Marquart on Liturgy, Part 2

Liturgy, then, is much more than forms and ceremonies, which are in themselves indifferent.  It is first and foremost a firm theological content, namely, the holy Gospel and the sacraments of God.  Taken in this nontrivial sense, liturgy cannot be in competition with evangelism.  After all, the “Spirit, the water, and the blood” of the liturgy are the very agents (“witnesses”) of world evangelism!  “Make disciples of all nations” and “This do in remembrance of me” go hand in hand.  Ultimately, of course, the worship of God is its own end, while evangelism is a means to that end.  The highest worship of God on earth is faith itself—and “the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God” (Athanasian Creed)…

It is a very hallmark of our evangelical confession that “it is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places,” (AC VII, 3) and that “the community of God in every place and at every time has the right, authority, and power to change, to reduce, or to increase ceremonies,” but, of course, “without frivolity or offense.” (FC SD X, 9)

Today this is often misunderstood as liturgical carte blanche, and cited in support of license and chaos.  The founding fathers of the Missouri Synod evidently understood the matter quite differently.  The original synodical constitution made it a part of the “Business of the Synod” to “strive after the greatest possible uniformity in ceremonies.”  This “desired uniformity in the ceremonies [was] to be brought about especially by the adoption of sound Lutheran agendas (church books).”

Lutheran Worship: History and Practice, “Liturgy and Evangelism”