Sunday, June 30, 2013

Too many words. . .

I plead guilty to the charge.  There are too many words in the Divine Service.  I sometimes feel overwhelmed with words on Sunday morning.  I know I am guilty but I also am not sure what penance to do for my sin.  I have tried to introduce silence.  It grows difficult after about 30 seconds and people begin to fidget and the whole thing goes south pretty quickly after that.  The noise of the discomfort is even worse than the noise of too many words.  On Sunday mornings I feel like St. Paul -- the good that I should, I do not and the evil I should not, I do.  The liturgy is supposed to reign in the abundance of words on Sunday morning and keep them to those ordered by the rite and the calendar.  Even then, I fear that we have made it all far too wordy.

The whole of worship has become a didactic activity and words have become the primary currency of the teaching enterprise.  We have too many words and too much noise.  Though it seems agonizing to the modern psyche, I think perhaps we move too quickly from piece to piece in the liturgy.  The sequence is far too rushed and it is as if we were all ADHD and unable to sit still or focus for more than the briefest of moments.

One of the dangers of our wordiness is that we think we can explain and comprehend the mystery of God instead of encounter God's mystery and receive from it His purpose and gift.  We have become addicted to our technology so that every word is sounded forth by public address system as if it were all equal merit and all addressed primarily to us.  The greatest of all sins has become the sin of not being heard.  I wonder instead of we do not hear too much.

I have known several folks either hearing impaired or blind and asked each of them how it affected their participation in the Divine Service.  The shock to me was that it affected them surprisingly little.  Now, let it be known up front that both attend where the Divine Service is pretty much lock, stock, and barrel from the book.  Neither of them attend where the liturgy du jour can run the gamut from pentecostal wannabe to the group grope of a touchy feely setting.  They have the Divine Service firmly implanted in their minds and hearts and are hardly distracted by the lack of print resources in their hands or hearing assistance device in their ears.  In fact, the one thing I heard from both that their only complaint was that there were generally too many words.  The blind could hear too much in the ear and the deaf was aware of too much going on that was not getting to them. 

No, the Sunday morning experience of most Christians definitely does not suffer a paucity of words.  It is a far too rich a diet of words that masks that some are vitally important and others are not.  The worship of most parishes has become an egalitarian enterprise in which all words are equal and therefore no words stand apart.  The creed is just words as are the prayers and since they all hit the same ears, the only way to distinguish them is to make the words heard either shocking or extravagant.  The prayers have become pep talks for the people instead of the prayerful address of the church to the Father in the name of Jesus.  Our short attention spans are fed by what happens in too much worship instead of challenged to pause, reflect, and consider.  It does not have to be that way but we, make that I, sin more on the side of too many than too few.

I sin too much in this area.  Too many words.  Too much of the impression that the liturgy is primarily a teaching moment (not that teaching does not take place).  Too few silences or simple pauses to reflect and consider what has been said and heard.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa....  It is no wonder that we are confused by what worship is and what it is not...

1 comment:

Paul McCain said...

And...would somebody please let all organists/musicians know that they do NOT have to fill every single second with sound?

Honestly.

Please. Just stop.