Saturday, August 18, 2018
Rubric Nazis. . .
There are those who presume that the worship wars among Lutherans are akin to the skirmishes between the Rubric Nazis who expect perfection and those who exercise some discretion with respect to the rules. Of course, if you advocate for the Divine Service, if you wear Eucharistic vestments, if you care about ceremonies, well, then you must be a card carrying member of the rubric police. At least that is how many of us are characterized. In reality it is probably the opposite. Those who advocate for a wide variety on Sunday morning and who basically think just about anything goes (except, of course, following the red letters) are more likely policing what happens on Sunday morning -- if only to preserve the freedom to ignore the rubrics!
In general, nearly all the folks I know who value the liturgy, ceremony, vestments, chanting, etc., are more interested in preserving reverence and dignity among Lutherans than enforcing an ideal of what must be done. In general, the rubrics do not advocate for a high church service at all. They are pretty middle of the road and mostly routine, common sense guidelines toward the path of reverence, dignity, and integrity. But some among us seem to take a rather adolescent joy out of flaunting the rules for the sake of being bad, being a rebel, and being independent of the book. I am not sure whether there is anything more to this than the secret sinful joy of breaking a commandment and then acting like its nothing all that bad because everyone does it in one form or another. I suspect that there are those who have some sort of theological principle involved in their disdain for the red letters but I fear it is less a theological problem than a personality one.
Let me say it clearly. The Missouri Synod in particular and Lutheranism in general is NOT in danger of being captive to the red letter rules in every hymnal. We as Lutherans have too many convenient justifications to give authority to our independence -- especially adiaphora! We are not likely soon to be forced into compliance by anyone or any kind of authority. I am not saying this because it is a good thing but because that is our nature. Furthermore, I do not believe that I or anyone I know is actually trying to make people do the liturgy exactly the same. What we are interested in is following the form, what some describe as the ordo and what others refer to as page numbers in our official worship books. What we are interested in is taking the rubrics seriously for the sake of the faith -- even if you choose to depart from them. What we are most interested in is to see is furthering the cause of reverence, mystery, awe, and the acknowledgement that God's presence is a place of holiness to be approached with humility and respect.
I do not know of anyone who wants rubric police or to actually be a member of such a force. So lets just leave that one off the table. This is not about that. It is about something far more important. It is about reverence and awe and about worship which reflects the same integrity of our Confessions.