Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mordecai the Liturgical Nazi

We've been going over the book of Esther in Sunday morning class, and there's something I find extremely refreshing about Mordecai. He simply (and all the Jews with him) refused to bow to Haman. Now ask yourself: why does he have to be so stubborn? He could have just bowed a nice little bow, made everyone happy, and said, Oh, it's just a cultural thing. It doesn't change the way we believe. We still have the Gospel. I can go ahead and bow on cue, and not say anything, knowing in my heart that all that matters is the Word.

But he didn't. He refused to do that simple silent thing, which of course made Haman mad, and got Mordecai and his people into one truckload of trouble.

In fact it was a cultural thing. Had he bowed to Haman, his bow would have acknowledged Haman as divine. Here we see that this little liturgical thing, this silent bowing, communicates something. And what it communicated was anathema to Mordecai, so he refused.

This book is written, among other reasons, to exemplify the behavior of Mordecai. We have in the book of Esther a clear and uncompromising exemplification of a simple truth:

When under the title and pretext of external adiaphora such things are proposed as are in principle contrary to God's Word (although painted another color), these are not to be regarded as adiaphora, in which one is free to act as he will, but must be avoided as things prohibited by God. (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, X, 5)

See there? How you worship does matter. It did to Mordecai, certainly.


Venkman said...

Of course, one can find many examples of this throughout the Scriptures. In fact, whenever anyone stands in the presence of God their initial reaction is almost always to fall down, kneel, or bow. So Scripturally speaking, I find it very difficult to insist that such a small thing truly is adiaphora.

Worship = Bowing. Bowing = Worship. It's in the Bible! What you believe will shape the way you worship. The way you worship will shape what you believe. It's not that hard!

Take for instance Sunday's Epistle. Paul tells the Ephesians, "Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." [Ephesians 3:13-14]

How very interesting. A pastor genuflects. A pastor suffers. And Paul says that THIS is the congregation's glory. The Ephesians see Christ through Paul's stubborness and insistance to glorify God alone. After all, "for THIS reason I bow my knees." MY tribulation is YOUR glory.

The interesting thing is the Concordia Self-Study's interpretation: "'I kneel' expresses deep emotion and reverence, as people in Paul's day usually stood to pray."

What!?!? Kneeling is a movement, a rubric, not an emotion! What Gnostic writing did this come from? Given...they are correct in stating early Christians often stood to pray. However, was there not a place for kneeling? Did not Paul kneel? Did not the angels kneel? Do not "wise men" still kneel before the Christ child however humble He looks?

Yes, they kneel because they see the wisdom of humility.

Sadly, I am becoming more and more convinced that the downfall of the liturgy is really the denial of creation. People are very spiritual, but aren't too fond of that flesh and blood stuff. Everything has become a matter of the mind and heart, but nothing is thought of the body.

Nevertheless, worship includes all of these things and Easter is not simply about heaven, but ressurection.

Yes, some of us still confess "the ressurection of the body" and to prove it......"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Venkman said...

"He slimed me."

"That's great! Actual physical contact, can ya move?"

"My tribulation is your glory!"

Father Eckardt said...

Just why are you reading the Concordia Self-Study Bible anyhow? And what is that supposed to mean? A Bible that studies itself? Or a Bible which teaches you how to study yourself? The grammar here is fascinating. Maybe I should blog on that. Being just a simple parish pastor, I'm confused . . .

venkman said...

I read it from time to time just because it is something Grandma Schmitt reads. I'm kinda incarnational like that.

Ya know, Grandma Schmitt reads a bunch of crap so I do too just to relate. Grandma Schmitt commits a bunch of sins so I try to commit just as many if not more, just to relate. Just to be a good pastor. It's all very incarnational. *squints real hard*