This past Friday my wife and I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of Erica Grass and Rev. Stephen Rosebrock at St. John's Lutheran Church in Wheaton, IL. It was a beautiful wedding, and a fine example of how a wedding can truly be a Christ-centered, cross-focused service of worship. Of course, given who got married and where, I'm sure none of our regular readers are surprised to read this!
But in the performance of the liturgy itself there was a fine example of liturgy-as-pastoral-care I would like to share. We were blessed with the Lord's Supper at this particular wedding, and so I had a chance to experience how one of the the local pastors, Rev. Joshua Genig, presides over the Eucharist. His pacing was exquisite: unhurried but never stodgy, with clear diction and reverent tone. It was literally a musical experience to hear him offer the Eucharistic Prayer (a.k.a. "Prayer of Thanksgiving"). Then, after the Lord's Prayer, he chanted the Words of Institution beautifully, pausing to reverence each kind and then holding up the host and the chalice to present our Lord's body and blood to the congregation as he shared the Peace.
In so many Lutheran parishes - even confessional ones! - pastors hurry through the communion liturgy. Perhaps they are worried about time. Perhaps the familiarity of it makes them less careful. Or perhaps they just think it is long. And yet what message do pastors send when they preside in a hurried way? Is it really worth the extra 30-40 seconds they might pick up by taking a faster 'clip' through this part of the service? I think not.
And, ironically, people are more likely to feel like things are going long when the pastor speeds up - whether in the Prayer of the Church or in the communion liturgy. When pastors act like they are running out of time, the assembly gets the message and grows impatient. Far better to keep cool, and keep focused on what is really going on.
May all pastors savor the moment and allow the church's liturgy to serve the people well. And thank you, Pastor Genig, for letting the living voice of the Gospel in the liturgy have its way with us.