The texts of the Divine Service, from the ordinary to the propers, provide a grounding of our lives in the gracious Word of the Lord, the efficacious Word of our Lord. This is weighty stuff. It deals with those things that have become normal since the Fall but are anything but normal in the eyes of God. From the fear and suspicion with which we see God or miss Him altogether since since colored that relationship to the guilt and shame worn as the clothing of sin that will not wash clean, we have learned to be serious before the Lord. When the Lord in His mercy opens the door for us to come into His presence, we do so with thanksgiving and when the Lord washes clean what sin has stained, we rejoice. This is especially true when it comes to death, in the hands of the Lord this end becomes the door to a beginning that none of us could have made possible but Christ gives to us freely in Easter glory.
The prayers we pray are weighty prayers dealing less with simple irritants than the heavy things of fear, doubt, anxiety, guilt, shame, suffering, sin, and death. We pray to God first for those things that lay upon our hearts and minds with the burdens none can overcome without divine intervention. We pray in view of what God has already provided to us in Christ Jesus and with the confidence of a people who know His mercy and count upon His grace. We pray as a people who acknowledge that we do not know best for us but the Lord does and faith begs Him to do what is good and right and salutary -- even when it is not what we desire and when it will require something of us to accept. Prayer is not a frivolous activity both because its subjects are serious and the mercy of God is not without cost to Him. To pray in Jesus' name is to acknowledge the cost of this access and of this grace in which we stand.
It is not at all helpful to us or to God's purposes that we have confused humor with joy, that we have presumed jokes can replace the Gospel in making light of what troubles us, or that worship is some sort of divine comedy designed to entertain us. But we live in an era in which we are told to lighten up. We are surrounded by worship designed solely to entertain and not convict with regard to sin or forgive with the blood of Jesus. We sing happy songs of a dreamy life instead of the solid hymns of truth and redemption. We strive to be happy when God has given us something more -- joy which is sustained even when circumstances trouble us.
If you have read this blog, you know where I stand on the stories and comedy that is supposed to be a sermon. You know already that singing of Jesus as best friend or lover is not worthy of congregational song. Now you know that I harbor the gravest suspicions of the kind of worship which entertains with levity and the kind of prayers which treat lightly the things God has treated so seriously. I say this in part against what passes for funeral sermons in those ridiculous celebrations of life but also for the way worship is treated on Sunday morning. These are joyful celebrations not because the circumstances are so happy but because where Jesus is, there is our joy, our treasure, the delight of our hearts, and the answer to all our needs.