Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Blessing of Repetition in the Divine Service

Amongst all the chaos in our world; the fast moving society, the ever-developing technology, the day-to-day fashion trends, the evolution of music (just to name a few) it brings great comfort to know that each Divine Service on Sunday mornings will begin with "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," invoking the name of the Triune God, (who we come to worship in Spirit and in truth) as well as calling to remembrance the sacrament of Holy Baptism where we were washed clean from our sin by the powerful working of our Lord. This is always followed by some variance of the confession of sins. Whether it be "I a poor miserable sinner plead guilty before God of all sins..." or "Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean..." we are reminded of our pathetic condition before a righteous God, but He doesn't leave us there. The proclamation of Christ crucified awakens the new man in order to hear the preached Word, both Law and Gospel, as well as receive the body and blood of our Lord in a worthy manner for the forgiveness of our sins. I give thanks for the structure of our liturgy which provides, with great clarity, the presence of Christ who comes among us to "liturgize" us with Word and Sacrament.

I am afraid there are some among the fold who despise this repetition and seek a way to conform our Sunday morning routine in such a way that it reflects the chaotic culture that we are thrust into every day. Whatever the reason for this is, whether it be the desire to put an individual's talent on display, create a culturally satisfying environment, or attract a few younger people it seems that this wayward fold is missing a serious point in their endeavour. Like the Backstreet Boys or the earliest cell phones, an irreverent, "do whatever you want" Divine Service is going to eventually become dissatisfying to those who's satisfaction is trying to be fulfilled. This will result in yet another renovation and the point will continue to be missed; the happenings of the Church on Sunday morning, namely Word and Sacrament do not appeal to any culture and are a timeless culture in themselves. We can rejoice that the Aaronic benediction has been taking place in the Church for thousands of years, we can celebrate (along with the church catholic) the Word's of our Lord when he says, "This is my body; This is my blood," and we can happily confess, along with Simeon, "Lord now you let your servant go in peace, Your Word has been fulfilled," after receiving forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of the altar. This is only to name a few repetitive things we enjoy in the Divine Service. The "black sheep," if I can be so bold as to call them that, do not offer the same stable, timeless setting. Rather they are looking for new ways of doing things because by all appearances the old ways are not working. All of this is building up to the main focus of this post.

For the sake of privacy I will not use this individuals name (although I do not think he would mind,) but I will use his age because it helps to highlight the blessings that the repetition in our Divine Service bring. To the best of my knowledge this little boy's age is 3-4. Each Sunday his mother brings him and his older sister to the Divine Service at Messiah Lutheran Church in Missoula, MT where (I am happy to say) the "mundane" repetition takes place very faithfully. Over the Easter season I was the crucifer so I would be seated in a little pew on the altar for the entire service. Throughout different parts of our liturgical rites I could hear a little voice (almost in unison with the Pastor I might add) mimicking some of the parts of service. My Pastor's custom is to elongate the "is" during the Word's of institution in order to drive home the point that we are receiving the very body and blood of our Lord. When my Pastor would arrive at "issssssssss my body" I could hear this other voice, when he would say "with angels and archangels" I could hear this other voice, when he would conclude the benediction "and give you peace" I could hear this other voice. Not to mention I could hear this other voice humming some of the collect tunes.

To some this might be a frustration. Due to the sinful flesh they might be thinking "Can someone get this little kid out of hear, or tell him to stop mimicking the Pastor," but what a glorious and God pleasing thing it is when a child is delighted to receive and mimic the Pastor's words, especially when the parts he is mimicking are Holy Scripture. I dare say the same effect could not be attained in a Divine Service that is ever changing. Needless to say I had to abandon my reverence and look over to see who was speaking along with the Pastor and to my heart's delight it was this little boy. Usually I would be seated right behind him and notice him playing with little cars or eating fruit snacks, but it seems even in his distracted state (and mine as well) the Word of our Lord, which is infused into our repetitious liturgical life, is working all the same.

So what is the next step for this little unnamed tike? I pray that he continues to be raised in the faith and the knowledge of the truth as well as the repetitive nature of the liturgy, BUT also that he is taught the importance and significance of the parts of service in our liturgy so that he can be protected against the tantalizing ideas that it is better to abandon such lifeless routines and become more "excited" about worship. This story is just one example of the blessing of repetition, but I'm sure there are many more. There may be some that revolve around those folks who are toward the end of their life and can be comforted by the recitation of Words memorized in our Divine Service. I can say that I have sung the Nunc Dimittis, Kyrie, Gloria Patri etc during frustration, temptation or strife and maybe some other people could say the same. Whatever the uses of the ordinaries/propers a person might have, the point is they can be recalled easily because they are done with such high frequency. And before those contemptuous, "super-pious" people shout "God wants us to be super sincere worshippers who are innovative in our love for him. We have to be diverse and super happy-clappy to show him how much we love him," consider what He did for you to show you his love. By being crucified on the tree of the cross God showed his love for you in Christ. This is not so glorious or flashy and yet Paul, in a repetitious manner says, "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1Corinthians 2:2) Lord's blessings.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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