Eat your Broccoli
Occasionally someone will come out of Sunday morning worship and let me know there was something about the liturgy they didn’t like. Maybe we sang a hymn new to that person. Maybe we sang a hymn we’ve sung too often for that person. Maybe we did Rite I or Rite II and that person prefers the other. One Easter someone told me the trumpeter was too loud. I teased back that I thought the trumpets were probably going to be pretty loud in heaven too.
Recently someone expressed displeasure about something in the liturgy and I playfully told her: “That’s kind of like telling your mother you don’t like what she’s cooked for supper.” She picked up the playful tone and responded: “But I don’t like broccoli.” I reassured her that what she hadn’t liked wouldn’t be a regular occurrence but that, when it did occur, it was good for her. It was a pleasant exchange.
Not everything that happens in every worship experience is just what we would have chosen. The choir might sing an anthem in Latin and that might confuse you. They might sing something newer that rattles you a little. The lessons and sermon might seem to threaten your comfortable lifestyle or infer that mercy extends to people you don’t believe should receive it. We might experiment with something that you’re not used to. Or you might get a little irritated with the predictability of the liturgy. We like what we like and we resist that which we don’t like.
Parents have the tough job of preparing meals for their children. Most children are pretty picky eaters and they complain about trying something new. Good parents patiently absorb those complaints and continue to offer their children a balanced and healthy diet so that they may grow and so that they may learn to enjoy a wider variety of foods. Our son, who now has a rather sophisticated palate, regularly pitched a fit when we served him anything other than potatoes or rice. Had he not faced dinners which stretched him a little, I’m not sure his tastes would ever have blossomed. Good parents know what children need and they seek to provide it.
The Church is our good parent in spiritual matters. Liturgical experts over hundreds of years have combined their wisdom and put together the rich worship expression we find in the Episcopal Church. While there may be things that will occur liturgically which we like less than other things, the worship we participate in is very intentional and well thought out. Every little thing is for a purpose. When something occurs that isn’t quite to your liking, instead of sulking about how much you hate that, consider pondering just what it is that Mom and Dad are trying to teach you by including that. Trust that the liturgy is there for your own good and that it is designed to lead you to another step in spiritual maturity. Trust that it is good for you. Trust that the Church is not trying to make us miserable but is showing us the kingdom.
The same could be said about the various events we face in a given day. We can set our jaw against the whole world and grow pretty bitter in our approach. Everything can be seen as some plot to ruin the world as we want it to be. But the events in my day can also be approached as things which are building me up spiritually, places where I may see God revealed. We tend to think of blessings as things which make us immediately happy. Some of the more important blessings in our lives were born in discomfort or strife. There’s not a day when we’re going to get our way each and every moment. So how will we approach those moments? With a bitter and closed heart or with an inviting and open heart?
Trust that God is leading creation to redemption. Trust that, while there is evil aplenty in this world, God is about the business of making all things good. Consider that some of the things you believe with all your heart just shouldn’t be going on might just be teaching you something you need to learn. God is the master liturgist. He puts all things together for our good, for our growth, for our healing and wholeness.
Trust God. Trust your Church. It is built on the wisdom of people far smarter than just you or me. It is built on the very Spirit of God and it is leading us into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Be open to what the Church offers. It’s all designed for your good.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.