Do you have a certain route you take to work every morning? A particular path for dropping off your kids at school? At the beginning of a new school year or start of a new job, you need to do some exploring to find out which route works best. After a while, this path becomes familiar. Of course, you have alternate routes, too. You can take these in special situations (for instance, a traffic jam on your regular route) or just for variety’s sake.
One of the tasks for the hymnal project is to find rites to use in our worship. Rites are those patterns of words and songs that guide us when we gather in God’s name. (Just a few examples: the Service of Word and Sacrament, the service of Holy Baptism, the service of Christian Marriage, the confirmation rite, the rite for a palm procession on Palm Sunday.)
Maybe we can think of rites as routes, as paths to guide us where we want to go. Every time we gather in God’s name, we want to move together toward some common goals: we want to proclaim God’s love, to praise his name, to encourage fellow Christians, and to communicate clearly to those who don’t yet know our Savior. We look for routes to guide us toward those goals, rites that will help us listen, speak, and sing. And each time we worship we’re mindful of the fact that we’re moving a few steps closer to our heavenly home. The rites we use bring us the fuel we need for the journey: the promises of our God, delivered to us through his Word and Sacraments.
We realize when we gather for worship that we’re not the first to have travelled down this path, but only the latest in a long line of Christians. Therefore, we respect the routes laid out for us by sisters and brothers who are now in glory. These old rites that have faithfully pointed Christians to God’s Word and Sacraments can benefit us in the 21st Century, too. Some time-tested routes may be well served by some minor construction and repaving. And God gives us freedom to craft new rites, too, thinking of his Scriptures and the good of our fellow travelers.
Our God is also adding new faces to our band of travelers. He brings people to our church services who haven’t heard the good news about Jesus. Will our rites communicate the Word clearly to them? We want our rites to proclaim God’s grace to those who have yet to hear it, so that the Spirit can add them to our number.
My name is Pastor Jon Micheel, and I’ll have the privilege of working on rites for the hymnal project. Over my years in the public ministry, I’ve grown in my appreciation for the legacy of Lutheran worship, and I’ve also seen firsthand how our services have the opportunity to preach the gospel to people who have never heard it before. The rites committee will be looking at the orders of service for Sunday mornings, weekday evenings, and many other occasions. As we do our work, we’ll aim to respect the vibrant heritage handed down to us as confessional Lutherans. We will also strive to share that gospel-rich heritage with people new to our churches in ways they can understand. And we’ll endeavor to do these things with beauty and elegance. It’s an enormous task! But it’s also one we’re honored and excited to be a part of.
Looking forward to traveling with you!