Monday, August 7, 2017

Why, indeed?

As the Catholic writer Tim Stanley commented, “if the average liberal saw a Sufi or a Hindu doing this, they’d call it beautiful and sacred. When they see a Catholic doing it, they laugh. Why praise ritual in the faith of others but denigrate it in ours?” (emphasis added)

Funny how we are adamant that ceremonies be rightly observed when it comes to military burial, the sports rituals across the board, and a host of other arenas but then shift uncomfortably when we find them in Church.  Lutherans, among others, are rather guilty of this.  We are, it seems, supposed to do the rubrics without really liking them or thinking them important or, better, to bend the rubrics to our own preference (which is the ultimate goal of freedom or adiaphora, after all).

I have asked pastors to fill in for me when I was away and they instantly respond, "I don't wear a chasuble and I don't do all that fancy stuff and I don't chant and I don't bow and I don't . . . etc...."  In other words, it does not matter what the people in the pew have come to know and expect over my nearly 25 years here, their own pastoral preference (aka their formal complaint with formality) must rule the day.  Okay, well, maybe I don't need to be gone if my people are going to be so summarily dismissed in their appreciation of rubric, tradition, and practice. I have filled in for pastors who insist that they don't do anything special on Sunday morning but that has not prevented them from handing me a two page list of how to and what not to do.  Even though it goes against my grain, I try to comply.  I am, after all, the guest in the house most frequently visited by others.

It is rather amazing that the same people who go off like a firecracker when somebody screws up the national anthem or who so doctors up the words and melody to own it as their own that the rest of us cannot recognize it, well, they cannot stand ceremony in Church.  The people who are pro-military and all the ritual and ceremony that goes with it are also the ones who constantly wonder why we need to be so fancy in Church.  Surely God is more impressed with our restraint than with all the flourish of word, action, and ceremony?  God knows that this kind of stuff is not really me and God wants me to be true to myself first, right?  Wrong.  If that is all God wanted, it would not have required the death of His one and only Son.

We are fascinated by the ritual and ceremonies of others but when it comes to heading through the door of our Lutheran congregation on Sunday morning, we insist upon our rite right to be ceremony and ritual free (something like the gluten free craze that seems to make this more important that the Word of the Lord and its regular practice -- speaking here of preference and not of medical necessity).  Nope, we think it impressive to watch others but when we enter a Lutheran congregation on Sunday morning we cannot understand why Pastor Fancypants wears dresses and plays like he is somebody he is not.  What is underneath it all is our own disdain for our own doctrine.  We have, for all intents and purposes, reduced the office to its functions and reduced the man to be representative of what we all could (and probably should) do.  And don't forget our own sense of expertise that makes all of history and all our Confessions irrelevant on the topic, after all, who can compare with the way good ole Pastor van Derfoolische did it at St. John of the Brewery when my Grandma Schtuckindermudt was running the congregation.

Okay.  Rant mode off.  I feel better now.  Do you?


Anonymous said...

It’s interesting how accepted and acceptable is false religion but not Christianity. False religion is more appealing than the premise of being weak, sinful, and totally dependent on a Savior. In false religion, we can flex our spiritual muscles but not so taking up the cross of Christianity and dying to self. False religion is admired for the beauty, strength, and dignity of mankind and its accomplishments. Christianity knows only of a dying God nailed to an ugly cross of execution to defeat, our sin, death, and the Devil and calls that triumph. It’s all so counterintuitive. Christianity is reviled because unbelief cannot tolerate its exclusive claims and its zero-sum outcome. Disparaging church rites and ceremonies is disparaging doctrine is disparaging catholic tradition is disparaging the ancient Church is disparaging the Triune God Himself. Why bother being faithful to a religion if it is just a construct of your mind? Why bother gathering with those who have no sense of history or think it irrelevant? There is no greater waste than false religion and no better cure for the plight of humanity than the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As for me and my house, give me art, architecture, liturgy, hymnody, rites, ceremonies, reverence, solemnity, traditions, chanting, vestments, water, bread, wine, all to serve the Gospel. Give me a double portion of Jesus and keep your constructs of the mind.

Anonymous said...

Most pastors have difficulty in getting pulpit supply when they are on
vacation in the Summer. They usually have a choice of retired pastors in
their area. Usually the criterion for me has been: Are they still able
to preach God's Word with enough energy so that the people will listen
to them. Physically some retired pastors over the age of 70 no longer
have the stamina for 2 worship services on Sunday morning. However,
we pray the Lord will give them the strength to proclaim the Good News
of the Crucified and Resurrected Christ.

Carl Vehse said...

If the purple cappa magna doesn't interest you, then maybe you can wear one:
In red.
In more red.
In orange.
In white.

Lutheran Lurker said...

Hate to disappoint you but I think the first three are all really the same color, red, and that the photo quality is what make the cappa whatevers seem different.

Carl Vehse said...

In his June 29, 2017, Catholic Herald article, "Why the cappa magna makes people see red," Damian Thompson states:

"On June 18, the Archbishop [Malcolm McMahon] of Liverpool – a diocese associated with the drab vestments and liturgy of the 1970s – processed into St Mary’s Shrine Church, Warrington, wearing a cape of violet silk whose train was so long that it stretched into the next postcode."

Later the Damian Thompson noted:

"Most Catholics have never seen one. My only glimpse of this fabled garment was in 2008, when Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos celebrated the old liturgy for the Latin Mass Society at Westminster Cathedral. His cape was scarlet rather than violet, because he was a cardinal, but miserably truncated, scarcely longer than an ironing board. Apparently this was a “modern” cappa magna: the train was shortened before it was shunted away altogether."

Here's a short video of the cappa magna in action at the Pontifical Solemn High Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, on April 24, 2010.

Janis Williams said...

Indeed. The office is reduced to it's function. Having lived with that most of my life, and then coming to the Lutheran Church after a journey of years through other Protestant/Evangelical churches, I've often wondered how American, and Australian Lutherans complain about their own doctrines (vestments aside; that's a whole ' nother animal). There is a multitude of other choices. They seem to think Lutheran doctrine is either inadequate or untrue. Why don't they go where they 'like' it? (Never mind they are in Christ's Church and if they were confirmed promised to die rather than leave.) There are churches in Australia who think there is a demon of religious spirit called the "Lutheran spirit." Rather than leave and become Pentecostal/Charismatic, they are infecting Christ's church with heresy.

I have a friend who actually used the word "fancy pants" for my pastor. "Oh, your pastor likes to play 'dress-up' on Sunday mornings." (I refrained from hitting...).

This comes from thinking the pastor is some sort of CEO or leader (German word - fuhrer). In many if not most churches, the pastor is not an office-holder and representative of Christ on earth. We have less respect for the ministers of God than for a football star who beats his wife! Truly, our political correctness extends to the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and what ever flavor you choose, but excludes Christianity. Of course, we should not be surprised how non-Christians treat us; Christ promised if they hated Him, they would hate us. It probably should be no surprise to us either that this same attitude is in the churches; apparently itching ears carries many other symptoms.