Wednesday, February 19, 2020
The Common Man. . .
Some applaud this and are happy to have a Pope who is more like a common man. But this is an image and a false one. No Pope is a common man. He is by his office uncommon and unique. He is no democratic idealized ruler of the Roman Catholic Church but more autocratic than many of those who came before him and much more so than his predecessor. He is no populist man of the people but enjoys his celebrity status and cultivates it with his impromptu sessions with press on airplanes and phone calls late at night and, in particular, with his vague answers to specific questions. He slaps a woman's hands who holds too long on to His and then apologizes when he fears how it affects his closely guarded image as a common man. He makes fun of priests who try on vestments and belittles those whose rigidity submits their personal desires to rubrics. In this he is not common or humble but arrogant.
Now some of you might be wondering what this all has to do with a Lutheran. Well, we struggle with the same sort of fake humility and the false image some pastors cultivate of a common man. They refuse to wear any uniform that his historic importance in favor of their own personal preference. Whether we are talking about clerical collars or vestments, it is not humility that eschews the traditional vesture of the ordained. It is hubris and pride. To say "that is not me" is to impose your preference and choice upon the office you bear. If one does this with such things as clergy shirts and vestments, it is highly likely that the same personality will look at the rubrics of the Divine Service as a series of not so important suggestions that can easily be cast aside and the doctrines of the faith as the same sort of "maybes" that need not be heeded. That pastor presumes that his preference to depart from the tradition of the fathers is his domain and his prerogative when the reality is that rubrics and creeds and confessions are for the protection of the faithful against the whims of the pastor.
Those who would add to the Divine Service rubrics and rituals once there but lost due to the pressures of authorities in opposition to Lutheranism (like the elevation, for example) or to the fear of things katolisch (chanting, for example) or to the irrational fear of things (the common cup, for example) are not imposing their own preference upon others but restoring what was ours but was lost to us for no good reason. This is not the same as the pastor who chooses khakis and a polo over a clerical collar or worn jeans and a tee shirt over alb, stole, and chasuble. The pastor doing this is imposing himself upon the office and insisting that people see him as he wants to be seen rather than through the veil of the office conferred upon him by election and ordination.
Those who dispense with the creed in favor of their own literary efforts or who omit the creed entirely are imposing upon the faithful a whim of their own preference or arrogance when the creed is there precisely to defend orthodoxy and to give the faithful a voice to confess it in common in the Divine Service. Those who ditch the liturgy in favor of their own creative efforts are imposing themselves on the very thing that protects the faithful against the whims of those who lead their song of praise. Those who abandon the hymnody of the ages with its focus upon Christ in favor of contemporary song that appeals to the rhythms of the age or the sound of popular music are imposing preference over the content and substance of the faith that these hymns preserve and profess.
Some believe that pastors who hold to the traditions of the fathers are imposing their own personal preference upon the people and that those who follow the ceremonial of the rubrics are swimmers readying themselves to tackle the Tiber. They are mistaken. We have much more to fear from those who cultivate the image of the common man in order to blur the rightful distinction between pastor and people and to avoid the particular responsibilities placed on those who seek the office and on whom the Church confers that office. Let the Church be warned. So wake up, Rome, Francis is no common man and wake up, Lutherans, your pastor should not be one either. They bear offices that require them to be set apart and for them to distance themselves from these offices ought to raise warning bells for the people in the pew.