Thursday, May 24, 2012

This Is Serious Stuff

So, is fussiness a bad thing?  I've often noticed the particular care my pastor takes with the items on the altar after communion.  He sets the vessels in just the right place.  He makes sure the veil is neat and straight and the corners are folded just so. 

Some people might find that to be too picky.  But it sends a message (although I'm pretty sure that's not why he does it).  It sends a message that these things matter.  That this is serious stuff.  That this is not to be rushed through.  That something precious and important is happening here.

An article in Touchstone (hat tip: Rick Stuckwisch) illustrated the difference between the pastor and the soldiers at a military funeral.  The pastor was a little casual.  The soldiers were precise in executing their military rites. 

At the late service on Good Friday, the final distribution hymn ended a big fat minute or two (or three?) before Pastor was done at the altar.  Silence.  We waited.  We watched.  The silence continued.  He was taking his usual pains with making sure everything was just so.  More silence.

Earlier in the evening, we'd heard the Passion According to St John.  At the very end of the story, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus' body in linen and laid Him in the tomb.  And there was Pastor, ever-so-carefully draping the linen over the vessels where Jesus' body and blood had been minutes before. 

I was not the only one who had to brush away a tear.

Did it matter?  Would Jesus have been any less there, any less forgiving, had Pastor been hastier and more casual?  No. 

But it still matters.
The careful attention-to-detail confesses something about what's happening there, in that place, at that time, through that bread and that wine.  It confesses something about what that bread and wine IS.

And what do we confess when we hurry through and are okay with sloppiness?


  1. Very nice, Susan. When my pastor is roasted by some for his precision, I can never figure out exactly what they think that the problem with it is? It certainly is not wrongly confessing!

  2. Thank you. Wish I could email this to the Altar Guild at my church.

  3. You know... I remember that, too. It was one of those times when things didn't really time out quite right. But when we finished the hymn, I thought it just seemed right to watch in silence rather than to fill the time with music. And I asked him afterwards if that was OK that I decided to do that. And he was very OK with it... I appreciated just sitting watching, too, on that most important day which I rarely get to do.

  4. I beg to differ. Things DID time out just right. :-)