Monday, January 13, 2014

Foolish pupil though I was. . .

Once again another writer has said it better than I:  I had grown bored with the [liturgy] as if the [liturgy] was to blame.  But the fault lay squarely within me.  Only when I slowed down, and truly looked, did I realize that familiarity need not breed contempt; it can invite comprehension, awareness, a depth of understanding impossible apart from long-term, intimate knowledge.

Another prescient line:  What a foolish pupil I was, yet what a patient teacher my Lord had been.

Finally this:  We scurry along the surface of the liturgy week after week as if the goal is to get from the invocation to the benediction at breakneck speed.  And we can do this because we assume we know the lay of the land.  Blindfold us and we think we can still maneuver around the twists and turns of worship.  Just as my feet pounded out a rhythm along that trail, while my heart was far away, so our lips rhythmically speak the words, but in our heart it all too easily sounds like, “I confess that I am by nature blah, blah, blah…I believe in blah, blah, blah…The LORD bless you and blah, blah, blah.”  The fault, however, is not in the Divine Service.  It’s not time to find a new liturgical trail.  It is time, however, to ease from running to jogging to walking to kneeling, and there, on your knees, to contemplate the divine riches we’ve been trampling underfoot.  It’s time to let familiarity breed comprehension.

I resonate with what Chad Bird has said not because it agrees with me but because this is the normal experience of all living in all of life.  Indeed, it does not matter if we agree or admit or even appreciate this truth.  It is still true.  The familiar becomes the object of our boredom not because of any fault with the familiar (the liturgy) but because we have itching ears, wandering eyes, and hearts convinced the grass is always greener elsewhere.

So long ago the complaint arose from Israel that they were tired of manna, they wanted choice, they wanted what appealed to them...  Never mind that they were being given food daily and richly, quite apart from their labor or worthiness.  Their complaint so quickly disdained what God had given -- not because it was defective but because their ears itched, their eyes wandered, and their hearts were convinced that as bad as it was, it was better than relying upon the Lord.  Have we learned anything?  Precious little, I am afraid.  We continue to take what is God's and treat it as if it were beneath us, not good enough for us, or too routine to be interesting, relevant, or enough to sustain us.  We have not just sought to ditch the liturgy in favor of something of our own manufacture, we have grown tired of grace, weary of the Gospel of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection, and bored with divinely appointed cycle of Christian life which flows from and calls us back to the means of grace.  And just like in Eden, it is God's fault.

Once when my kids were heading to church with another youth who had grown up here and ridden this same path countless times, mention was made of a caboose in the yard of one of the houses almost to the church.  "Where?" he demanded.  "I've never seen it!"  But there it was.  So we continue to come to church on Sunday mornings demanding to know where all this stuff is that God has promised.  There it is -- hidden in plain sight.  So whom do we blame?  Not us, of course.  I like how Chad has put it.  Would that we all spent a little more time with the familiar of Sunday morning and an effort to appreciate it instead of a cursory run through and the judgement that we need something new!


Unknown said...

And how does the pastor motivate the congregation to do what Chad Bird did?

Janis Williams said...

@Jim You can lead a horse to water.... The pastor's job is to teach (the depth of the Liturgy), which should make us thirsty.. It's up to us horses as to whether we drink.

This post reminds me of skipping stones on the water as a child. We are stones in the Divine Service, and we seek to bounce across the surface of it (at breakneck speed). Yet stones are not designed to skip across the waters. Their true place is underneath, at the bottom of the water (is that baptismal, or what?).

Anonymous said...

I'm just a pew sitter, but I have to say I find variety in the liturgy interesting. Not innovation, mind you, but using fully all of the forms that are available. For example, my congregation uses the LBW, and for Advent instead of using or omitting the Gloria/This is the Feast, we sung the Magnificat in that spot. Was a very nice tie in and everyone enjoyed learning about Mary and her role deeper. And for the Christmas sundays, instead of a "lessons and carols", the Chorale Service was used with Christmas hymns. "Of the Father's Love Begotten" makes a very nice Sanctus... I think it is very lazy when pastors and congregations get into a rut of doing the same thing each Sunday, afraid that any variation will constitute "contemporary worship".

Anonymous said...

Our MINISTER was the one who said the liturgy becomes ROTE. I longed for it but instead got "creative worship."