I probably should point out that this series of posts is not intentionally autobiographical. (If you haven’t read my last post, I suggest you read that and then come back here.)
That is, my point is not to talk about me or my life, nor do I believe that you particularly care what it is that I believe and why. My point, rather, is to talk about the Christianity I learned as a child, in contrast to the Christianity I typically see in the news, on Facebook, etc. To do that, I have to talk somewhat autobiographically, so you’ll just have to get past that my own story is just a reference point to address the broader issues of the theology and morality of the Bible.
Things that informed my early beliefs
I think it was quite advantageous that I was raised in a liturgical church. Of course every church has some kind of liturgy whether they recognize it or not (it’s simply “what is done” when you’re together as a church). However, many liturgies are essentially devoid of any consistent theology. Lutherans, like Episcopalians/Anglicans, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox, have liturgies which are based on those coming from the earliest church practices.
There are essentially two aspects of liturgical worship that important differences to recognize. The first is that the Liturgy is a corporate experience of theology. One of the ancient creeds are recited, the Lord’s Prayer is recited, there are prescribed Bible readings from the Old and New Testaments (and specifically the Gospels), and hymns are sung that relate to the church season (lent, advent, etc.) or the prescribed Scripture readings.
The 2nd aspect is the Lectionary, which is a book of prescribed Bible readings for the specific Sunday or event. Not only does this provide a wide variety of Bible readings, but these texts are also used as the basis for the weekly sermon. This does away with the random topic sermons or the “what’s bugging me this week” sermons so common in non-liturgical churches. It also makes the Bible the focus of the message, rather than being used as out of context proof texts to support the Pastor’s ideas. You know what I’m talking about.
A third important aspect (yes, I’m aware I said there were 2) that differs from non-liturgical churches is the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist, which is celebrated regularly, and which is the focus of liturgical worship, not the sermon. However, this is more of a theological difference and while I think it’s one of the most important differences, it isn’t really my point of this series, at least not yet.
The result is that every week I learned theology. I heard it, I recited it, and I sang it. I heard complete Bible passages read with reverence, especially the Gospel reading. And, I heard countless sermons based on those Gospel readings. And, that’s the subject of my next post.