture anyway, so it will work in much the same way: quietly, slowly, deeply. At the end, don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
But why is it so important for liturgy to be formative? I'll give one reason: Our hearts are wicked and cannot be understood. That's right. I need the continual formation of the liturgy to help combat the wickedness that lives inside of me. I am a sinner and a saint at the same time. The liturgy is one aspect of combatting the sinner in me on a daily basis. It provides forms and ways to pray, to speak to God, to respond to God's promises. I don't trust myself to have good responses in all of these areas because I am prone to being so wrong because of my sinful nature.