Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Could I have a moment, please????
That said, the weakness of the Novus Ordo and most of the liturgical reforms that have followed its lead (including Lutheran) is that it is hard to find time to pray in the Divine Service. Indeed, in the typical parish you have light conversation, laughter, and even boisterous words right up until the bell is rung or the organ begins intoning the first hymn. I have been in some congregations where the organist seemed to pile on stops in an effort to drown out the talk and take over the lead, pointing people to the fact that now was the time to sing. And that is one of the problems. The people do too much. The folks in the pews are always doing something -- speaking, singing, listening, pulling money from their wallets, walking around, picking up hymnals and putting them down, etc... We are too busy and their are scant moments available for us to pray without someone thrusting a hand out for us to shake, whispering into our ears, nodding to us because we forgot to pass the plate, as well as all the liturgical things we can and should be doing.
I lament the loss of silence. I lament the quick pace to things -- the presumption that if there is a moment of silence, it is a mistake by someone and a distraction from the methodical and quick pace of things from Invocation to Benediction. We have no time for anything -- least of all a pause now and then to bow our heads and actually pray or meditate. I have struggled to try and slow us down and provide some quiet moments but the truth is that we have all become uncomfortable with silence. We click through the liturgy like we do the remotes as we survey the channel offerings on our TVs. If we did get 30 seconds or so of undirected time in the Divine Service, it would seem like the worst of all punishments and the longest of breaks.
Now to be sure, I am not so sure that this is all due to the liturgical innovations of the 1970s. We were certainly moving in that direction in many ways -- not just in church. For Lutherans, some congregations and some pastors kept the pace of the '41 Hymnal going just as fast as the newer ones. It is not simply a problem with liturgical leadership. It is a problem with us. I well recall at a church meeting once in which we were given 5 minutes of silence to pray. Within 30-45 seconds, most of us had already said all we wanted to say to God and found the remaining time an almost unbearable burden. Prayer is not natural to our sinful hearts. We learn it and we learn it best by slowing the pace of things and giving us moments of respite from our constant agenda of words, songs, actions, and listening. I only wish we would learn to find more time for silence, more room for personal prayers and meditation in response to the means of grace in words for our ears, water to make us clean, and Christ's body and blood to feed us everlasting life. For there is much to ponder. . . if only we had the time. . . and the will. . .