A woman who was visiting a liturgical service kept punctuating the pastor's sermon with "Praise the Lord!" Another woman finally turned around and said, "Excuse me, but we don't praise the Lord in the Lutheran church."
A man down the pew corrected her. "Yes we do; it's on page 19."
The conflict between form and freedom is not new, and we have both sides in our congregation. Some wish we would throw out the liturgy so we could be free to "move with the Spirit." Others are tired of innovations and want to return to the good ol' days when they knew what was happening and could follow the bulletin play by play.
Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? Yes! Order and ardor can be happily wed. Truth is canonized but not style. The issue is not structure or freedom, but Spirit. God has no preference for formless spiritualism or Spiritless formalism—he rejects both. Spontaneity offers no innate advantage over liturgy. Liberty is where the Spirit is, not where the preacher has thrown away his notes.
Protestants have traditionally been better workers than worshipers. Pastors may spend fifteen hours on sermon preparation and fifteen minutes throwing the service together.
God wants worshipers above anything else. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, "He seeketh such to worship him." Karl Barth wrote, "Christian worship is the most momentous, the most urgent, the most glorious action that can take place in human life." If we agree, then it must not be "the things we do before we get to the important stuff."
One glimpse into heaven reveals that it is of eternal significance. The whole Book of Leviticus was written to teach a nation how to worship, an acknowledgment that at the center of life is the worship of God.
Like other Christian ...