Thursday, June 30, 2011

What is the fascination with minimums?

On an online forum a question was raised about a eucharistic liturgy reduced down to the bare minimum of the Verba Christi (Words of Institution).  In countless other places you find debates/disparaging comments about liturgical or high church Pastors and congregations with all their affection for smells, bells, and "gowns."  I have had countless comments on this blog from people who were grateful that "their Pastor kept to the simple Word and not go in for chanting, incense, funny vestments, kneeling, genuflecting, bowing, etc..." 

I am a little confused with this romantic affection for minimalism.  Am I to assume that authentic Christians order the cheapest, plainest food on the menu?  That they watch the blandest programs on TV?  That they drive base model cars without any frills?  That they only buy clothes at Wal-Mart or Goodwill (and stick to plain stuff)?  That they worship in facilities with cinder block walls, low ceilings, florescent lights, and no art work?  That hymns sound better on out of tune pianos or cheap electronic organs played by inept players?  Why, you would assume the Amish would be growing by leaps and bounds from all the complaining Lutherans who believe a little ceremonial is too much and ritual is a nasty word (that requires you to have your mouth washed out with soap). 

Honestly, what is the deal here?  Did I miss something?  Who forgot to send me the memo?  Could I have deleted the email?  You know -- the one that explained why less is more and more is less?  Why is it that God deserves only the mediocre, that the Lord of heaven and earth is less important than someone you invite for dinner and drinks, or that God is glorified when the only thing we are willing to give Him is sincerity?  We get frustrated when Presidents demean the Office they hold by their failure or casual attitude toward the public they serve but assume that God is happy enough if we show up in cut off jeans and a tee shirt, spend 45 minutes in no frills worship that cuts to the chase on everything (except the sermon), and that uses Christian muzak mostly to cover the silences.

The upside in all of this is that by keeping our expectations low, we are sure to reach them.  And surely we will inspire a new generation of people content to get by when it comes to matters of church, faith, and life.  In this way we will make sure that minimalism does not die with us and that future Christians will be just as inspire as we are to give God His due as long as it does not cost us much.  We are cheap people who have taught ourselves to be content with cheap grace, with cheap churches in cheap buildings doing cheap worship on Sunday morning.  We have turned moderation into the defining principle of who we are -- except that we have redefined moderation into mediocrity.  We are plain people with a plain God and we are content to leave it all at that. 

Okay, you got me.  I am ranting and raving.  It just about drives me crazy.  And this is the criticism that comes from fellow Lutheran Pastors and not just the folks in the pew.  Sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  With such an attitude toward worship it is no wonder that our work as witnesses is failing, that our stewardship is down the tubes, and that our church is in decline.  We are shooting not for the stars but for the minimum necessary to get by.  Give us a gentleman's "C" in everything we do and we will feel better.  But will God??????