Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ask them what is wrong with them?

I am going to posit a hypothetical situation that pastors know is all too plausible. A young man walks in and says to his pastor, "I'm just not getting anything out of our service."

How do pastors respond? We often make ready our defenses - because more than not what is coming is an appeal for change, that we need this or that in the service, that my own sermons need to be more X, things like this. These defenses we all have, we can all make them.

And I don't wonder if they don't miss the target.

If someone says "I don't get anything out of the service", I don't need to defend the liturgy. It is what it is, and it is not diminished in the slightest by this person's observances. I don't need to consider and examine the worship service.

I need to find out what is wrong with the person talking to me.

Have we thought about responding to "I'm not getting anything from the service", especially from someone who should know better, with the simple question - "what then is wrong with you? If you know that this is Christ Jesus being present for you, then what has bewitched you that you could think this was 'nothing'?"

Of course, I don't think this is a new idea. Isn't this was Luther does with his 20 Christian Questions at the end of the Catechism? But what if I feel no hunger for the Sacrament - then consider who you are and what the Scriptures say of you.

Why don't you get anything out of it? Don't you know what it is? If it is what it is, what are these thoughts that you are having?

We say it, but we so often forget it. I have sinned against You in thought... thought, word, and deed.

Perhaps we do need to think a bit more about our thoughts being evil - and talk about this more, so people are aware of it.


Phillip said...

What about those of us who get nothing out of "contemporary services"? Should we get something out of them or can we reject them outright since Jesus or worse yet, generic god, is at best on the periphery and Word and Sacraments are lacking?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Well - if you say you get "nothing" out of the service and the Scriptures are read and the True Body and Blood of our Lord are distributed to you - what have you called these gifts? Are they not more than the vessel in which they are contained.

I think a better critique of contemporary services are not that they bring us nothing... but that they bring us so much less than they could - that they are often misfocused, misguided, and frustratingly inefficient at delivering God's gifts - for why should those gifts resound only at the reading of Scripture, at the distribution when if we simply used the historic liturgy things would be so much more Christ centered.

So, I suppose to one who thinks that there is nothing in a contemporary worship service (note - service, not just the concept and approach underlying CW), I would advise that person to actually be focused on where Christ is, and not just where He isn't and could be.

Otherwise - we fall into the same trap that the supporters of CW do. Are we basing our statements on the reality of what is said or our own thoughts and judgments of what we like? Is what I get out of the liturgy based on the fact that it gives me Christ... or I like its setting.

I love a chanted Divine Service. That is not the custom at my church. Am I getting less than I could -- while some would say yes or perhaps, I will say no. I receive Christ, just not with the dignity I would prefer - oh well, the Church is not based upon my preference. However, if I were to say I get nothing out of it. . . then there would be serious error and problems on my part.

But, an excellent question -- and one that needs to be asked. Often we who are "conservative" do not like to be measured by the very same measure we measure it out.