I’m Still Not Getting it


In light of what I consider to be the worst book review ever, I made a decision to really study liturgy this year. I loved the book, but cannot verbalize why. I felt so lost after reading it that I almost sent it back to Thomas Nelson with a letter of apology stating excellent book, but I’m not smart enough to review it, I’m sorry. But I didn’t. The book changed something. The book awakened a desire within my spirit to want to know more. And for that reason alone, I gave the book five stars. And I stand by that review.

If I could capture my emotions on a canvas this book would be filled with deep greens, blues, and violet. It wouldn’t pop like modern art, rather I would have it  flow with depth and substance. It would have texture, high places and low places where you can put your hands and feel the landscape. It would be much like Raphael or Botticelli paintings where the entire story could not be conveyed at first glance. There would be hidden subtleties that only come out with contemplative attention to it’s detail.

Modern art has it’s own beauty, don’t get me wrong. The painting I’m trying to give voice to is simply a different kind of beauty.

I am lost in this sea of the political debates over “right worship”, Liturgy vs. Contemporary, and a concept of a liturgical life that resonates within my spirit. I haven’t found my landing point. It’s as if I think it has to be one side or the other. You are either pro liturgy or you are pro contemporary services and one cannot stand on both sides of the fence. And to make it more interesting, the debate goes deeper than that. Within liturgical circles you have the debate over ancient liturgy vs. modern. There is no reprieve from the arguments.

I don’t get the personal peace that Sister Chittister is talking about from a church life that is 100% contemporary. There are too many distractions and I feel disjointed if I stay in that world for too long. That life is lacking or missing key components of a contemplative life. The sacraments of communion feel empty and void of substance and more of a representation than real presence without that contemplation and repentant stillness before God that a liturgical life or service provides. At least for me.

And yet, it’s occurred to me today, that maybe I’m still not getting it. The object of my studies is still a thing and not a person. I’m missing the connection as much today as I was when I read Joan’s book. My liturgical notebook is cleanly organized by church season, color, and festivals. Full of facts waiting for meaning. It’s too neat, too sterile. It’s missing something. The notebook  and the journey isn’t finished yet.

Am I looking for a peace that passes all understanding from the things of liturgy rather than the person of Christ?

Have I traveled back to the young woman who railed against our new sanctuary that had only an empty cross and no pictures of my king? Or am I again the young woman who upon entering a Lutheran church for the first time, whispers (too loudly) to her then boy friend “Why is the cross naked?” making my there-for-moral-support girlfriend fall off her pew?

I don’t know. But I do know that this is the season of Lent. A season to lay down the things that get in the way and keep him from drawing us closer. Much like earthly marriage, I have a lot to learn about my heavenly groom. Maybe the trick for me is to stop trying to think quite so much — and simply be in the journey.

6 thoughts on “I’m Still Not Getting it

  1. “I’m curious — when did we stop talking about sin? I mean as a synod.”
    As a synod we’ve had a problem talking about sin for longer than we care to admit. We’ve been dealing with a “Gospel reductionalism” for as far back as fifties that was taught in the seminaries until the higher and historical biblical critics were removed or walked out. The seeds of this have their roots, I believe, going all the way back to the founding of the synod. Way too many people think that the era of Walther or Pieper were something of a “golden age” and can’t seem acknowledge that heresies and doctrinal problems never just pop up and more often than not have deep roots.

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  2. Churches have to fight about something.. Have since day one. I’ve noticed when I teach that if I talk too much about the sinfulness of mankind and the fear of God I’m told to lighten up and that it must be my Catholic background coming out. But reality is there are many roads I would have loved to travel and choices I really wanted to make (sparklies) BUT my fear of God kept me from doing them.

    I’m curious — when did we stop talking about sin? I mean as a synod. Granted, I know of a pastor where that is all he talks about.. and well, that is a drag and a half.

    Him aside, It just seems like Lent is the only season pastors feel permission to talk about the realities of sin. That is important too.

    So glad I’m not a pastor — 😉

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  3. “But like everything else it proves an incomplete diet if that is all I consume.” Like jelly donuts; jelly donuts are good but we still need to eat our meat and veggies!

    Luther is very clear that we should be reading Scripture and making catechetical instruction part of our daily routine. The problem with reading Luther is that’s easy to take him out of context because there is so much there and very little of it was actually compiled him. The vast majority of what we have was put together by students and associates who liked to write down everything he said. If memory serves, when asked which works he was most proud of, he responded the Small Catechism, Bondage of the Will, and his commentary on Galatians. Everything else, he said, could be burned. I’m glad they didn’t listen to him.

    Reading Luther is tricky and always needs to be done in the greater context of the issues he is engaged in as well as what time in his life he’s writing or speaking.

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  4. Thanks! Joan covers more than just Sunday morning and that is what intrigued me. I’m sure if I dug into Martin Luther’s writings, I’d find the day to day stuff that she is talking about. And I may do that.

    Our home church is a modern liturgy which is okay. And the satelite is pure contemporary – which works for the people who go, but not for me. Andt hat is wierd because I am a praise and worship girl at home. I love it. I even enjoy it at conferences. But like everything else it proves an incomplete diet if that is all I consume.

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  5. “I am lost in this sea of the political debates over “right worship”, Liturgy vs. Contemporary” Even within liturgical circles there are huge divisions. I’m very liturgical but there are people who think I’m too contemporary because I dont do things this way or that. I really hate being called a “liberal” because I don’t care how my pastor holds the communion wafer or what color his stole is during Holy Week. If we all followed one order of service the debate would be easier to have but that hasn’t been the case for almost a generation.

    I think your interest in things liturgical is off to great start as you are approaching the issue from an understanding that God is the center of the service. That’s a healthy way to go at it and I wish more people looked at it the same way.

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