Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Quiet time in worship. . .

Perhaps all Pastors have heard the complaints of those who find children distracting.  I am not talking about the screaming child but just kids being kids.  They will fuss every now and then and will move around and talk when everyone else is silent.  It is the way of children.  Now adults, on the other hand, are often just as noisy or more so.  They do not fidget as children who need to be taught but as the willful large size children who refuse to be taught.  I tend to be pretty forgiving of the children but get tired of the adults who must talk all the way through the service, keeping themselves so busy they cannot hear the sermon and they do not participate in the liturgy.  The children are learning and we are their teachers and their examples.  Why would we complain about them when we are such egregious examples of extraneous noise.

That said, it occurs to me that perfect silence is a privilege not accorded to the disciples of old or the early church.  What about the noise and turmoil which surrounded Our Lord during His Passion and His Crucifixion?  What about the noise and turmoil of a nave filled with people praying because the Mass was in Latin, taking place behind a rood screen, inaccessible to the people in the pews (before there were any).  We tend to have short attention spans today.  We have both an unrealistic expectation of silence and we have an incredible lack of patience toward those who occasionally break that silence.  Worse than this, however, is the fact that we actually look for things to distract us.  We do not sing so it gives us time for minds to wander and eyes to turn away.  We do not pay attention to the Word of the Lord read and proclaimed because we are more interested in the trivial things that go on around us.

The truth is I long for silence in worship -- not silence from the children but silence from the cell phones that ring, the sound of steps coming and going to the drinking fountain and rest rooms, and the sound of adults who have no control over their tongues (who cannot refrain from comment no matter how important it is that is taking place in the liturgy).  Why should our children be quiet if we cannot?  At the same time, however, I will admit that worship will never take place in perfect silence.  We will always hear the sounds of the world intruding in the holy place of God's Word and Table.  Whether a motorcycle speeding away from the stoplight or an ambulance racing to an emergency or a helicopter taking someone to a trauma center -- we will always have our attention spans tested by noise extraneous to the liturgy.  The most we can do is make sure that we are not the sources nor the causes of such intrusions.  Toward the children I beg patience and some indulgence.  Toward the adults I am less than patient and less than forgiving.

I wrestle with this proneness to judge and condemn.  It is my weakness, to be sure, but one I often find it hard to confess or admit that it is wrong. 

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Do not be so troubled. When Jesus preached to the people, do you not realize there were occasions when coughing was heard, someone spoke to the person next to them, a child probably cried, somebody dropped something, a donkey may have sounded off. When Jesus was praying with His disciples, don't you think there were times when an Apostle was inattentive, distracted by the banging of dishes in the nearby cooking area, or some drunk may have been singing in the street? Jesus understood these things, how even our minds wander during the deepest prayers, our stomachs growl when we are hungry and even our worship time cannot keep our physical bodies from focusing on the BBQ we are having after church.
Prayer, the best prayers, I have found, are when I am alone in my home, in my yard, in my car, even in the bathroom, quietly speaking to my Heavenly Father, in my own words, in honest speech, in conversation to He who created me, guides me, loves me, and is with me, and always our prayers are in the name of Jesus, our Savior. In public, in worship, pray with the congregation, and strive to concentrate amidst distractions within and without.....but I will tell you, coming from an old Christian man several months away from 70 years old....find those private times to pray....and still....God loves you.