Monday, March 20, 2023

Participation. . .

There are times when questions come up that are particular teaching moments.  One of them occurred a while ago when someone asked again about getting more people involved in the leadership of the Divine Service.  Participation was defined as leading.  While I do not agree with that definition, I do get it.  It is the same kind of definition we now use politically for representation.  In politics a man cannot represent a woman, a member of a racial majority cannot represent a racial minority, etc...  So the idea is much the same.  In order for people to be equal to the pastor and equal to each other, the leadership of the Divine Service must be diverse or else it is exclusive (in a negative sort of way).

The great mystery is, of course, that there is no way for everyone in the pew to have their time in the spotlight.  When we start parceling out bits and pieces of the liturgy, we only marginally increase the numbers of folks doing something.  We might be able to come up with a half a dozen who might have some role in the Divine Service but what good does that to the rest of the 300 in the pew (in my parish)?  Of course, the answer is nothing.  But somehow those who think that participation equates to some sort of leadership role somehow seem to think it does matter.  But they are mistaken.  Participation does not mean leadership anymore than leadership means participation.  Indeed, the participation that is most desired and needed is faith -- faith to receive the Word and Sacramental gifts of God and respond with praise, thanksgiving, good works, and tithes/offerings.

Once we get this right, the whole house of cards that presumes a right and a need to do what the pastor does evaporates.  Curiously, however, while Lutherans are beating drums for participation, the big box non-denominationals we envy so much have the most passive congregation of all.  Not only do they not lead, they do not even sing or pray or bring offerings or receive the Sacrament.  In many cases, they simply sit there and watch while sipping down their designer coffee.  And those who beat the drum for participation seem to think that a spectator watching on the screen is the same as one who is a part of the worshiping congregation gathered around Word and Sacrament in one place.  There is little more passive than sitting before a screen in PJs with hot chocolate and donuts watching a live stream or recorded service.  

We are funny people.  We do not make sense.  We are not logical.  We just want what we want, when we want it.  Thanks be to God that He has created a Church in which the focus is not on us but on Him who gives His good gifts to unworthy and undeserving whom He delights in calling His own sons and daughters. The pastor's leadership is to convey these gifts to God's people.  He is no more the center of things than the people.

No comments: