Friday, July 31, 2015
Busy Work. . .
Before I go any further let me begin by saying I am NOT one of those who presumes that everything in the liturgy must be done by the pastor. We use assisting ministers, lectors, a full complement of acolytes, cantors, choir, etc... almost every Sunday morning. But this is not done to divide up the pastor's part of the liturgy and disperse it all out. This is done in acknowledgement of the roles of deacon and sub-deacon in the liturgy and the use of qualified and trained elders and lay people to fulfill some of these duties. Nevertheless, it is not the right of anyone to demand a place or a part in the liturgy. Historically, we know that church had assistants who were both trained and given regular place in the Divine Service. Again, this is not done with a nod to everyone getting their chance to do their thing but is driven by and informed by the liturgy itself and the historical practice of the church through the ages.
Nevertheless, there are those who pay little attention to the liturgy except to see it as a loose framework to hold together a venue in which the talented get to showcase their talents and in which the entertainment or captive interest of the rest of the folks in the pew is the goal. That is my point. Whether we think we must give folks their moment in the spotlight or whether we think the people in the pew either desire or benefit from being kept busy or entertained, we proceed from the wrong starting point. Even liturgical ceremony can be used to entertain people in much the same way people are entertained by musical acts in non-liturgical services. The point here is not to keep people busy or to entertain them. The point here is to let the Word speak and the Sacraments communicate their grace to the people as God desires. Even if we have a full complement of lay or minor clergy orders assisting, the focus is not on them but on the Lord working through the means of grace.
Active participation does NOT mean people must be doing something. The highest worship is faith and faith is the active participation both expected and given by the Lord so that the gifts He gives may be received with joy and thanksgiving. Much of what ends up being done when the liturgy becomes raw material in the hands of planners who want to make things better is but busy work to keep people occupied. This is a terrible lie to and demeaning presupposition of those who sit in the pew. The faithful are not children who must be kept busy or occupied so that they will be quiet! Indeed, even the children are engaged by the Word and Spirit of the Lord and on every level are given and receive by faith the grace of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Silence is itself a component of the Divine Service. Faithful liturgical leadership does not cover every quiet moment with words or music or actions lest people be left without something to do or occupy themselves.
The liturgy is not busy work nor are any of its components to distract or occupy the wandering minds of the people. The liturgy exists solely for and in service to the Lord who meets us upon the holy ground of His Word and Sacraments and it is the Spirit who equips us with faith to acknowledge His gifts, to believe in them for our salvation, to receive them for our benefit, to rejoice in their grace and blessing, and to be equipped by them for the faithful service of witness, prayer, mercy, and service to neighbor and world. By the way, a danger to the faithful also lies when we are be too busy in the liturgy -- too busy doing things to have time to appreciate the mystery, the majesty, and the might of God who stoops low to us with grace sufficient for our every need and draws us into Himself that we may be made ready to follow Him and serve Him in the willing and joyful obedience of faith.