The Liturgy Teaches

A complaint that is often raised against traditional liturgical worship is that it is formulaic and routine.  This is true, but in all honesty every bit of our life is rather formulaic and routine… including even the most contemporary of worship.  In fact, my experience and conversation with other pastors has shown that in a traditional liturgical setting, there is a greater variety of hymnody, both in the number of hymns (or praise songs) used and in its representation across cultures and time.

Yet I would argue the greatest benefit (even greater than the richness and diversity) of traditional liturgical worship is that it teaches.  Our confessions point to this too:

However, it is pleasing to us that, for the sake of peace, universal ceremonies are kept. We also willingly keep the order of the Mass in the churches, the Lord’s Day, and other more famous festival days. With a very grateful mind we include the beneficial and ancient ordinances, especially since they contain a discipline. This discipline is beneficial for educating and training the people and those who are ignorant ‹the young people›.
-Apology of the Augsburg Confession – Articles VII and VIII

Since it teaches, especially the young, it puts the Word of God deep into our memory.  Where this really pays off is when we reach the other end of life and our minds fail us.  Often times an otherwise completely delusional person may snap back into reality when they begin hearing the familiar words of the Liturgy, especially the Lord’s Prayer, the Words of Institution, and the Creed.  This is often what little that remains for faith to cling to.  To those who are critical of formulaic and routine worship, I would challenge you to examine the selfishness of your desires and also ask of yourselves if it is not simply that you are despising the Word of God?  The gift of the Liturgy is too great to deprive our children and elderly of such a comfort.

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