31 January 2008

Pastor Why...? - Gospel Processions

In the January 2008 edition of my congregation's newsletter, The Hope Lutheran, I began a regular column designed to instruct readers on why we Christians worship the way we do, dealing with some of the "nuts and bolts" of the various things we say and do in the liturgy, whether Sunday after Sunday or as the liturgical seasons change. It's intended to be a sort of "Liturgical Question Box" that gives me the opportunity to teach the flock on specific details of our corporate worship. I hope that it will give a greater appreciation for what we do in the liturgy and why we do it, and especially for how our various liturgical words and deeds draw our attention to Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

I've decided to post such questions and answers here for the same purposes of instructing and edifying, but also for any good discussion that may result. This forum will also give me the opportunity to write up a question and answer when I think of it. So, here's the first installment of "Pastor, Why...?"

This month I begin a regular “side-bar” column dealing with things we do in our weekly worship. Since the Divine Service and our corporate prayers (such as Matins and Evening Prayer) are the living, beating heart of our life together as God’s redeemed people, it always helps to know and appreciate why we Christians worship the way we do. Our liturgical texts and actions carry great meaning as we receive our Lord’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus Christ. After all, they shape and mold us as God’s holy people. So, look for this regular feature to address the “whats” and the “whys” of our weekly worship. And if there’s something specific that you would like to learn about, please feel free to jot it down, in a note or an email (And be sure to ask “Pastor, why…?” with eagerness to learn! ☺), give or send it to me directly, and I’ll do my best to address it in an upcoming edition of “Pastor, Why…?” Now, our first installment:

Pastor, why do you sometimes read the Gospel reading from the center aisle?
At certain high points of the Church Year (Christmas, Easter and its season, and other festivals) we have a “Gospel Procession.” The pastor and his assistants process down the center aisle with the cross and the Gospel book to the middle of the congregation, where the Gospel for the day is read. This liturgical action symbolizes the Word of God, Jesus Christ, coming into our midst in His words and actions. The “Gospel Procession” also highlights the Gospel reading as the high point, or climax, of the Service of the Word. Hearing the words and works of our Lord Jesus is the focal point of the first part of the Divine Service. The “Gospel Procession” adds some healthy ceremony to heighten our hearing of God’s saving works for us.


-C said...

OK,. I'm not even a Lutheran anymore, but I'll comment anyway.

This is so healthy. First, if someone asks the questions to begin with, it's a healthy thing - they care, they want to know more (is this not most of the battle of teaching?)

And to provide a regular forum for answers to the questions of those who thirst for a deeper understanding and meaning is such a good thing.

It's an important work (oops, sorry - I remember how suspicious Lutherans are of that word...) and it's not that it hasn't been done before, it's just that the Church should never be done doing this.


Randy Asburry said...

Thanks for your kind words! I agree, the Church should never be done teaching what she does Sunday after Sunday and why she does it.

And, btw, don't worry about saying that "four-letter word" - W-O-R-K-S - around this Lutheran. I'm on a crusade to reinstate it and re-appreciate it every chance I can.

(Oops! Did someone say "works"? Of course, I didn't say God loves us more because of said works! Who me? Would I say that? ;-) But there is that verse about faith without works being dead! :-) And there is that verse about being God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works! :-) I guess we just can't get away from them!)

-C said...

No, we can't get away from them - and we shouldn't I don't think.

They exist for a reason, no?

And even the Orthodox don't say that God loves us more because we do them!

Thanks again!

Randy Asburry said...

You're right, -c, we cannot get away from good works. After all, that's what we are created to do and live in, as Ephesians 2:10 reminds us.

You are also correct in saying that God does not love us more just because we do good works. How could He? He already loves us eternally, infinitely, indefinitely - and that's something we see in His sacrificial love on the Cross!

However, we can say that God certainly delights when we do our good works, just as any parent loves it when their son or daughter does the good things that mom and dad taught them to do - such as say, "Thankyou." What a great picture it is to imagine God slapping His knee and say, "Did you see that? My son/daughter did a wonderful work in helping that poor lady obtain a cup of hot soup! I'm so tickled!" :-)