Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Stick to the Script
Not all the offenders are the ministers of the service but the folks in the pew tend to take their cue from those leading the worship so I single them out. It seems that even in traditional parishes that use the liturgy from the hymnal, the Pastor cannot resist the impulse to improvise, personalize, and comment upon what he is doing. It would be one thing if these were simply well-meaning helps to understanding what is going on but the vast majority are the kinds of banter an MC might have on a variety show or the Oscars or such. In between the "action" the dead silence is enlivened by a little light conversation -- usually humorous. Most of it is frivolous, much of it banal, and all of trivial. It diminishes who is there and what we are there for. So I say -- no, plead -- stop. Stick to the script.
It is one thing to say something mildly humorous from the pulpit as a means of making a point. I have used humor to make a point. But it is a commodity to be used seldom and in light doses, carefully applied. Outside the announcements and the very occasional word from the pulpit, do not do anything to trivialize or detract from what is happening in the liturgy. It is no wonder our people are confused. On the one hand the person leading the Divine Service is talking like Jay Leno in his monologue and on the other the words of the liturgy are telling us that God is present, that in order to meet Him we need to be cleansed by absolution, prepared by the Spirit, and acknowledge the holy ground that grace has bidden us to tread upon.
It is bad enough when something spontaneously slips from the lips of the presider. It is quite another when it is programmed in and planned out like directions on a set. This competing script detracts from and fights against the liturgy. And the worst of it all, the audience becomes the victim in this since they are left with a confused idea of what is happening in the liturgy -- are we hear to meet the Jesus who comes to us in His Word and Sacrament or here for some other less serious purpose? The presider has a duty to make sure that people understand what is happening in the Divine Service and I have seldom had the experience that people take the presence of Christ too seriously and much experience that they are far too casual about the God who comes to us as He has promised in His Word and Sacrament.
Stick to the script. How many times must we say it? The point of Sunday morning is not, as my hometown newspaper ended all local coverage, "a good time was had by all." The point of Sunday morning is for the people of God to meet their Lord where He has promised to be. Only faith can prepare them for this but let us not confuse this faith by detracting from the solemnity by making it all a joke.