Friday, February 7, 2020

The choice to be lazy. . .

For a long time we have printed out the liturgy weekly.  In part this is due to the fact that the liturgical options are not quite obvious in any hymnal -- especially to those new to Lutheranism or liturgical worship.  It is not quite my preference but I understand it and consider it a small price to pay to make the liturgy more accessible to those new to Lutheranism or liturgical worship or the faith in general (and we have a number of those!).

That said, along the way I began to notice that when we asked people to use the hymnal, there were still a number who did not bother to pick up or open the book.  I also noticed that some were standing idly by without bothering to open the printed liturgy we had worked so hard to make accessible and easy.

I have been hesitant to say it but I think part of it is simple laziness masquerading as either preference (I don't like singing, for example) or as rebellion (I am Lutheran so I will go to this church but I will not sing or participate except in the obvious parts like the Our Father).  In either case, it is being lazy.  I cannot say this about those newer to the faith or Lutheranism or liturgical worship because they do seem more likely to participate and pay attention to the sources (worship folder or hymnal).  Perhaps it is the rejection of any book that was not the book they grew up with (at least in the case of those raised Lutheran).  Perhaps there are other reasons.  In any case, it is laziness.

I also believe that this is not simply about the book or worship folder but that this laziness is the reason why so many Lutherans are also susceptible to contemporary worship and contemporary Christian music.  Both are appealing to the lazy because they ask nothing from the spectator except to watch and listen and enjoy it.  Whether it is rebellion or simple laziness, the refusal to participate in the liturgy or hymns of the Divine Service is really quite arrogant. It presumes that God is not worth the effort.  While it might be more pointedly revealed in the refusal to pick up the book or open the worship folder and open the mouth, it is also part of the reason why we come to worship dressed down and casual. 

I do not have a solution.  Perhaps there is none.  It certainly will not be solved by more rules.  Rules cannot change a heart.  God has told us that.  In reality, it is not simply worship about which we are so casual but God.  And more than God, but sin and death.  This laziness has at its root a lack of concern for the reality of sin and what it has done and an uneasy friendship with death so long as death obeys the rules and plays our game.  So what can we do?  Preach the Word.  In season and out.  When itchy ears want to listen to other things, we speak the Word and the Holy Spirit will change what will be changed and the rest is His concern anyway.  But it will not hurt to confront the issue head on instead of trying to dance around it.


Liz said...

Just a thought: I'm a lifelong Lutheran and I love the liturgy. I often don't pick up the bulletin/"worship folder" because my hands are (literally) full with four small kids and I can follow along from memory. That's part of the beauty of the liturgy - we don't have to figure it out anew each week. I always sing the hymns, either by juggling the hymnal or reading over a child's shoulder at theirs. I agree with your general point, but not using the bulletin is not always laziness.

Anonymous said...

From the American Dictionary
Music. a part in a composition designed to serve as background and support for more important parts.
Perhaps you should introduce your organist to the "to serve as background and support..." part of this definition.
I would think if you want your members to sing, maybe they should feel like they are not in competition with the organ being played at a high volume.

As far as the pre-printed liturgy, perhaps you are making it too easy. Have you considered NOT pre-printing the liturgy, then you would force the congregants to actually use the hymnal? Might even save a little money along the way.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

It is part of the fallen nature that people too often become spiritually lazy, due somewhat to living in prosperous times. Sadly, it takes a war or an economic depression, a tragedy, or social upheaval, and then folks fall to their knees in prayer. That is why it is important to have a consistent prayer life and love for God in all of our seasons, and an attitude of gratitude for His abundant blessings and grace. The children of Israel often fell into the lazy traps we find today in the Christian Era, and after God's patience wears thin....correction and discipline follow.

Janis Williams said...

Laziness comes from one single source; our sin. However, the factors which predispose one person or another to laziness are many. I offer a couple of possible factors:

We lose the desire to learn somewhere along the way in life. When we’re young, everything is a learning experience, and children are notorious for, “Why?” Children love to sing, love to draw and paint. Somehow we beat that out of ourselves approximately at puberty or a little later. The Liturgy requires effort, both to learn and to recite/sing. There are enough changing parts to make it necessary to concentrate upon what is going on. Therefore, since we have learned it’s not fun or cool to learn, we refuse to participate (on one level or another).

Which brings me to the second source. Technology. There was a time when a printed Liturgy was cutting edge technology. (For that matter, a hymnal was once cutting edge.) Perhaps at that time, people were interested enough to use it. Now, with YouTube a click away, reading is simply an unattractive expense of mental energy.

Janis Williams said...

GREAT IDEA! I know we as Lutherans don’t go for big screens, but how about a transparent screen in front of the pulpit, shaped like an iPhone?

Sorry, couldn’t resist than one...