Saturday, August 11, 2007

Presbyterians & liturgy - Part VII

Continued from Part VI

God's service to us through the minister

Consider the disappearance of the pastor as the Lord’s representative and spokesman in so many worship services. Many pastors no longer lead the Lord's Day service. This departure of the leadership of the pastor in contemporary worship follows from the kind of one-sided conception of the Lord’s Day service that I have been critiquing.

If what the people are doing in worship is merely getting together to praise and pray and offer God all kinds of human devotion, then we can all just do it together and anyone can lead us. If, however, the Lord himself is meeting us and giving us his gifts, then the ordained minister will be prominent so that the people can be left in no doubt that it is the Lord himself who is speaking, forgiving, baptizing, offering us food and drink, and finally blessing us and sending us out into the world to further his kingdom.

Of course, this is not to say that the Lord serves us in worship exclusively through the pastor, since the Lord is at work even in the corporate praying, reciting, and the singing of the congregation. How many times have we been truly served by God as we listened to and joined in with the united voice of the church in prayer and praise? The Lord, then, serves us on the Lord’s Day as his Spirit speaks through both the voice of the minister as well as the voices of his people. But there ought to be certain priority given to the words and actions of the minister on the Lord's Day.

This is why the pastor who leads worship must be an ordained man. By virtue of his office, he must represent the Husband to the bride. A woman cannot do so. It would upset the entire fabric of God-ordained role relationships within the church and home. The symbolism of male headship must be maintained in the corporate liturgy of the church.

The church submits to her Lord as she receives from him the Word and Sacraments by the mouth and hands of the pastor. The pattern of male headship is rooted deeply in the created order (Gen. 2:15-24; 3:15-19; 1 Tim. 2:11-15; 1 Peter 3:1-7) as well as in the re-created order of the Church (1 Cor. 11:3-16; 14:33-35; Eph. 5:22-33). These role relationships are non-negotiable. C. S. Lewis says, “I am crushingly aware how inadequate most of us are, in our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us. But it is an old saying in the army that you salute the uniform not the wearer. Only one wearing the masculine uniform can (provisionally, and till the Parousia) represent the Lord to the Church: for we are all, corporately and individually, feminine to Him. We men make very bad priests. This is because we are insufficiently masculine. It is no cure to call in those who are not masculine at all. A given man may make a very bad husband; you cannot mend matters by trying to reverse the rolls. He may make a bad male partner in a dance. The cure for that is that men should more diligently attend dancing classes; not that the ballroom should henceforth ignore distinctions of sex and treat all dancers as neuter” (cited in Credenda Agenda 11/2 [1999]: 3).

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