Counting Crows brought 1970 forward to 2002 when they covered the Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi.” I remember hearing that song all over pop radio. The lines stick in your brain (as they must have done for Bob Dylan and Amy Grant, who covered the song as well): “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot/With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin’ hot spot/Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone/They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” (Which lyric, by the way, reminds me of this gem of pop Christian music.)
Don’t it always seem to go that way? You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone. Something psychological happens when you take something or someone for granted and then, all of a sudden, the thing or the person is gone. Mostly we think of family, whether lovers, spouses, parents, or children, but I happen to be thinking of the liturgy. There is so much pressure on pastors and churches to give up the liturgy in favor of more user-friendly or missional “worship styles” and many have capitulated. Even those who don’t give in feel the imposed guilt and perhaps begin to question whether something else might indeed better serve people’s needs. This in spite of the fact that nearly the entire argument for doing something other than the liturgy is emotivistic. That doesn’t necessarily equate to emotional, although the emotions are often involved. It means that every single argument over what a congregation’s gathering ought to look like is reduced to how someone feels. It is the equivalent of saying “murder is wrong” because “I don’t like murder.” So: “the liturgy is good or bad” = “I like or don’t like the liturgy.” The entire quarrel (and that is what it often is) is reduced to gut-reactions and only then framed by some semblance of a rationality.