24 Jul

A liturgy to feed their souls

Pimpinan Brades Sijaba

Pimpinan Brades Sijabat, a member of the Global Young Reformers Network in Asia, calls for a re-think of the kind of worship young Lutherans need to shape their lives and ministries

 

In this post-modern era, I want to ask how young Lutherans can be not just religious consumers but followers of Jesus who are ready to reform their lives. Many young Lutherans in Asia are church members but don’t attend Sunday services. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that the liturgy does not satisfy their spiritual hunger. Young people are looking for liturgies that will affect their lives deeply. They want to express their creativity in worship either through music, theater or dance. They don’t like rigid liturgy, which is full of words geared to the mind such as preaching and announcements.

We need to talk about what liturgy is. Liturgy includes ideas, phrases or observances and can therefore be experienced in different contexts, such as political meetings, sports events or family gatherings. Social scientist tell us that people’s behavior is shaped by daily “liturgies”, things that they do until they become habits. For example, if your parents practiced brushing your teeth with you when you were a child, teeth brushing probably became a habit to the point that now you feel uncomfortable if you do not brush your teeth.

In this era, the church needs to use modern technology and be contextual in its worship. We also need to be aware that while technology has helped us to listen and reproduce music, fewer and fewer people make music themselves. There is a danger, then, that Christians simply become consumers of religion, “shopping” for the nicest congregation with the coolest music and the most interesting preacher, rather than following Christ. To be contextual, we also need to place our liturgy amidst our culture. In some Batak congregations in Indonesia youth use traditional dance in processing into the sanctuary before worship or during the offering. Youth relate to this.

I find Lutheran liturgies are often too dry and bland to awaken our desire for God’s Kingdom. In my opinion our worship services are full of words from the liturgist or preacher but there is little opportunity for worshippers to respond to God’s word – to share about the Bible readings or dance.

As Lutherans we have been so oriented towards the word and people’s minds that we have neglected the fact that Jesus was concerned about people’s hearts and bodies too. If young people want to follow Jesus Christ and live the values of God’s Kingdom (love, compassion, forgiveness) within this post-modern era, they need to develop habits that help them to do so. This cannot be done individually. It needs groups of young people, congregations who are ready to go on this journey together, developing new meaningful liturgies. We need Lutheran liturgies that feed the souls and shape the lives of young people.

 

Pimpinan Brades Sijaba, is a member of the Indonesian Christian Church

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of Lutheran World Federation policy.