It seems like we have a service for everything in the Lutheran Church. Technically my first day of internship was Sunday, September 3, and yet there I was this Sunday alb and all getting installed with friends from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and Church of the Beloved standing by to send me off. During the service I kept on thinking about this quote from the 2004 movie King Arthur produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. In this more historicized retelling of the King Arthur myth Gawain, one of Arthur’s knights, says to one of his fellows, “Galahad, do you still not know the Romans? They can’t scratch their [backsides] without holding a ceremony.” It seemed really close to my experience.
As I have been getting into the swing of things at school again, and have begun taking part in more practical pastoral ministry classes I have been talking to a lot of people about worship: how we do it and why we do it. In many of my conversations there has been a struggle to appreciate the ancient liturgical forms that have been passed down to us and that are still enacted every Sunday in many churches including Lakeridge. The lack of appreciation isn’t intentional, its just that many of the worship elements are misunderstood. The initial value of a processional, a call to worship, an order of confession and absolution, or even the Eucharist can lose its power when its importance is not understood. The various elements of the worship service form a type of liturgical movement which Alexander Schmemann in his book For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy suggests actually allows us to ascend and enter into throne room of God and dine with him at his table. All of the bells and whistles, the organ, the pomp and the circumstance are meant to reveal the majesty of God by making the space between the natural and divine even more thin than it normally is. It meant to reveal the majesty of God, not become something that is done because this is the way it has always been.
Ceremonies within the church as well are meant to emphasize the reality that we live in. The installation service wasn’t just something we did because it was supposed to be done. It was meant to help some of us in worship grieve a loss and others of us to rejoice at the new things that God is doing amongst us. The ceremony in this case was meant to reveal what had been really going in the lives of multiple communities. Specifically for the Lakeridge community it was meant to remind us of the glories of the past and to point us towards the future.
It is not only the Romans who can’t do something without having some kind of ceremony. I feel like we all need them. When we can actually understand the meaning behind a ceremony or ritual it can reveal the truth of a situation whether that be a supernatural reality like God’s presence standing amongst us in worship, or the truth of our own grief and joy. Whatever the point the hope is that having participated in these activities we will be able to live our life with a greater sense of who we are and who God is.
Jon Glenn is the Intern Pastor at Lakeridge Lutheran Church for the 2011-2012 school year. He is originally from Rockford, IL and is a student in his 4th year at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. He loves reading and cooking and spending time with his girlfriend Melissa, and a good cup of coffee.