Liturgy Is An Action

What we do is important. People of all walks of life recognize that our actions speak to who we are. Motivational speakers and self-help gurus make millions of dollars every year telling you what you already know, that “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”[1] You don’t have to be a self-help author to see this. If you go to the gym on a regular basis, you will be in better shape than if you only go every third Thursday of the months that end in the letter Y. If you read classic literature habitually, you will be shaped in a different way, as a person, than if you watch reality TV like it’s going out of style. This common sense observation is true for you as a Christian as well. As believers in the one true God, our actions speak to our identity – who we are, what we believe. Nowhere is this truth more evident than on Sunday morning as we gather to worship the Triune God.

Trinity’s founding pastor, Rev. Paul Lang wrote that “Liturgy is an action.”[2] It’s something that is done. The liturgy we experience on Sunday morning – the Divine Service – is done consistently by the Christian. But there is more to it than that. The value of the liturgy is not simply that believers do it and it, therefore, is what defines us. We must ask ourselves, are we the only ones doing the liturgy? Are we the real doers? Are we carrying out the actions or is it God?

“The real actor in the liturgy is our Lord Jesus Christ… Together with Christ and through Him, the actor in the liturgy is the royal priesthood which is the body of Christ, the universal Christian church.”[3] We are the body of Christ. And if we take this seriously we see that Christ is the one carrying out the actions in the liturgy. He works through His body as its members assemble and as they have called a man, also a part of the body, to lead them through the service, to preach to them the Word of God, and to faithfully administer the Sacraments. Jesus Christ is at work. He’s the one doing the liturgy.

What God does is important. His actions speak to who He is. What is it that God consistently does? He consistently brings you to Himself where He forgives you of your sins – He absolves you on a regular basis, He delivers to you His life giving Word, so that you are sustained by it in this world of sinful thoughts and atrocious actions, He raises your hearts to contemplate the heavenly as you sing the rich words and beautiful melodies of His hymnody, and He is diligent in setting before you food and drink to keep you nourished and strong – both physically and spiritually – at the communion rail.

God consistently shows you exactly who He is in the liturgy that you, His body, do as you worship Him. Consequently, you show the world exactly who your God is as you worship your Lord in a way that not only values the Word that is spoken, but also emphasizes the loving actions that are done by the doer of your faith, Jesus Christ.

I wrote this for the Trinity Times newsletter (April, 2013)


[2] Paul H.D. Lang, Ceremony and Celebration. 2

[3] Ibid. 2

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