Saturday, January 7, 2012

showing vs. telling

We who enjoy writing fiction make a curious distinction—showing vs. telling. When we show something, we not only describe a scene, we draw you into it. When we tell—not so desirable for painting a word picture—we bore you with needless info…more history than the story requires. So, if I’m showing you a manager is a real “bean counter,” I will show you a guy at his desk counting his new stack of dollar bills for the third time, filing in his Excel Spread sheet, and recounting the stack twice over again. Now, in the Divine Service the Pastor—in the stead and by the command of God—tells and shows our Lord’s blessing. After we publicly say what sinners we are, God’s mouthpiece--the rightly called and ordained pastor—tells us God’s grace. He shows us that same grace when crossing the congregation “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” When the Pastor reads the lessons for a given Sunday, he reads with not much fanfare. Yet, when done with each—Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel—he declares aloud: “This is the Word of the Lord.” He shows us God’s unerring Word. We simply reply: “Thanks be to God.” When our pastor distributes Christ’s body and blood to us, He tells us that such is given for our forgiveness. He shows us this by placing the host on our tongue and pouring the cup into our mouths. For in the Divine service, God draws us into His story, His work of forgiving us our sins. We show Him nothing new. He sees our sinfulness even before we confess it. He tells us our forgiveness and shows us, time and again, His cross. The story, after all, is completed in Jesus. WE are recipients of everything He does for us. That’s why it amazes me how many versions of the Scriptures in English translate Psalm 116:12. They combine the question with its answer into a longer question. Literally, it says: “What shall I render to the Lord? All the benefits He has bestowed.” When we combine the two sentences into one question, we demand more of ourselves than we can give. We make up an answer our Lord does not speak. I cannot give or show Him anything “for all the benefits He has bestowed.” Rather, we can only return to Him in praise what He has first given, shown, us, in blessing.

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