Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Doing ceremonial things unceremoniously...

The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for everyone else the proper pleasure of ritual...”   C. S. Lewis

Once again Clive Staples Lewis has hit it on the mark.  One of the things we often face in the Church today is the way those leading worship show their disdain for what they do by the manner in which they do it.  For example.  I have sat in the pew at a District Convention worship in which the reader of the first two lessons engaged in a public conversation with the folks listening because they instinctively went to sit and he decided he wanted them to stand.  He read the lessons okay but the flippant manner in which he joked about sitting or standing only betrayed the very serious character of the Word of the Lord.  It was as if he was saying, "Okay folks, I will play your little game of church, standing here in my alb and stole, but don't for a moment think that this is who I am.  I am the fun guy who jokes and laughs and takes nothing all that seriously."  And that is exactly the message we got.  Except that it splattered all of its irreverence upon the Word of God about which we can never be irreverent -- especially within the context of the Divine Service.

When Pastors call vestments "robes" and show how uncomfortable they are wearing them, the folks in the pew get the message.  But they also know that he is not merely uncomfortable with the vestments; he is also uncomfortable with the very Office itself.  When Pastors act as if they must have cue cards to lead them through every moment of the liturgy until the sermon when suddenly they seem at ease, we know the score.  The liturgy is not important nor even the Sacrament but my words are.  When Pastors solemnly take the host and cup from an elder in street clothes and show their piety there and then make up words along the rail as they distribute the sacrament to the people and add a cutsie little twist on the dismissal formula, we get what they are saying.  Nothing is really all that important and we can be fast and loose with about anything except that moment of eating and drinking.

When we unceremoniously do the ceremonial, we are saying a great deal to the people watching and listening.  Those who serve as Pastors have no right to insert this message into the liturgy.  They are stealing something from the folks in the pew.  They are thieves and robbers who take from us what the ceremonial shows -- worship is not a casual moment but serious (even if not somber).  I agree with CS Lewis.  I say to all those doing this (inadvertently or deliberately):  stop it.  Please.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Was the man in the chausable in costume also?