And I believe what I believe is what makes me who I am. I did not make it, no it is making me. It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man.--Rich Mullins, from the song Creed
After spending a year attending a Lutheran church, I had truly fallen in love with the liturgy. I remember that we had talk about having a contemporary service at the church and it had so many people upset. They were primarily concerned that we would lose our liturgy, I think (at least some of them were). The liturgy is highly important to those of us who take seriously the entire purpose of it.
So why is liturgy so important??
It is because it is repetitious and habitual, just like all of life!
For some reason that scares a lot of people. I think that people forget just how repetitious life really is! We do so many of the same things, day in and day out and never think about them. It is a dangerous thing to not think about them. Granted, this is a danger for the use of liturgy, but it is one that I am willing to risk because liturgy gets inside of me. Therefore, I am challenged to not let it become rote or to become indifferent to it which thus translates into my life as a whole.
Why is it important to be challenged to be "there" during a liturgical service?
Mainly because it is teaching me how to be "there" in the rest of my life. I think that a major mistake that we make when we approach worship is that of it being emotionally/experientially driven. We think that if we don't "experience" something, then we haven't worshiped. I'm not sure where this thought come from in the life of the church, but it is there. It is absolutely apparent in some "contemporary" churches where music is a way to get us "hyped" up for Jesus. It is apparent in the "traditional" churches where the music is noting but nostalgia and sentimentality writ large.
Don't misunderstand me here. Should we be excited about what Christ has done? Certainly! Should there be some sense of the sentimental for those who worship, since that is connecting us to our own past? Most definitely. However, in both of these I've observed, is the over tendency to go to the extreme. But there are churches that get it right that don't have liturgical trappings.
However, with respect to liturgy, it is doing something more than that. It is getting into the very core of our beings (in fact the other forms that I mentioned do the same thing, since they are after all "non-liturgical liturgies"). It challenges us to not give in to the tendency toward depending on indifference to get through it, but to participate with mind, body, and soul.
What happened when this happened in my life? Everything else began taking shape for me in a new direction. In many ways, I was freed from the tedium of my job to actually not think about the tasks, but to focus on Christ and to give him glory. I was trained, through the liturgy, to take that which was seemingly routine, and invest it with an eternality toward worship of God. Those things in my life that repetitious and recurring and that seemed so meaningless, gained something in light of what I had learned through participation in the liturgy.
I had always been told to "do all things to the glory of God," but I hadn't been told exactly how to do that. I always thought that it took some great effort on my part, when in reality, it took little once I had been trained by the habits of the liturgy. I was freed to worship the Lord through all that I did and that was something that none of the "traditional" or "contemporary" churches had given to me. But it was something that I discovered in the context of liturgy, but especially through the Anglican liturgy as found in the Book of Common Prayer.
In my next couple of posts, I'll mention some specifics from the liturgy that have impacted me through Anglicanism and why the Anglican expressions of that draw me into Anglicanism.