Tuesday, April 27, 2021

How quick we were to go ditigal. . .

When microphones were first offered for worship, many were not so sure it was a good thing.  On the one hand, a mic gives the speaker an excuse not to project.  On the other hand, it treats the things of God as if they were only beneficial if broadcast out to every pew.  Plus, it gave people a reason why to sit in the back.  When cameras first were used to photograph or video worship services, there were not a few who had reservations.  After all, the camera is sort of like a spy glass that make voyeurs of all of us, peering into something meant to be private and intimate.  I guess we have gotten over our angst since we rather quickly have moved to video of the Divine Service and without much thought about it.  The pandemic made us think we did not have much choice.

My point here is not to attack anyone.  Lord knows our people were in desperate need to have some form of church and when government and fear kept the churches closed, video was about the only way to reach them.  That said, I am not convinced that what was expedient in an unusual time should become normative in regular times.  And, in fact, the fears that were expressed when media were first employed by the churches are not that far off.

The concern is legitimate.  It has become sort of liturgical porn.  We have taken the sacred and put it on the screen in a way that has not preserved its sacred character and has made it somewhat profane.  The head bowed down in prayer, the host placed upon the tongue, the silence that hides the fervent prayers of God's people for their most urgent needs -- all of these things are personal and rather intimate.  Yet we have braved ahead to shine the cameras on everything and to allow what takes place within the sacred to live in whatever environment the people find themselves when they watch.

I am not at all suggesting that those who have used media during this pandemic are bad pastors or thoughtless clergy -- some are but most are simply trying to make the best of a terrible situation.  However, we dare not forget that everything that happens on Sunday morning is understood to be for those present, before the altar and pulpit.  There is an essential difference between what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears within the great assembly and that which we watch on a screen.  I am not saying that media cannot be useful for some things but no social media or video can extend the wonder of the mystery directly into the life of the Christian living.  It is by nature distant and artificial.  Again, that does not mean that media is unsuitable for every application but it is particularly lacking when it comes to replacing the experience of the Divine Service in person.

Please listen to what I am not saying.  I am not saying that the internet is evil (even though for all its promise it has served evil more than the good of God).  Because of the timing or weather concerns, I have participated in telehealth conferences with my physician.  I have attending far too many hours of zoom meetings.  I have written thousands of blog posts.  All that said, however, there are things the screen can do and many things it cannot.  The sooner we admit to this the better we will be equipped to use it well and not to use its gift poorly.  At the heart of this is the realization that we are not spectators at the Divine Service but recipients of God's gifts and responders in the corporate song of praise.  What may be possible with preaching and teaching is impossible for the reception of the Sacrament and the singing together of the liturgical song of the Church.  At the best, our digital realities should make us even more hungry to be together in person, receiving His gifts and responding with praise and thanksgiving. 


Sean said...

I share your concerns as well, but not for the same reasons. Not disagreeing with your assessment, I just hadn't gone there in my thinking. My concern is that we are creating norms that have unspoken lessons, such as I can be part of the body of Christ without being in fellowship with the body of Christ. I can participate in the Divine Service without the hassle of dealing with the body of Christ for whom it was meant to benefit. I can attend service, or even have communion, without submitting myself to the discipline and correction of pastors, elders, or deacons. I can enjoy worship without getting to know the folks with whom I am worshipping who may need my prayers, or a word of comfort. I hear the words of the pastor without having to put them into practice by living in community with one another.

chaplain7904 said...

don't cast your pearls before the swine; don't give what is holy to the dogs.