Sunday, December 4, 2011

Acting stupidly before the throne of God

These comments are not my own but from Fr. Peters whose blog I frequent pretty much every day. Just reading these comments, he could have been commenting on what happens at my church on Sundays. Some of these are items I have addressed with my priest but to no avail. I'm glad he said these things and I'm just wondering how common these "distractions" are in churches across the USA regardless of denomination or confession.

* Why do altar servers wear flip flops when they serve at the altar? Why do their parents let them leave the house with flip flops on when they know they are scheduled to serve? For that matter, why wear flip flops to Church at all? Casual shoes are worn because we act casually about the place where we are going. Worship is not casual. Our encounter with God at the font, table, and pulpit is not a casual moment but the same kind of holy ground experience we read about in Exodus 3:5. We are here because God has bidden us but that does not change the fact that we are standing on holy ground when we stand before Him.
* Why do dress so casually when we come to Church? No, there is NO dress code and if that is the best you have, fine and dandy. But why would we choose to wear something so casual when we do have better clothing in the closet or in the dresser? This is not really about the clothing. This is merely an extension of the first point. If you dress to make a statement, what statement are we making when we dress down for God? And again, what does this teach our children?
* Why do we act so surprised when our cell phones go off in Church? It should not be a shock since we did not turn them off (we never do). We do have options. If our accessibility is so important, put the phone on vibrate, when you feel it vibrate, get up and leave BEFORE answering it. But, come on now, are we really that important that we have to have the phone on in Church? Do I really need to talk about texting during the service? Yeah, right, the texts we send are the salient points of the sermon. You betcha!
* Why do we need to be so loud just before the service begins? We have wide hallways, a generous entryway and narthex, and a fellowship hall -- why do we shout half way across the nave to get somebody's attention on Sunday morning? It makes it almost impossible to pray before the start of the service. If we must talk, can we talk quietly? Can we be a bit more discrete?
* Why do we need to talk throughout the whole service? What is so important that it cannot wait until after the service is over? Or do we think that we need to get equal time with Scripture and the sermon? I know of people who move around in the service to get away from the constant talkers. And what does that teach to the children we are trying so hard to quiet down?
* Why do we look so surprised when we go to the altar rail for the Sacrament? If we belong there, we should not have that deer in the headlights look. If we are visitors, we need to talk to somebody (like the Pastor -- or at least read the clear communion statement in the bulletin). If we have guests with us, we need to talk to them beforehand about communing. Even members sometimes look and act if they were not sure what was going on at the rail.
* Why do we seem to be always late for everything at Church? If we cannot avoid being late, could we at least be discrete? Enter and leave only during a hymn or sung part of the liturgy - NEVER during prayers or the reading of Scripture. It is rude to the people who got there on time and it is offensive to be fashionably late and make our entrance into the Church.

* Why do Pastors sometimes act as if they are oblivious to what is going on in the service? What are we doing? Writing the sermon? Making a shopping or to do list? If the Pastor is not paying attention to what is going on, singing the hymns, praying, etc., why should he expect the folks in the pew to be doing these things?
* Why do Pastors act so casual about the chancel area? It is not the clergy family room. Don't use the altar as a side table to put your notes or hymnal or glass of water. Don't lean on the lectern or the pulpit or altar like its job is to hold you up when you are tired of standing?
* Why do Pastors have to comment or direct every part of the service? Do we constantly need to hear the page numbers called out? Do we need to have everything introduced (now let us pray the Lord's Prayer... now the choir will sing... now we will take an offering... now receive the benediction, etc.)? Put it in a well crafted bulletin if it is so difficult to keep up with things. Pastor does not mean MC and the liturgy is not your monologue.
* Why do Pastors act surprised at what is happening in the liturgy? Did the Pastor not plan it out in the first place? This is not like an audition for a part where you get to see the script for the first time. The Pastor knows what is unfolding on Sunday morning. Get with the program.
* Why would a Pastor apologize for his sermon before hand? So you have a dozen funerals, several dozen hospital calls, a wedding, and a thousand other things happen last week. It is Sunday morning and you better be ready. If you are not all that ready, don't warm people ahead of time that you did not have time to prepare adequately -- it is like saying "pay no more attention.... starting NOW."
* If you mess up a reading, don't say "Excuse me" or make a joke about how hard those Hebrew names are to pronounce. Just correct the mistake and keep on reading. It is not your word, it is God's (and it might not hurt to read it before hand just to prepare).

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