Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Blanks in which to fill in the name. . .
In the prayers, there is often a blank for the name of the office holder to be mentioned. This is not simply true for the secular leaders but also for folks in the Church. We pray for _____________ (insert name) our bishop (or district president) and ___________ our priest (or pastor). The blank can be filled with a name but does not have to be. And that is how it ought to be. We pray for the office no matter who the office holder is -- a beloved president or one we abhor, a beloved pastor or one we dislike. Praying for our nation's president means praying for the one who occupies that office just as praying for our pastor means praying for the man who serves us now as pastor.
Names are important to us and we want to be where everybody knows our names but we do not need to say the name before God. He knows who they are. In fact, He also knows who the sick are and what their needs are. It may sound good to mention names but we are no less praying for them when we omit the names than we are when we include them. But some folks get upset when omit the names. Do they believe that God will skip over them in the blessing distribution if their names are not said out loud? Is that what we really think?
I sort of like omitting the names. It is a healthy reminder to me that the pastoral office was there before I came and it will be there after I am gone. The person is not the key thing but the office. While it is surely true that when you are pastor in one place for 26 years, the folks there have long ago equated pastor with one person -- me. But now that we have an associate pastor, they are gently reminded that the person comes and goes but the office remains. That is a good thing.
On the back of our Sunday bulletin there are lists of names of those who serve in various ways on Sunday morning. While I am not advocating we drop that list, I wonder if we do not pay too much attention to those names and to the need to list the name and be recognized by name for what we do. Neither my name nor the name of my associate appears in any signage at our church. It is not a secret but it is not paraded before the world or the parish either. It is there in small type just enough so that people can find it if they need it but not big enough to draw attention to it.
The liturgy does not emphasize the identity of the pastor or the people but instead focuses the attention to Christ and His gifts. This is not an omission but how it should be. In churches without the liturgy, the pastor, worship leader, singers, etc., are front and center and their personalities are central to their identity and to the relationship they have with the people in the congregation. The liturgy is the liturgy no matter whose voice is leading it and whose voices respond. This does not slight either pastor or people but gives needed perspective at a time when everything hinges upon me and personal identity and preference. This is a good thing and one worth remembering from time to time.