Sunday, January 17, 2010

Less Is Not More

Watch those Iron Chef competitions and you see minuscule portions on big plates but decorated well. For the ordinary person, two bites is not enough. Less is not more when it comes to food. More is more.

Go to any gallery of modern art and some (not all, mind you) is simply an odd splash of color on a canvas. What is being celebrated is the artist's expression but compare it to a Renaissance fresco and it seems childish. Less is not more when it comes to forms and color. More is more.

Go to any modern church building (especially from the 1960s on) and you find a building almost devoid of art -- the stained, make that colored, glass shows itself in simple squares of color. Compare that to Tiffany and well... you know... Less is not more. More is more.

Go to the home channel and watch them strip out every semblance of the family occupying the space and then come back 6 months later to see them all put back. Less is not more. More is more.

When it comes to the liturgy, we as modern people tend to apply modern concepts to the gathering of God's people around the Word and Table of our Lord. Less is more. Both from those who insist upon no more than 59 1/2 minutes and those who insist that everything from vestments to music to gestures are "not necessary," we get the message. Less is more. But they are wrong. Scaling the liturgy down to the skeleton does not give us more. It gives us less.

Have you seen yourself in an x-ray? Do you think you look good as a mass of bone structures? What about those images from the new scanners at airports? Do they make us look good? We all know that answer to that. None of us would carry around a picture of a spouse or a child that was taken at the doctor's office or in the airport security line. Less is not more. More is more.

Instead of striving for 3 minute sermons in which everyone listens to each word, we must be prepared to preach the full counsel of God, faithful to the text, and this takes some time. No, we don't need to hog the time by spending 40 minutes in the pulpit, but 18-20 minutes are not too bad. I think the push for short sermons has more to do with a desire to avoid the faith than confront it.

Instead of trying to boil down the liturgy to its most basic essentials, we need to make every celebration a full celebration. This has less to do with time than with time in planning and preparing for it. We have a 35 minute Thursday morning Eucharist and I think I spend as much time on it as I do the 70 minute service on Sunday morning. To make the liturgy authentic to this THIS place takes some time. It deserves some attention to the details. We do not cut things off of the liturgy as willy nilly as an airline drops passengers when the plane is over weight.

Instead of making it contemporary by stripping things out, we make it contemporary to the day and the place by adding things in, by fully exploring the options within the liturgy, and by using the form to the fullest. This has less to do with whether or not you use incense than it does knowing the form, knowing the options, knowing the hymnody, etc...

Less is not more... more is more... More in the sense of quality as well as quantity... More in the sense of expectation as well as what is offered... More in the sense of the mystery made present as well as our response to that mystery...


Janis Williams said...

Fr. Peters,

I have friends who attend in another Lutheran Church (not LCMS). They have the Eucharist once a month. I know there are some LCMS bodies who celebrate the Sacrament even less frequently. Less is NOT more when it comes to the Means of Grace.

Anonymous said...

Well, feast your eyes on the work of Father Richard Vosko, a well-known Roman Catholic liturgical consultant.

Some Catholics call him "the wreckovater":