Wednesday, February 26, 2014

All rise

My pastor tweeted a photo of his preparations for Sunday's service the other day that featured a 17 verse scripture lesson. I have nothing against scripture and 17 verses isn't all that many when you consider there are 31,240 verses in the bible, give or take a few that are unnumbered for various reasons. So 0.0005 percent isn't all that much.

But growing up in church, I knew that we may have to stand for the reading and, truth be told, I'd rather not stand. Mostly because I don't always wear the most comfortable shoes to church, but also because I don't understand why we have to stand. The sound waves are still going to reach my ear the 18 inches or so lower than if I'm standing. But I stand because everyone stands. And everyone stands because everyone before them stood. Just like the people before them. And the people before them.

So I asked my pastor why we stand. He gave a very official sounding answer that, I assume, came from his time in seminary. He said " the Gospels demand that we act, and standing up and facing the reader is a way to indicate that we realize that." That's all well and good if that's what I was actually doing. But it wasn't. That idea had never even crossed my mind. In fact, if you'd made me guess why we stand in church for scripture readings, I'm not sure I'd ever get to something resembling that reason.

I was standing for a couple reasons.

First, he asks us to before the reading and as much as I'm not a fan of it, it's not that much of an imposition on me to stand up for a few minutes. He's a nice guy and I don't think he'd ask us to do something for no reason, so why not stand? Second, and perhaps a little more subtle, I do it because humans tend to defer to authority figures and even though my pastor and I went to college together and are friends, inside the church building I still view him as an authority figure. If he asked me to stand up while we're at a baseball game together, I'd tell him to shut up* while I'm watching the game.

*Only if my kid and/or his kids weren't around. 

I'm not a big symbolism guy. I get that it's important to a lot of people, but to me, ritualized symbolism doesn't really do anything. Granted, I may be totally underestimating the impact it has on me and my perceptions of things and not have any real understanding of how ritualized symbolism has impacted me, but as a general rule, I find symbols and symbolism tend to eventually  take on equal, if not more, importance than what they represent. I'll still stand when my pastor asks us to, and I now know the rationale as for why  we're doing it, but I'm just as good sitting comfortably to listen to scripture.

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