Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Liturgy: God Fills Our Mouths With His Word

Pastor’s Window for February 2010
The Liturgy: God Fills Our Mouths With His Word

Beloved in the Lord,

There are many reasons to be thankful for the rich Lutheran liturgical heritage that we enjoy, but certainly chief among those reasons is that the Liturgy of the Church, be it the Divine Service in one of its settings, or the Prayer Offices such as Matins, Vespers, Compline, Morning/Evening Prayer, puts the very Word of God in our mouths. Most of the Prayer Offices begin with the words of Psalm 51:15: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise” (e.g. LSB p. 219). The Lord opens our lips and fills our mouths with His Words. We declare His praise by saying back to Him what He has first said to us.

The liturgy teaches a pastor how to speak. This struck me particularly several weeks ago while ministering to the dying, the grieving, and those hospitalized. When it rains, it pours, and I was making several hospital (and other) visits a day. I was exhausted. I realized how true it is, as Paul says, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5; ESV). I have no sufficiency in myself. Finally, what do you say in the face of death? I have no words. But the Lord has words. He alone is our sufficiency, He alone is my sufficiency in ministry. And I, as a pastor, am called to speak the Lord’s Word, not my own. In one hospital room, when the chitchat was one-sided, me struggling to say anything worthwhile and failing miserably, I finally said, “Let’s begin our service.” And now there were words, God’s Words, the Divine Service, as we heard our Lord’s absolution, meditated upon His Word, and received the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. The chitchat was worthless. The Word of the Lord never fails.

The liturgy teaches you how to speak. The liturgy makes the Word of God in the Scriptures your heart language. You literally learn it by heart. And now you have the words to say when you are called upon to confess Christ to your family members and friends and neighbors and the world: You know the Creed. Now you have words to pray when you can’t come up with the words yourself: You have the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms and the hymns and collects of the Church. Now you know what to say when your sins bother you and the devil accuses you: You know the absolution, the forgiveness of sins. You know the Gospel. You know the body of the Lord crucified and the blood of the Lord poured out for your forgiveness and placed on your lips. You know this from the Words of Institution that you hear every week. You know you have your Lord’s benediction, the blessing of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and you can invoke His Name at any time and any place, making the sign of the holy cross, for you were baptized into that Name. You belong to Him. His Name is written on you.

The liturgy teaches you how to speak in the face of trial and tribulation. What a great comfort are the words of the liturgy when you are sick, when sadness overtakes you, when a loved one dies, or when you are at death’s door yourself. You can sing the Nunc Dimittis: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace… for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” You have heard the voice of Christ. His Word is in you. His body and blood are in you. And you are in Him by Baptism. Even death is but a sleep from which you will awaken in the resurrection.

The liturgy teaches the Church how to speak. It defends the Church against false doctrine. The Gospel is placed upon the lips of pastor and people even if the pastor teaches falsely elsewhere. And the people know when the pastor is teaching falsely thanks to the Word of God that they learned by heart through the liturgy. So also, the liturgy informs our corporate prayer. We sing and speak the same words, in unison, as the Body of Christ. We pray “Our Father…” Through the liturgy the Word of Christ dwells in us richly, and so we teach and admonish “one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness” in our hearts to God (Col. 3:16). The liturgy places the Word of God into our mouths, into our ears, into our hearts. For this, we should all thank God. Because none of us are sufficient in ourselves. We have no words. But God has graciously opened our lips, and filled our mouths with His Word. Indeed, He fills our mouths with Christ Himself.

Pastor Krenz

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