Thursday, July 27, 2017
I have done all things well. . . except humility. . .
So what is my point? There is something to be said for those whose devotion and piety required them to kneel, for example, for the sake of the Lord and as an outward sign of the inward faith, even though it cost them pain and was very difficult. We live in an age when it is far more likely we would reason ourselves out of such pain and difficulty. For we just know the Lord would not want us to be uncomfortable. And therein lies the problem. Our comfort (perhaps we should translate that into our preference) becomes the important thing. Now, to be sure, no one would hold kneeling up to a ritual requirement. Not me. No one, and let me make it clear before you start commenting, this is not about requiring a certain bodily posture in order to receive Holy Communion. Indeed, standing for the Sacrament is the customary posture of the Eastern Church, after all. But kneeling carries with it a particular character of humility that has kept it consistently among the most sacred practices of Western Christianity (regardless of the denomination). I feel for those who find it difficult and painful to kneel but I am constantly impressed by their willingness to endure that pain and to go through the difficulty in order to be practice their piety consistent not only with others and the past but their own history prior to onset of age, frailty, or illness.
We live at a time when our comfort and our personal preferences seem to dictate nearly everything. From the church where we go (which we chose after trying on several to find a good fit) to the "style of worship" (from casual to formal, contemporary to traditional) to the individual actions of that piety (kneeling among them). I have had people tell me over and over again that they do not kneel or cross themselves or fold their hands or bow or anyone of a hundred other things because that is just not me. Lord knows, He would not want us to do anything that was not comfortable or authentic to who we were or are! Or would He? That is the dominion of personal preference. It individualizes everything -- including those things that foster a sense of community! It would seem to me that the value in some of these rituals is precisely that they are not natural or easy or comfortable. The posture of confession (both in mind/heart and body) should not be casual or comfortable or easy. Neither should the posture of our reception of the Lord's body and blood be dictated by or defined in any way by personal preference.
Any pastor hears this all the time. I don't like the taste of wine. I am trying out a gluten free diet. I prefer red or white or amber or non-alcoholic wine. I don't like to kneel. I prefer to stand. I receive in the pew. I don't sing. I like a different genre of music. I prefer spoken liturgy. I think... I feel... I believe... How wonderful that you are so in touch with your wants/needs/desire/opinions! How wonderful it is that you are assertive enough to express them to your pastor so freely! Since you have obviously mastered this aspect so well, why not try humility next!