Saturday, July 28, 2007

Provocative post on liturgy

Pastor Jeff Meyers (Providence PCA in St. Louis) posted a thought provoking post on why some conservative presbyterians don't like liturgy on his blog. It's the second part of a longer post- it's worth a read for sure- Corrigenda Denuo


Mark Davis said...

I don't see why anyone would engage in an argument over liturgy. Taking a stand as anti-liturgical (is that a word?) is self-defeating. One simple question would reveal the weakness of the stance: So, how do you propose to worship? Any answer will by definition promote a liturgy, and the argument is over.

The real issue for most, I believe, is a matter of content rather than form. The heart of the argument isn't liturgy. Liturgy is simply a prescribed order, and nobody in their right mind argues for a disorderly worship experience. From the time of temple sacrifices to the closing of the canon, God's people were never prescribed chaos as an approach to worship. Even the most outlandish services in Christendom have a prescribed order to them, although to some of us it's not immediately evident. Liturgy is order, and order is mom and apple pie to the rational bible student.

The real question when it comes to worship is cultural immediacy. Will the content of the worship service be built of new or old material? Will the language and tone of the service reflect the current culture or a standing tradition? Is this really a dichotomy at all? Is either answer correct? Can the two be combined?

One passage of scripture stands out in my mind when this subject is discussed:

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 "For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings."

This passage is sufficiently clear that I won't weaken it with my own words. I will suggest that based on this statement of method from Paul, he would likely dismiss any argument between traditional and contemporary worship as completely irrelevant.

AJF said...

No argument meant here. I read Jeff's post differently.

I saw Jeff, in his own way, encouraging us ministers to be careful to explain why we do what we do. He was pointing out the weakness of traditional liturgy when it's lead poorly. That's what I thought was personally valuable.

You are opening another debate...a good one...but not the reason for my pointing to Jeff's post.

Qayaq said...

From experience I can say, that when I first encountered "litugical " worship my first thought was, "This is Catholic." My second thought was, "There is no life in this, how am I going to praise God in this?"
This came from my strong Pentacostal beliefs about worship which is, what can I get out of this? If the music is good enough then I will enjoy it and feel good and in my Pentacostal or dare I say the modern mindset, this is good, when you feel good that is God.
Churches have become tent revival meetings with permenant buildings. They mostly follow the Billy Graham Crusade format. Play some music to get people wound up, give a message that makes people feel that they need what ever it is your selling, play some more music to work up emotions to get the desired response, you buy the product, that is, you walk the isle and repeat the prayer.
Church has become about the people and what they can get out of it. When in reality it is supposed to be what can I give back to God, worshipping and praising him.
Maybe, Presbyterian ministers have a similar concept to the rest of the church world. If I put on a good show, people will come back. So their heart is not in the liturgy since they are not doing it for God, but for man.
I think the point of the article was "liturgy" does not have to be boring. If you love God, show it by saying "Amen" or by singing the hymns with enthusiasm. It does not need to be stoic and lifeless, just because you are singng to God and not man.
Anyway, that is what I got out of it.

AJF said...

right on-

I think the point of the article was "liturgy" does not have to be boring. If you love God, show it by saying "Amen" or by singing the hymns with enthusiasm. It does not need to be stoic and lifeless, just because you are singng to God and not man.

Mark Davis said...

Describing liturgy as boring or exciting is a category error. That's my point. Liturgy is structure, order, sequence. Liturgy can't be either boring or exciting. The content of a worship service, which is performed according to and within a liturgy, is what the participant actually experiences.

Arguing about liturgy in such a way, whether it's exciting or boring, would be comparable to confusing soup for the can in which it comes. Obviously, when used properly a soup can has no flavor. It's the delivery vehicle for the soup. Discussion regarding whether liturgy is boring or thrilling is confusing the can for the soup.

AJF said...

Liturgy isn't independent of the ones leading in it. In this way, we pastors should read/lead/participate/and preach with a vigor that matches the deep profundity of the liturgy we participate in. This is what I like about Jeff's post.

Jeremy Morgan said...

Mark, I don't think that most perceive it as a category error because they don't define liturgy simply as "order." The word liturgy carries much more baggage than that in the mind of many people. In practice, most would define what you consider "content" to be what makes a service liturgical or not. Whether or not that is correct usage isn't really my point. That's simply where I believe the church is today. When one goes into a seeker type church that has abandoned the hymns and doesn't even remember when they abandoned the psalter and asks those folks if they have a liturgical worship service I doubt that many of them would say yes.

All that is only to say that I think Pastor Meyers is discussing things using the popular usage of the word.

AJF said...

well said Jeremy.

Qayaq said...

This is the dictionary version of liturgy:
–noun, plural -gies.
1. a form of public worship; ritual.
2. a collection of formularies for public worship.
3. a particular arrangement of services.
It seems like Mark Davis is arguing the point that liturgy, by defintion is just the order of the service. (which is correct) Jeff Meyers in his article is not discussing the exact defintion, but the role ministers play in the "liturgy" as it pertains to Presbyterian churches.
Even though liturgy, by defintion just means order of service, most people view it to mean one with more order, one like Redeemer as opposed to one of any ordinary contemporary church. Even though they do have an "order" or liturgy by defintion, they do not view it as such. (A Baptist friend refers to the services at Redeemer as "High Church" and calls it liturgical, as most people do.)
I believe that Jeff Meyers in his article is taking it for granted that we all know what he means when he says "liturgical" and is writing about how "liturgical"services do not have to be lifeless just because they are not contemporary, and saying that the minister has a role to play in how the people view the service.

Just my 2 cents, not trying to start a fight.

Frontier Forest said...

Having emerged from years of a mix of Wesleyan, Baptist, and slightly influenced Charismatic ways of worship, it was our first visit to Redeemer that several, almost forgotten “traditions,” were reintroduced and welcomed as a refreshing breath from God. Actually opening a real hymn book, singing songs that express and bring to life the Word, insightful meaningful salutations from the pastor to the congregation, greeting the body with “sign of peace”, the deacons prayer that obviously was prayed and researched for hours before being petitioned, with all this…. the Lord draws near.
Now that we have openly embraced such valued and enthusiastic Redeeming Liturgy, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and weekly communion has been reintroduced. Christ presence, all during worship is felt and made known to all. This will never be said about worship at Redeemer. “This people honors ME with their lips, but their heart is far away from ME. But in vain do the worship ME, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men. And HE called to Himself the multitude, and said to them, ‘Hear, and understand! Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.’ Then the disciples came to Him and said, ‘Do YOU know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?’”
Matthew 15:8-11
The day I loose my enthusiasm for worship and no longer welcome the Holy Spirit’s prompting and urging of some hearty “AMENS”, well, just check my pulse, cause I’m dead.