A Conversation with God

You’ve probably never spent much time wondering why the service is organized the way it is. If you’re like many Christians, you just go through the service and do what comes next because that’s what the bulletin or hymnal tells you to do. There isn’t much reason to think about it when you’re just moving from one part to the next, especially when the service is more or less the same every week.

The Lutheran theologian, Peter Brunner, describes the liturgy as a conversation between God and His people. God speaks and His people respond. God speaks the Law and His people respond with cries for mercy. God speaks forgiveness and His people respond with thanks and praise. This interplay is woven throughout the structure of the historic liturgy.

Our God loves to talk. There’s a reason St. John describes Jesus as the Word that became flesh. For God, saying and doing are the same thing. God speaks and creation responds because it must do the bidding of its Creator. So, since baptized Christians are restored to the vocation of priest, the “royal priesthood” of 1 Peter, we as the church are responsible for lifting up the prayers and concerns of the world around us. We speak on behalf of a world that is crushed under the weight of sin that we have brought into it. We ask for mercy for ourselves and for everything else that suffers around us.

It is with this interplay in mind that the early church assembled the liturgy in the form we now have it. This conversation reminds us that ultimately everything we do must be a response. We cannot presume upon God for anything. We do not deserve anything but destruction. So, when God does speak His forgiveness through the voice of the pastor, we respond with thanks and praise for the unmerited gift we have been given. So also the Scripture readings and the celebration of Communion likewise call on us to respond to the precious gifts God has given to us. The liturgy reminds us that we are humble petitioners who have no right to anything. At the same time, it also reminds us of the depth of God’s love, in that He continues to give to those who are not deserving.

That is why an understanding of the structure of the liturgy is important. Moving pieces of the service around risks undermining that conversation and can easily make us the primary actors in the service, rather than God. When the emphasis of the service is on thanks and praise, it usually means we do more talking than God, and that never goes well. Very rarely does the liturgy benefit from being rearranged and rarely do God’s people benefit from doing more talking than listening to Him.

Still, it is this conversational aspect of the liturgy that allows the changes of Advent and Lent to be meaningful. When alleluias suddenly become absent and praise in general becomes muted, it forces us to listen all the more to what God is saying. It puts us into a mode of silent reflection and meditation. God is going to speak and God has spoken. God is going to act and God has acted. Now is the time to pause and consider what He has said and done and what He will yet say and do.

As we come up on the end of Lent, take the time to stop and allow yourself to listen to what God says to you through the liturgy. Hear His words of forgiveness and grace. Hear how He sent His Son to suffer and die to redeem you, a lost and condemned creature. That way, when God accomplishes what He said He will do on Easter morning, you will already have seen the depth of your sin and will now know the magnitude of His grace. You will then see why the only appropriate response from a grateful people can be, “Alleluia!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: