A few days ago, I attended a conference at Redeemer in Fort Wayne. For those of you who don't know of it, Redeemer has the reputation of being one of the most "high liturgical" churches in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Some aspects of the level of ceremony would throw your average liturgical Lutheran into a tailspin. I love it, but know that this is Redeemer. It would somehow not fit in my congregation and probably not yours, either. But Redeemer is there, letting all of us know that yes, this is beautifully Lutheranism as well.
At some point in the service, sitting in the chapel, I looked around. Most of the people there were pastors from various congregations. It was so crowded (close to 50) that we were fitting four of us on a corner pew that was probably meant to seat 2 comfortably (and I am more woman than many) and we were sitting 4, including my daughter on my lap. Because of this, Chris and I didn't even bother opening our hymnal for the liturgy and I was wonderfully surprised that my six year old didn't seem to have much problem either. I love reciting the liturgy from memory...I flub a word here or there occasionally, but it allows me to concentrate on what I am saying. When I am reading off of a page, it can go through my eyes and to my lips without my really ever thinking about what I am saying.
Anyway, staring at the hymnal, I began thinking. I am in a room with people representing at least twelve Lutheran congregations. We don't all use the same hymnal, and as much as I believe the new hymnal is wonderful, the fact that we aren't all looking at a burgundy cover every Sunday isn't THAT important. For the most part, the liturgy is the same, with the exception of some thees and thous. The reality of how unified we are in practice became very powerful, despite the fact that some were genuflecting or other observations you wouldn't find in every Lutheran congregation. I could be in that service and know completely what is going on and fully respond because we were all saying the same words that I say in my own congregation, in every congregation I have ever been a member of. There was no feeling completely out of my element while I figured out what I was supposed to do.
Going back a year to when my husband and I attended an installation of a friend down south, where they use blended worship, it was COMPLETELY different. There was no way I could've sat there and appreciated all of this because I was too busy scrutinizing the changeable music and the confession of faith that applied to THIS week in order to even deduce that we were of a common faith, even though there was the LCMS symbol on the sign outside.
Thinking about that grieved me in realizing how many people aren't aware of how precious a gift our liturgy is. It feeds us with God's Word, it focuses us on Word and Sacrament, and it unites us all in common practice not only in location, but in time since the liturgy is historic and has come to us from the Early Church. No wonder Satan works so hard to convince us to be bored with it or to disdain it.