Note: Monday Morning Quarterback is a recurring post that examines personal and pastoral events of Sunday.
It’s among the most useful word processing tools and a life maneuver to save time and effort: cut and paste.
But it doesn’t always work.
Here’s a sports application: it appeared to everyone watching that my beloved Denver Broncos prepared for their Super Bowl matchup with the Seattle Seahawks yesterday in a sort of cut and paste fashion. Simply cut what worked for their season’s 15 previous wins and paste it onto this immense page. If the Seahawks were editors, there’s deep red ink all over the page. What worked there and then can’t necessarily be trusted here and now.
Now here’s church application: yesterday’s communion liturgy was, as it often is, cut and pasted from a previous worship service, so I didn’t look it over before the service. I didn’t notice that I’d cut it from an Advent worship service. Not until I was reading it aloud to the congregation did the paste get messy, because there were some references to the baby Jesus being born and Mary’s song of hope and defiance. Cut and paste be cursed.
So what do you do? Forswear the tactic? Hardly. It’s too useful too often to be scared off it by a couple of bad applications.
Be more careful. Of course. This is a blog, though, not a user’s manual; “be more careful” is boring nanny talk.
How about this: seize the chance to adjust on the fly and to improvise.
Yesterday’s communion liturgy was unlike any I’ve been part of before because my colleague and I had to replace entire phrases in real time. Our appropriation of communion–what it is and what it’s good for–came through as we were left, in the heat of the moment, to extemporize Eucharist. And you know what? Christ was still present.
It’s a parable for the modern day church. Cutting and pasting practices from an earlier era into this one won’t always work, but that doesn’t mean we face an insurmountable creative task. We still cut and paste, because we’re working with gold. But there’s an invitation here to make it fit in new ways. And where it doesn’t fit there’s an invitation to adapt–not discard–to flex, and to trust that God is working in the jumbled mess that results.