There you have it. It would appear that each form is valid, as long as we include preaching the Word and celebrating the Sacraments. Those with a highly liturgical format should not say the simplified way is invalid, and those using a music/message/communion model should not complain that “traditionalists” have missed the boat.
And yet the reformers did not abandon the traditional liturgical format altogether. Luther re-wrote the Catholic Mass two different times, putting it in the language of the people. The early Evangelicals (16th century Lutherans) continued to worship weekly using roughly the same format that had been used for hundreds of years.
So as we engage new formats today, perhaps it would be wise of us to explore the worship format that has been handed down and refined among Christians for many generations. What is it about this tradition that has been particularly life-giving?
The broad, simple outline that is taught among many denominations today reflects the emphasis on Word and Sacrament in the Augsburg Confession: Gathering, Word, Meal, Sending. It reaches as far back as Justin Martyr, ca. 150 A.D. We gather as a community to worship, we hear the Gospel proclaimed from God’s Word, we receive God’s grace in Holy Communion, and we are sent out to share that grace with the world. Again, both traditional and simplified liturgies can reflect this model.
But what about the other parts of a traditional liturgy, those with titles like kyrie, gloria, and sanctus? What might they have for us? In Part II I’ll propose a contemporary worship outline that incorporates the intention behind some of the treasures of traditional liturgy.