Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What About Those Who. . .

I brought up what a profound difference when the congregation sings the Our Father as opposed to it being spoken and was surprised at the responses.  Several versions are listed in Lutheran Service Book (in particular I was referring to the traditional or plain song setting, 957).  Most all are familiar with Malotte's setting, so common to weddings or funerals (why are they so often together -- weddings and funerals).  Anyway, I thought I would find people interested or curious but instead I found people almost instantaneously against singing the Our Father.  I was surprised.  As the conversation ensued, I saw a pattern developing...

What about those who cannot or do not sing?  The point was made that every time we sing something in the liturgy (in addition to the hymns) we eliminate from the assembly those who cannot or do not sing.  Singing excludes people, in other words.  I was struck by this because I found just the opposite.  Singing joins us together and unites us.  But that was not the perspective I heard here.  Singing is not something essential to the Divine Service or to worship in general -- it is optional and for those who can or like to sing.  Wow.  What an eye opener.

As the conversation continued, I saw the pattern of this conversation continue even further -- now remember this was a conversation among Lutherans and particularly Lutherans who sing from beginning to end on Sunday morning.  In fact, about the only texts we do not sing are the Creed (well, we do that occasionally) and the Our Father.  The point being made was easily transportable to other areas and issues.

That is why some were opposed to installing kneelers in the pews -- what about those who could not or would not kneel?  There were many who were not opposed to kneelers but felt that if we did install them, we would be excluding those with bad knees (a very small minority) or those who did not choose to kneel (a larger number than those who could not kneel).  By the way, when we first moved into our new worship space, it was not fully complete and we went without an altar rail for a time and some folks began to question why we were getting one anyway -- what about those who cannot or do not want to kneel at the altar?

When it comes to things like incense, well, you know where that conversation is headed.  What about those who could not attend where incense was used (again, a very small minority of people are actually allergic and that mostly to perfumed incense and not to real frankincense) or what about those who would not attend (again, a much larger number than those allergic)?

We already discussed a while back what to do with those who were intolerant of gluten or alcohol and their participation in Holy Communion.  Our primary concern, according to some, ought to be what about those who cannot or would not commune under bread with gluten or wine with alcohol.  Again, the primary issue is not allergy or physical intolerance but rather choice.

We should stop sharing the peace because of the flu and what about those who might catch something by physically contacting others in the eucharistic assembly.  We should stop the common cup (chalice) because of what people might catch from it or because they just don't like it.  And the list of changes goes on and on...

I guess we are left with the real question of what you are left with after you remove all those things that a few cannot tolerate or accept or the larger number of those who do not want to accept?  It seems that this is, after all, the path secular society is following.  We remove the peanuts from the planes because of the very few who might be impacted... we remove the toys from Happy Meals so that kids will give up fatty foods... we tax soda so that people will give up sugar... all because of our concern about those who...  And so the Church has adopted the same methodology.  We act on the basis more of minimums than fullness, on broad acceptance as the chief criteria for what should or should not be used in worship.  Some have even gone so far as to say that anybody off the street who has never been in worship before should be able to feel at home in the Lutheran Divine Service (at least some watered down version of that Divine Service).

My point in all of this is where will it end?  And why do we need to walk down that path at all. Why do we seek to find that which appeals to the most instead of that which is most faithful?  Historical?  Biblical?  Is it because it is less trouble to offend the fullness for the sake of the vocal particular?  Well, just some deep sighing today as I reflect upon one simply conversation...


ErnestO said...

Pastor Peters asked:

Why do we seek to find that which appeals to the most instead of that which is most faithful? Historical? Biblical?

Answer: We have forgotten that Lutherans worship to bring glory and pleasure to our Creator. We do not worship to please ourselves.

When I attend worship service:

• I’m coming to focus on you, God, not anything else. My desire is to worship you with an undivided heart and to come wholeheartedly into your presence (Psalm 86:11).

• I’m coming to offer praise from my heart and to use my gifts, talents, and abilities to worship you. I choose to focus on your goodness and mercy, and I choose not to criticize my brothers and sisters who are also coming to give glory to your name (Romans 15:5-6).

• I’m coming to give, not to receive. My desire is to seek your face, not what’s in your hand. I have no agenda except to praise you, my Lord and God, “from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen” (Psalm 41:13 NIV).

