Critical reviews (by Lutheran pastors and church musicians) of books and other resources for Christian worship, preaching, and church music from a perspective rooted in Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and good common sense. LHP Quarterly Book Review asks, "Is it worth the money to buy, the time to read, the shelf space to store, and the effort to teach?"
Feed: Pastoral Meanderings Posted on: Friday, January 25, 2013 5:00 AM Author:email@example.com (Pastor Peters) Subject: Participate by listening. . .
Every now and then I get complaints from parents that there is nothing for their children to do in the liturgy. Often these come from parents who have their own ideas about what should be happening in worship more so than from their children. In fact I have found that children, especially small children, are very attentive to the liturgy, to the postures of worship, and to the practice of our piety (that is, if they are not consigned to the last pew and actually can see something).
Anyway, I digress. The point that we have forgotten is that we participate most of all not by doing but by listening. Listening seems to be a forgotten virtue in worship today. We prefer being entertained (not the same as listening) or to be given something part to play and something to do. But listening is the first and primary way that we participate in worship.
The liturgy is hardly more than sung and spoken Scripture -- much of it word for word from the Bible. Even when we speak and sing it, it is not for the benefit of the God who is the Word made flesh, the Word through whom all things came into being, and the Word who will on the last day pronounce full and final judgment. He does not need to be reminded of what He has said. We sing and speak it back to Him as the highest form of worship and in the speaking and singing what is operative within us is the hearing of that Word.
Paul well reminds that faith comes by hearing -- hearing what? -- the Word of God. Listening, that is hearing with faith prompted by the Spirit, is the highest form of worship and that which serves as prelude to the reception of the Word in bread and wine. Yet, as is so often true of us, we disdain the very thing that is most important. We participate in the liturgy most of all by listening.
It is to our great regret that we are hardly satisfied with this part of the divine drama of the Word and Sacrament. We think, to our weakness, that unless we are doing something to impress God and to show off before others, nothing is really happening. This is the great and fatal flaw of a sinful nature, so curved in on self as to see everything from the vantage point of me and what I want. Yet listening is participation. It is the first level of participation and it involves not merely the mechanism of the ear working well. It involves the heart and mind. We listen not to hear words but to hear the Word. We listen not to say we have been there and done that but so that the Word made flesh might dwell within us in the manger of our hearts and minds, doing what He has promised to do.
If there is one wish I had for me and for those in my parish, it is that we might rediscover what it means to listen, of the worship that participates by listening, and of the hearing heart and mind that ponder with Mary "What does this mean?"