Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dignified Informality

From today's "Thursday missive" by former LCMS Pres. Kieschnick:  "To the greatest extent possible, pastors and other worship leaders do well to design and conduct services that . . . are conducted in what might be called a spirit of dignified informality."

What is "dignified informality"?  Dignified means "having or showing a composed or serious manner that is worthy of respect," and informality means "a manner that does not take forms and ceremonies seriously." 

So, evidently, what this means is that those who conduct worship services should be serious and respectful, while not taking the ceremonies they're conducting seriously. 

The point of this "dignified informality" is, seemingly, to give the worshiper some "sense of the presence of the Spirit of God in pastor and people," while not overwhelming them in such a way that they take that "presence" too seriously, the goal being to please everyone, so that the hearts and heads of both those who want some dignity and those who seek informality in their worship experience are satisfied.

So, reverent, but not too reverent; respectful, but not too respectful; serious, but not too serious.  Or, another way to express it is Lutheran, but not too Lutheran.

Still another way to express this is to use that infamous line many a heartbroken boy or girl has heard from his/her boy/girlfriend upon breaking up, "I love you, but I'm not in love with you."


Jon Bakker said...

I haven't read the full missive and so I can only respond to your take on it, but what does it say about someone's Christian convictions when their best advice - the sum of a career of service to the church - is to embrace 'dignified informality'.

I'm sure that, had St. Polycarp been dignified yet informal in his apologia for the Christian faith he could have avoided being burnt at the stake...and surely St. Stephen, had he simply maintained dignity while adopting a bit of informality, would have saved himself the trouble of being stoned to death while Saul looked on.

Why, if Luther had been a little less formal in his protestations, there might not even have been a need for a Diet at Worms, etc. etc. etc.

As Chris Carter is wont to say on MNF: C'mon, man! Either we believe, teach, and confess what we believe, teach, and confess, or else we're shown to be counterfeit.

I pray that our pastors do not embrace such a casual adherence.

Dennis Peskey said...

Dr. John Kleinig will be presenting "Participation in God's Holiness in the Divine Serice according to Leviticus" at a five day seminar, September 24-28 at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids. Now that Dr. Kieschnick is nolonger tasked with the duties of Synodical President, he should consider a bit of edification on worship, the Divine Service and God's holiness (for it was He who established the Divine Service and fulfilled all righteousness for us).

Scott Diekmann said...

So we shouldn't take the absolution seriously then?

Paul said...

Dittos! I can't imagine speaking the Holy Absolution or the Verba or the Aaronic Benediction with anything less than a "reverent formality". To suggest informality (dignified or otherwise)in the context of the Divine Service is to either willfully misrepresent or ignorantly misunderstand what is going on.