Anonymous said...

ErnestO said: "I am coming to give,
not to receive." You might want to
rethink that sentence. We always
come to worship to RECEIVE;
1. God's Word in the Old Testament
Lesson, Epistle Lesson, Gospel Lesson
and the Sermon.
2. Christ's body and blood in the
blessed Sacrament.
3. The Absolution of our sins
4. The Benediction of God

True Worship consist of Giving God
our gifts and RECEIVING HIS GIFTS.

Anonymous said...

I had never experienced a sung Our Father until joining an ELS congregation that uses Matins in the regular rotation of services. The tune is easy to follow, even for those of us who can't sing. I can't now imagine the service without the prayer being sung.

Anonymous said...

There is a kind of “righteous” thought today that permeates our society. It smells of a misunderstanding of the first commandment. Folks think they are wiser and more generous than Almighty God. When God says “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow,” instead of kneeling, we say but God you forgot about the guy over there who can’t kneel. God says “Sing praises to His Holy name” and we say but I can’t sing and God shouldn’t expect that of me. In my mind it is this kind of thinking that has led us down the slippery slope to the church crises we have today. Instead of asking “what do you think?” ought we be asking “what does God ask of me and how does he envision my worship of Him?”

Janis Williams said...

Correct, Anonymus, we come to worship in order to receive.

Why do we argue over all the little 'stuff' like singing the Our Father? I just want all of the Lutherans who have been so since birth to take a moment and actually LISTEN to the Liturgy.

I came through, well, he__ before I realized I was Lutheran. The Liturgy is truly like being in Heaven itself. It IS Heaven on earth.

Why complain whether we sing the Our Father or not? We GET to pray! Our Father LISTENS!

Sorry if I seem a little strenuous on this, but may God grant me that the Divine Service NEVER becomes rote to me. May He grant that I go wherever His representative in the Divine Service leads me. It is his (pastor's) responsibility to be Christ to me, and I should not complain to Christ whether I speak of sing to Him.

Joe said...

The Lord's Prayer is used in Evening Prayer and Compline, and what follows it is sung in both services. Because I prefer to have the collect(s) preceding it also sung, the Lord's Prayer, if spoken, is the only item after the Scripture reading that is not sung, which I find odd. So in introducing Evening Prayer to our congregation, we decided to sing the Lord's Prayer on a single tone (but omitting the preceding "Taught by our Lord and trusting his promises, we are bold to pray," which strikes me as an unnecessary verbal rubric).

I was aware that a number of Lutherans have a gut reaction against singing the Lord's Prayer, so I was prepared for a storm of complaints, but I heard nothing. So I asked some people about it who I thought would most strongly object, and they all said they thought it was a lovely and natural thing to do.

I suspect the response would have been different had we attempted one of the chant settings of the Lord's Prayer, because the people aren't familiar with them, and they would have been embarrassed trying to sing along. But anyone can chant on a single tone (it's just like speaking in a monotone), so that isn't an issue. And that's actually preferable liturgically, as it's the traditional way of singing the Lord's Prayer in the offices.

When chant settings are used, I find that the Lord's Prayer goes better when it is sung without accompaniment. This is true with any chant or chant-like setting, such as all of Compline. In Evening Prayer as well, we sing everything up to the first psalm (Psalm 141) unaccompanied. (That required strong choral leadership when we first introduced it.)

Anonymous said...

As a Lutheran, I see your point about worship and agree and I think people are just sinful & lazy (they don't sing because they don't like their voice, don't kneel because they rather just sit ... but on the other hand if someone does have a physical aliment we should be considerate enough look for a way to help them.

If your child had a possible life-threatening peanut allergy as mine you may look at banning serving peanuts in airplanes in a different light knowing that your child could die from invisible traces. For me it is scary living with such an allergy and seeing your child deal with it as well. That is different then forcing people to make changes because they have made poor decisions in the past like to much fast food & soda.

Getting back to the original point, Lutherans come to church to receive the means of grace though
word and sacraments which strengthens our faith so we may boldly proclaim the message of the Gospel to those who are lost. The lost can not truly worship God until they have been given the gracious gift of faith. Why are we so worried about what the lost might be offended by in the worship service? We should be just as concerned that the children of God are growing in their faith so they can proclaim the message of God's grace to those they meet outside of the church walls.