Some theologians think that they have to have it all figured out before they preach it. It must be intellectualized first and then set forward in the liturgy and in their preaching.
Luther could definitely be heady. But he saw it the other way as well. He realized that mbodied liturgical acts (water, bread, wine, incense, kneeling, standing, chanting, singing, etc.) also informed theology (but baptism is the big one)…
Indeed if I had the matter under my control, I would not want God to speak to me from heaven or appear to me; but this I would want—and my daily prayers are directed to this end—that I might have the proper respect and true appreciation for the gift of baptism, that I have been baptized.
- Martin Luther; Lectures on Genesis
So, having your feet washed... Drinking the cup of the new covenant... Having oil placed on your forehead... Smelling the incense... Kneeling in repentance… Having water sprinkled on your forehead…
All of these physical liturgical acts are part of God’s word. They inform theology. Not just the other way around.
“Liturgy is a generative spring at the heart of our life together.”
- Dr. Ben Stewart; LSTC
I recently heard about a social worker who so loved the sprinkling rite (when the priests walk through the church and sprinkle water on the assembly) because she always felt so unclean after meeting with and hearing about the offenders she faced day in and day out. She loved how renewing it was.
And she didn’t just take advantage of the sprinkling rite in the church... She took every chance to remember her baptism anywhere and everywhere she could. For example, on her bike ride home during the summer months, she’d often ride her bike around Buckingham Fountain and when the cool mist of the water would touch her forehead, she felt reborn.
I just love this testament to the sacramental and liturgical nature of life both inside and outside of the church. From a Lutheran perspective, she is the church’s most heightened theologian - on the same level of any clergyperson.
Grace & Godspeed,
Props to my liturgy professor, Dr. Ben Stewart for the inspiration!