Thursday, March 1, 2018
Good Theater Is NOT Good Worship
But the Word is not a script and worship not theater and the chancel is not a stage. It is not a re-enactment of an event to make something distant to us feel near and relevant. The Sacraments are not drama. They actually bestow what they sign. These are not things we do because they are meaningful to us or because they prod our memories for worship more cerebral than anything else. No, indeed, these are the means of grace by which God continues to bestow the fruits of our Savior's once for all sacrificial death and life-giving resurrection.
Nowhere is this temptation to view what happens as "holy drama" more difficult to resist than in the Words of Institution. The Lord took bread. We take bread. The Lord gave thanks. We give thanks. The Lord broke the bread. We break the bread. The Lord offered the cup. We offer the cup. We do this in remembrance of Him. But that has it all wrong. We are not the actors nor are the Verba Christi a script. Instead it is and remains the Lord's Supper and His voice speaking through our mouths His Word to set apart the bread to be His body and the wine His blood. This IS His remembrance, His testament given to us not so that we might recall our Lord in our minds but receive with our lips the precious elements that deliver the precious fruits to us.
The pastor is not an “actor” in a theatrical sense. He stands in persona Christi and He is alter Christus. The words of consecration need not be dramatized. They are more than drama. The actions of the liturgy are not drama but teach the faith and point us to Christ. The Divine Service bestows upon us the promised future right here in the present. Neither pastor nor people are acting out anything or an audience to anything. God is actor and we respond. We do not merely watch but receive His gifts and by His Spirit He enables us to respond. It is God's service and He is serving us. Once we begin to get this the liturgy will cease to be an arena for us to shine and become the holy place where God comes as our Emmanuel in Word and Sacrament.