What Good Does It Do?

Sometimes I get disillusioned, discouraged, even cynical about liturgy. I think to myself, “Since America’s founding, we’ve invested millions and perhaps billions of person-hours in public worship. And what have been the moral and practical results? Recalling Jesus words, if we know something by its fruits, how fruitful has our liturgical project been?”

When I think of the hours of sermon preparation (and hours of sermon-delivery!), hours of choir practice, hours of building, cleaning, and preparing worship spaces, hours of classes and meetings and all the rest … and then I look at the difference, or lack of difference, it all has made in our history, I can easily think … “What a waste!”

When I’m in my glass-half-full mindset instead of glass-mostly-empty, I think, “Well, imagine how much worse it might have been without all that investment!”

But then another thought comes to me, evoked by something one of my mentors used to say: Your system is perfectly designed to yield the results you are now getting.

And then I wonder: “What if the problem isn’t that people were doing the right things with disappointing results, but rather that the whole project was designed to achieve the results we now have?”

Asking people to “shut up and listen” created docile people who are passive or complacent. Using outdated language and music from the past created a setting that is out of touch with today’s world, and makes people nostalgic rather than hopeful. The slow pace of things keeps people calm and un-energized. A focus on being forgiven rather than being Christ-like resulted in moral apathy. And so on… 

Complete and Continue