Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Confused. . .

Scripture is filled with posture words.  Sit, stand, kneel, bow, and the like...  It is curious, however, how many of these words find us in only one posture.  We tend to sit.  Sit while we listen to the Word call us to stand or kneel or bow.  Sit for prayer and singing as well as for listening.  When I raise this point, somebody is always ready to say to me that the posture words are just words -- symbolic language -- and that Jesus wants us to be comfortable.  Most of us are most comfortable sitting.  If you have a church with kneelers, you find many who think kneeling uncomfortable (either physically or just because they do not like the idea of it).  If they see a pastor bow or genuflect (God forbid!) they find it objectionable -- usually the word is too catholic.  I am confused by this because most of these people insist that they are people of the Word.  They pay attention to that Word, study it, and hear it gladly.  

So when the pastor crosses himself or bows his head at the name of Jesus or genuflects at the incarnation in the creed, among other postures and gestures, people may not like it.  But they cannot say it is not Biblical.  No, in this the pastor is being very Biblical -- seeing these words are not symbolic but literal calls to do what the words say.  When Elijah complains that he is all alone and God says that there are 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal, is this merely symbolic language or does it literally mean that they bowed down to worship a god who is not the Lord?  When St. Paul says to show concern for the weaker brother when eating food sacrificed to idols, is St. Paul speaking of a symbolic eating or does he mean to chow down on the pulled pork of the pagan temple fundraiser?   When St. Paul talks about every knee going down and every head bowing at the name of Jesus, is St. Paul speaking only symbolically or does he literally men bowing the head?  When David showed forth his repentance, did he wear symbolic and imaginary sackcloth and ashes or did he wear literal sackcloth and ashes as the sign of his repentance?  I could keep on going but I will stop here.

Lutherans of the Missouri stripe ought to be careful or we will give out a confused message.  We say words matter, Scripture is God's Word, and that its literal meaning is not to be denied or rejected in face of some spiritualized interpretation of the text.  We are proud of this.  Well then, why are we so hesitant to bow the head at the name of Jesus or kneel in confession and prayer or genuflect at the incarnation in the creed, etc....?  What are we afraid of?  Do we think it presents a clearer witness to hear the call of Scripture to do these things and for us to remain seated instead?  I am confused about how much we are to see as literal and how much is symbolic and imagined when it comes to the postures of worship.  Instead of parsing out the words, would it not simply be easier to do what the words say?  If some of us are doing these things as outward piety without an inward faith to guide them, will we learn the posture of the heart should also be the posture of the body better by sitting for everything?

How are we in danger when we hear the words of Scripture and practice them?  Are we not more in danger when we presume God does not really mean what that Word says and it is not only better for us to be comfortable than it is for us to heed that Word?  You know who gets most confused by our failure to do what the words say?  Our kids.  They get it right.  Once when an acolyte watched as the pastor genuflected in the creed and at the elevation in the Words of Institution, he said, "If the pastor is doing it, shouldn't we be doing it too?"  He has got a point.

No comments: