Tag Archives: liturgy

Tomorrowland, Mad Max and Liturgy


So Tomorrowland had a bad opening. Tomorrowland was the Disney produced move staring George Clooney that you can roughly guess the story from the title. (Admission, I also did not see it. I am going on reviews and trailers.) It has something to do with a rosy optimistic futurism that might be best captured by Walt himself and a nostalgic view of the race to the moon. The only troubles this futurism can admit to are either those of bad people holding back the future or speed-bumps on the way to greatness. Mad Max: Fury Road in its second week almost met Tomorrowland. Max of course is the flipside of Tomorrowland, a pessimistic futurism. A world where the sane are mad holding on to hope and escaping trouble today just means your road ends tomorrow.

As a liturgist one of our forgotten truths is that we embed our greatest truths in ritual. We all have ritual, even you atheists and Baptists. About a year ago our family took part in one of those rituals – the grandparents took us to Disneyworld. Disneyworld is the Vatican of that Tomorrowland futurism. It’s a great trip. Don’t take this as a complaint. Every American child really should go once – like on the Hajj. It is part of being American. Part of the American experience and birthright is the idea that we can do this. From the Pilgrims on the Mayflower to failure is not an option. Disneyland is the architectural realization of that ideal every bit as much as Chartres is of medieval Catholicism. But as my oldest child warmed my heart by saying when asked if she wanted to come back, “no, it’s all fake”. That might have been the harsh judgment of youth, but she parsed truth from a half-truth. The truth of we can do this in Disneyworld is hidden behind the half-truth of it is easy if we just clear the path and keep everything clean. Clearing the path and keeping everything clean in tomorrowland takes massive injections of outside funds. And even then “it’s all fake”.

I’ve been trying to think of the ritual expression of Mad Max and I think I know it now, the social welfare state. That state might have started out as an expression of Tomorrowland, but now it is simply an expression of power. When the sane observe that it doesn’t work and might have made things worse they are met with cries of cold-hearted bigot. The outcome of the ritual is not important. It is the fact of the ritual and our heart’s intentions. We mean to make life for the poor better. We have the right belief. Government is the only thing we do together, the ultimate ecumenical expression. Yes, we lost the war on poverty, but government goes on. Your road might end tomorrow, but the government will survive and keep on the fight. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. What are you, mad?

Tomorrowland and Mad Max are alternate expressions of the progressive worldview. And Satan could care less which rituals you want to take part in, because both are false and half-truths. He wins when you are led astray. What he doesn’t want you to see is the truth embedded in the church’s liturgy. I am, we all are, the bad people standing in the way of Tomorrowland. The bad people are not some others, but ourselves. I am “a poor, miserable sinner”. “I have sinned in thought, word and deed, by what I’ve done and what I’ve left undone.” The admission that we are by nature sinful and unclean takes care of that “it’s all fake” problem. We can still do great things, but it is going to take a massive injection from outside of us. Which we hear in the absolution. “Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all of our sins.” That is not fake but as real as a cross.

Likewise contra Max, this road is going somewhere. “This is the feast of victory for our God. Worthy is Christ the lamb…the lamb who was slain has begun his reign.” We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. The intersection of this life and death is found in that highest ritual, the Lord’s Supper. We admit the gritty reality a Max. It took flesh and blood. It took sacrifice. But that sacrifice was not madness. That was the sacrifice of a true innocent which covers us. In this supper we have a foretaste of the feast to come. We have a celebration of the marriage feast. We have a glimpse of the end of the road. We are not mad to persevere, because in our flesh we will see God.

We all have ritual or liturgies. And those liturgies form us and how we see the world. Be careful of the yeast of Tomorrowland or Mad Max.

A Great Start to Prep for All Saints

“To those who know a little of christian history probably the most moving of all the reflections it brings is not the thought of the great events and the well-remembered saints, but of those innumerable millions of entirely obscure faithful men and women, every one with his or her own individual hopes and fears and joys and sorrows and loves — and sins and temptations and prayers — once every whit as vivid and alive as mine are now. They have left no slightest trace in this world, not even a name, but have passed to God utterly forgotten by men. Yet each one of them once believed and prayed as I believe and pray, and found it hard and grew slack and sinned and repented and fell again. Each of them worshipped at the eucharist, and found their thoughts wandering and tried again, and felt heavy and unresponsive and yet knew — just as really and pathetically as I do these things. There is a little ill-spelled ill-carved rustic epitaph of the fourth century from Asia Minor: — ‘Here sleeps the blessed Chione, who has found Jerusalem for she prayed much’. Not another word is known of Chione, some peasant woman who lived in that vanished world of christian Anatolia. But how lovely if all that should survive after sixteen centuries were that one had prayed much, so that the neighbours who saw all one’s life were sure one must have found Jerusalem! What did the Sunday eucharist in her village church every week for a life-time mean to the blessed Chione — and to the millions like her then, and every year since then? The sheer stupendous quantity of the love of God which this ever-repeated action has drawn from the obscure Christian multitudes through the centuries is in itself an overwhelming thought.”

— Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy (1945)

The Liturgy – Parts & History

Issues, etc graphicIf you ever wondered about the order of service, why certain things are where they are and the origins and history of the worship service, this link takes you to an audio series with Pastor Will Weedon who is the LCMS Director of Worship, which is a corporate speak way of saying he’s the person in charge of pulling together and designing things such as our Hymn Book. He’s talking with Pastor Todd Wilken who is the host of a Radio Show/Podcast called Issues, Etc.

Have you even had that experience of not really caring about a topic but having to go to a class or a lecture and the speaker is just so obviously knowledgeable and joyful and convinced this is the most important thing anyone could ever know such that you walk out saying something like “I didn’t realize that middle ages tiddly-winks (fill in whatever topic you thought was the driest and most moribund thing imaginable, 13th century poets for $400, Thermodynamics, you get the point) was so darn important”…that is Weeden on the liturgy.

The Best Poet of the 20th Century on Liturgy

HT: Wesley Hill Tumblr

Hymns We Sing #1, Cont.

I ran out of room yesterday, so I’ll continue this today. I want to talk about Lutheran Service Book #782 Gracious God, You Send Great Blessings. We have sung whole or parts of this hymn 9 times in the last three years. The text has a special connection to St. Mark. It was written by Gregory Wismar who is a former pastor of St. Mark many years ago. Pastor Wismar was born in 1946, but has apparently retired from active ministry at this time. The tune is Holy Manna or Columbian Harmony. It is one of the prettier tunes having a very American feel. Some may say Scottish, which gets you to Appalachia. You can hear the bagpipes, fiddles and fog off the mountains. The combination of text and tune have a more contemporary feel as it is a hymn that contains a chorus or refrain.

One of the reasons that this hymn has been used more often is because we have used it in a liturgical spot. There are these places in the service where people are walking or things need to be done.  For example after the offering is taken the ushers walk from back to front to bring it up.  The offertory is a musical piece that puts words and music to the action.  We are giving our offerings.  And that offertory is something we have used this hymn for.  Looking at verse 1 we acknowledge that we have received blessing each day and are offering our praise and thanks.  The refrain turns from that offering to our response to our neighbor – we share the blessings to bring glory to the name.

1)Gracious God, You send great blessings

New each morning all our days.

For Your mercies never ending,

For your love we offer praise.

2) By Your Word You formed creation

Filled with creatures large and small;

As we tend that endless treasure

May our care encircle all.


3)In His early life, our Savior

Knew the care of faithful friends;

May our deeds of dedication

Offer love that never ends.

4)Heav’n-ly Father, may our caring

Bear the imprint of Your grace;

With the Son and Holy Spirit,

Praise be Yours in ev’ry place!



Lord, we pray that we, Your people

Who Your gifts unnumbered claim,

Through the sharing of Your blessings

May bring glory to Your name.


But this hymn is not just an offertory.  It stands in its own right.  All the best hymns tell a story.  In the merging of melody and text they create a feeling and tell it out.  The first stanza combined with the music invokes the feeling.  And this hymn is aspirational.   We know we receive great blessings.  We pray here that we remain thankful at all times and learn to share them with our neighbor.

Why is that important?  Stanza 2 – God created all things and placed us in them to care for them.  The original intent of creation.  Stanza 3 – Jesus came to care for us, and while he was here he received the blessings God gave him with thanks: parents, friends, fish and loaves, even the bad stuff like when Lazarus died Jesus gave thanks for the blessings (John 11:41-42).  Our purpose and great example is to be thankful and share the blessings.

Stanza 4 closes with a doxology.  We know we cannot do that without God’s involvement in our lives.  So we ask that our lives bear the imprint of His grace – Father, Son and Spirit in every place.

This Sunday we use Stanza 1 for the offertory and stanza 4 for the post communion piece of music.  While the pastor is putting away one of the greatest gifts, the congregation asks for that gift of grace to continue in our lives.  We have claimed the body and blood.  Let us share that blessing to the glory of your name.