Sunday, January 31, 2021

A good shoe is one you don't notice. . .

Once C.S. Lewis said: “A service . . . . works ‘best”– when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing, but only leaning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. . . . The perfect church service [liturgy] would be one we were almost unaware of, our attention would have been on God.”

While there are certainly applications here that would encourage us to less liturgical change rather than more, the more common application of Lewis' wisdom is frequent participation.  Nothing makes something more familiar than frequent use.  No new shoe feels old when you first put it on.  Sadly, at least when it comes to shoes, when the shoe is most comfortable and least noticeable, it might be on its last legs as a shoe.  That is not the case when it comes to the liturgy.  The more familiar we are with the liturgy, the better that liturgy is at directing us toward the God at its heart and center.

Anyone who has raised a small child knows that children learn best by repetition. It is certainly not a good thing to teach a child where to look for information but it cannot replace the information that must become instinctive and routine to life and focus of the child.  When that happens, the focus moves away from the awkward learning to use the tool and toward the purpose for which the tool exists.

Sadly, we often do not wait long enough for things to become instinctive and second nature.  We are so tuned to immediate results that we have become impatient at the task of learning the larger things that bring greater rewards.  I am speaking, of course, of the often tedious and time consuming task of memorization.  The liturgy itself is not so difficult to memorize but with the liturgy comes the helpful work of memorizing other texts associated with the liturgy -- including the great hymns of the faith well represented among the choices for hymns of the day appointed for the Divine Service.  In the old days, catechism class included not only the memorization of the parts of Luther's Small Catechism but also hymn stanzas (especially of the catechetical hymns associated with the catechism).

For some folks, the liturgy will always feel like a new pair of shoes -- stiff and uncomfortable.  However, the charge should not be laid against the liturgy itself but against the person who is unwilling or unaware of the need to become intimate with the form and familiar with its rhythm becomes the pace and direction of the heart.  In this respect, one of the most tasks of the Christian parent is to teach the liturgy and to impart the weekly rhythm of worship on the Lord's Day in the Lord's House.  Children will go through many pair of shoes as they grow but one pair has the ability to remain their familiar and comfortable shoes -- the Divine Service, hymnal, and catechism.  May God bless every parent who undertakes this cause for the blessing and benefit of their children after having learned its value for themselves.

1 comment:

Timothy Carter said...

"The Divine Service, hymnal, and catechism." Indeed the Means the Holy Spirit uses to plant faith in us natural poor sinners. I do look forward to the Liturgy (though "On-Line.. with poor computer speakers) each week as I hear God speak in Preaching and Song. It is a poor substitute ...but very useful to us shut-ins.) Even on-line it is a very comforting, soothing place to be...after starting out with confessing very real sins.
I read somewhere a question: If you were marooned on a dessert island and could have only one book...what would you have? "The Hymnal" was the correct answer. It contains the basic parts of scripture and also the Hymns, Psalms, Confessions and prayers that can serve to focus on what God has promised to do for us. God's Word is indeed efficacious: God does what He has promised to do.
Thank you for your blog Pastor Peters. I have spent may happy hours reading your old stuff from my lonely, loveless Fortress of Solitude in the wet, wintry hills of Appalachia. Your blog is Concessionally Lutheran and comforting.. I do pray the vaccine will be available soon (no "fetal stem cells) that I may return to my church family and in person hear "the Divine Service, hymnal, and catechism'. Like that great theologian Dolly Parton says " It will be a blessin' to ya'."
Timothy Carter,
simple country Deacon, Kingsport, TN