As I read today’s material and saw that it was full of processions, altar choreography and recited prayers to God, I thought: “My fellow Episcopalians are going to love this. It’s liturgy!”
The word “liturgy” is rooted in two Greek words: leitos, which means the public, and ergos, which means working. The word can be understood to convey either the public service of worship or the work of the people. If we understand our work to be joining in God’s ongoing movement of love, then liturgy (like everything else we do) must strengthen our commitment to God and deepen our participation in God’s movement.
In Israel’s Praise Walter Brueggemann says that liturgy has the potential to be “world making.” He asserts that through the dramatic work of worship we can create an experience that points us directly towards God. When we truly praise God through liturgical worship we are reminded of the world as God created it to be. And, although I imagine that God is pleased with our praise, I think we need worship more than God needs worship.
We need periodic reminders of God’s love and our lasting covenant with God. We need to turn back towards God regularly. We need sacred spaces beckon our bodies and spirits into the heart of God. We need our hymns, prayer cushions, psalm recitals and sacred spaces in the same way that David and Solomon needed the ark and the temple.
David and Solomon build the ark and temple to honor God’s faithfulness and remind their people that God saved them in a time of need, promised them protection, and will never stop loving them. This is why David’s prayer is filled with stories of God’s redemption and Solomon’s prayer invokes kindness to the stranger.
Every detail, design and direction serve this one end, to remind us of God’s character. When liturgy does this, it is powerful. If liturgy simply becomes a rote practice of movement and recitation then it will lose its transformative power.
If going to a worship service is part of your spiritual practice I invite you to look for the ways that song, prayer, and movement call attention to God’s abiding love for us in our very human state. In addition to formal worship, we can notice how nature, prayer, embodied practices and human connection call us back to God’s love.
If we allow these moments to remind us of God’s restorative power — and offer praise from this place — I suspect that liturgy will transform and embolden us to bring about God’s world in everything we do.
Prayer: Draw us back to the power of your love.
Reflection: What are the practices, in formal or personal worship, that remind you of God’s love? How could you be more intentional about these practices?
Art: “The Queen of Sheba before the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem” by Salomon de Bray
Book: Israel’s Praise: Doxology, Idolatry, Ideology by Walter Brueggemann