The Church has a culture all its own and is truly different in many ways from popular culture. Church culture has many of the same elements, such as music and language, but it serves as the alternative to the prevailing cultural winds that are subject to personal whims. Church culture does not change according to the popular tastes of people. At least it shouldn’t. And although many churches have allowed much of popular culture to infiltrate their worship and have adopted many of its techniques of manipulation, most churches have maintained connection to their roots by keeping and maintaining the culture of speaking and proclaiming the language of heaven and eternity into the hearts and minds of the worshiping assembly. And that is as it should be!
You and I are confronted each day by the culture in which we find ourselves. Some of it is good; some of it is not. Either way, it’s very fickle and it changes its prominent features quite a bit. But it operates under an unwritten assumption, and that is, people have wants and desires they want to fulfill and seek gratification of their whims.
Church culture doesn’t operate that way and it was never meant to do so. It has a different assumption, and that is, people on a day to day basis are largely disconnected from their Creator because of their seeking satisfaction of their selfish desires which often leads to ruin. It has the objective of redemption by giving to people a citizenship which is in this world but not of this world. In short, church culture is for the sole purpose of giving Jesus Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of sins. Everything in the church’s worship is for that purpose. It doesn’t try to sell what is to be given freely. It instills faith within the heart of a person through Word and Sacrament. It does not seek the applause received by celebrities, but instead gives all glory, honor, and praise to the God who gives life and forgiveness, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
As Christians we will always live in the tension between the cultures in which we live. But it’s good to remember that the culture of the Church points to a reality that will never perish, spoil, or fade. We take that reality into the world to show a more excellent way of love and forgiveness.
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I prefer traditional liturgy because it grounds us in the Word of God and links us with Christians of all times and all places. It stands the church on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ and him crucified. It makes up for the paucity of our own words and self-centered thoughts about God. It extinguishes our attempts to storm the gates of heaven (ala The Tower of Babel in Genesis 11). It makes of us who are gathered a temple in which Christ Jesus dwells by his Spirit.
How does it do all of that? Simply by bringing heaven to earth.
We sing the canticles of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, thereby joining them in eternal song. See Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 & 5.
We receive from God in Word and Sacrament what we cannot give to ourselves-- a right and proper standing before God through Jesus Christ. We are cleansed of all sin and freed from the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.
The grace of God shown in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is apportioned to us in visible and tangible means of word, water, bread, and wine.
In all of these ways we become participants in the Biblical narrative of salvation, and not mere spectators. We are put to death and raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly places, as that is our baptismal birthright, being clothed in the righteousness and holiness of Jesus Christ.
Why would we want it any other way?