By Larry Beane
One of the things that drew me to the Lutheran Church as a 17-year old inquirer was the dignity of the worship service, for it bespoke the miracle of the coming of Christ to earth to save fallen creation, not only in the historic conception of Jesus of Nazareth in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, not only in His birth at Bethlehem and in His death and resurrection near Jerusalem, but in an ongoing gift through Word and Sacrament, sanctifying every time and place where His body gathers and where His blood atones.
This is no Watchmaker God we worship, but a God who is Man; a Man who is God. And he comes to be with us where we sojourn in space and time, just as He promised, unto the end of the age, deigning to grace us with His magnificent Presence in bread and wine, in a mystical and miraculous and Holy Meal.
The awe and majesty and wondrousness of it!
And as a token of our faith in this indescribable reality, and in profound thanksgiving (eucharistia) for this inexplicable warp in the time/space continum and in God's ongoing act of mercy of reaching through the barriers even of our own unworthiness, we participate in this Divine Service with reverent and holy joy, honoring this most unique and intimate encounter with Almighty God in hushed tones that proclaim and confess the dignity of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, who has conquered sin, death, and the devil, and who continues to come to us poor, miserable sinners made into saints by grace.
The word "dignified" showed up on a tract about Lutheran worship that I saw when I visited the local LCMS parish. It referred to Lutheran worship as "dignified" and "focused on the cross." And though, I suppose, the conventional wisdom about "youth ministry" would find it improbable, I was completely smitten as a 17-year old motorcycling rock and roller with long hair and blue jeans.
I wanted nothing to do with gimmicks. It was the transcendent that I desired, sought, and by God's infinite grace and mercy, that I found. For the Lord delivers this transcendence in an intimate, authentic, and yes, dignified manner in the reverent and cruciform Mass of the historic Church Catholic. Dignus est Agnus!" as the Church proclaims, "Worthy is the Lamb!", taking her liturgical cue from the Holy Spirit in Revelation 5 and the eternal dignified heavenly liturgy recorded therein.
The very worthiness of Christ - as starkly contrasted by our own unworthiness - this dignity of the Lamb is given to us as a free gift, and we worship Him in dignity, truth, beauty, faith, and reverence, awestruck by His coming among us and by His abiding with us.
Is this something we contemporary Lutherans still understand, believe, teach, confess, treasure, and practice?
Dignus est Angus!