Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Easter 45 Work

Liturgical live, life in the body of the risen Christ, is not a part of the Christian's experience: it defines the shape and illuminates the meaning of his total experience. Since his whole life is a drama of death and resurrection, there is a constant interpenetration between our our everyday experience and the liturgical cycle. [Elizabeth Briere in "The resurrection in liturgical life in the Orthodox church" in If Christ be not risen . . . Essays in resurrection and survival, Collins, 1988]

"Liturgy" comes from a Greek word meaning "work of the people." In the communion liturgy we traditionally use the words, "It is indeed meet, right, and salutary that we should in all time and all places offer thanks you . . . " (I did that from memory---your memory may vary by a word or punctuation mark.)

It is the duty and work of the Christian to offer worship and praise. More than that, it is a way that we enter into the work of Jesus.

I think this is difficult to understand in our century. I think it is difficult for me to understand. (I realize those may be two different things.)

For some churches, we have pop/rock music that gets people feeling like they're hearing Jesus' greatest hits live and they get to sing along. Others have organs and centuries-old hymns. Others still may simply have spoken words. A lot of this is often looked at how we shape these experiences. What we often overlook is that the experience of worship is supposed to shape us, possibly more than the other way around.

There's no doubt that any liturgy is the work of human minds, hearts, and talents. Of course we shape the liturgy. I do wonder if we shape the liturgy so people "get something out of it" rather than so the liturgy gets into the people.

I think that's what Elizabeth Briere is getting at above. And there's all kinds of ways that this opens a can of words. I know, I had that class in seminary.

But when our "work" revolves around the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, we may accidentally find that Jesus begins to shape us. Whether we're led into a frenzy by electric guitars or centered in silence, the resurrection life is what shapes us, in whatever cultural trappings that resurrection story may have.

At least, that is the ideal. And I'm ready to opine that if the "work" we do on Sundays doesn't shape us to go out and treat one another with love, compassion, peace, and justice . . . perhaps we're doing the wrong work on Sunday.

Resurrection life happens in unexpected ways, there's no one way for God to bring it to us. Entering into the liturgical life of the church, however, seems to be one way we might be shaped for the Reign of God.

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