If you have ever heard discussions regarding the "worship wars" (so-called contemporary versus traditional worship), inevitably you will hear the point made that the traditional liturgy is a dead ritual. Yet how many rituals do we have in society? I don't hear people complaining about the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" at sporting events, or graduates wearing caps and gowns and walking down the aisle while "Pomp and Circumstance" is playing. Why doesn't anyone call those customs dead rituals? The traditional liturgy is based on Scripture, and Scripture is the life-giving Word of God. So, the liturgy is not dead, but we are dead in sin (see Ephesians 2). In his book Heaven on Earth, The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service, Dr. Arthur Just states:
"Our Historic liturgy, which we call the Divine Service, is a pattern of formal, repetitive behavior. Those who feel that our historic liturgy is an impediment to missions and evangelism will point to the formal, repetitive aspect of our liturgy and describe it as a "dead ritual." But rituals themselves are neither dead nor alive. Those who participate in them make them appear as living, vital rituals or as dead ones. Said plainly, it is not the ritual that is dead, it is we who are dead." (p. 35).
Editorial update: This post won blog of the week on Issues, Etc.