Monday, January 3, 2011

Liturgical interuption, innovation, and the classic form of idolatry

So, I have been involved in a good discussion at the Gottesdienst Blog concerning, depending upon who you ask, the Confessions, Children's Sermons, Liturgical Innovation, and other various and sundry things. However, it has gotten me thinking on something.

Two frequent complaints leveled against children's sermons are that they are unnecessary innovations that don't fit in the service and that they disrupt the service.

Now, the point that they aren't "necessary" doesn't sway me much -- I'm more concerned with whether or not something may be freely done, not whether it *must* be done. However, it is a common concern for many, and I have been pondering it. Also, the idea that the 3 or 4 minutes a children's sermon takes also causes some consternation. Again, I'm not sold -- once any rite becomes established in a place, it becomes part of the flow of the service. I don't think my predecessor used the Gradual with regularity - I do. This was disruptive for a bit; now omitting the gradual would be disruptive. However, many people view the service as having a specific movement and flow that can be easily disrupted.

Offhandedly I had made a comment that, if we must eliminate anything that disrupts the service, we should remove the Offering, as this is an innovation that also disrupts the service. It was meant to be an argument... not of absurdity, but of comparison. There is no furor raised over the offering - it is accepted. Hence, something that is likewise disruptive could be accepted.

Then I saw a news promo this night. A Roman Catholic Parish in Oklahoma City was robbed -- and what does the promo show? Not offering plates, not a safe - but collection boxes.

Think about it. No break in the middle of the service. No pony show. No paying attention to what someone else might give - is it an envelop or just a few bucks from the wallet. No parade of cash to the front of the Church. Rather, when people give, quietly, out of the way, in the back of the Church, on their own time, with no one the wiser. No trumpets, no musical fanfare - when you give, let your giving be in secret.

And this is a new innovation - A Christianity Today article puts it really coming into vogue in the 19th Century. And mainly a protestant innovation (another bugaboo).

Why do we allow this? How is it beneficial? How does taking a collection in the middle of service support the idea that this is Divine Service, that worship is about the gifts that God gives us? We stop the service so everyone can see the money brought forward.

Now, I'm not going to say that have a collection for home mission work is wrong (although, when we have had special collections, we do just put a plate or basket in the back of the Church... and I don't do the LWML mite blessing - I think many would say that is uncouth). It really, though, when we think about it, seem odd. It seems much more odd to stop the flow of the service to focus on that old idol of cash than it does to pause to devote time to teaching children.

Yet the later raises fervor and fury among some as one of the signs of the utter decay of the Lutheran faith -- yet in nothing do we seem to borrow more from the reformed than when it comes to offering, tithing, and "stewardship" drives.

Just something to make one ponder.


Phillip said...

The offering makes perfect sense if you recognize that it's not God or the Church, but the people giving that benefit from the offering. If you view it rightly the offering fits perfectly into the service.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Many things, if viewed rightly, fit into the service. And many things which we might decry, if viewed rightly, fit into the service.