Monday, November 25, 2019

A Personal Liturgy

"Do you feel the world is broken?
We do.

Do you feel the shadows deepen?
We do.
But do you know that all the dark won't stop the light from getting through?
We do.
Do you wish that you could see it all made new?
We do."

Yesterday in church we did something very odd for a Baptist church.  We talked about liturgy.  That formulary of public religious worship.  Structured, communal worship.  Call and response.  The formalized ritual of worship.

Now, it's a bit of a misnomer to say that Baptist churches aren't liturgical.  They still have their structure, despite eschewing the books of liturgy.  The four hymns, offertory, and a message plan.  Knowing when to stand up, sit down, greet the person next to you.  What we have given up largely are the common prayers, the call and response, the repeated specific hymns, like the Doxology.

We like to believe forgoing these traditional orders of worship allow us to respond to the Spirit.  To go where the Lord leads us.

But what are we missing in moving away from these traditions?  What have we forsaken?

We looked at Psalm 146.  "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!  I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my god while I have my being."  We see in Psalm 146 that the writer then lists the reasons to praise God.  It's a recitation of His wondrous works.  A remembrance.  An ebeneezer.

And that's why liturgy is important.

It lets us praise when our feelings betray us.  It reminds us of the wondrous works of the Lord when our memories fail.  It speaks for us when we cannot.

"Does the Father truly love us?
He does.
Does the Spirit move among us?
He does.
And does Jesus, our Messiah, hold forever those He loves?
He does.

Does our God intend to dwell again with us?
He does."

Through the sermon, Brother Paul referred to a song by Andrew Peterson, Is He Worthy?  In describing his writing process, Peterson talked about how he would hum the melody and then sing "We do" in answer.  He realized he had been talking about a Kenyan liturgy they used in church.

Celebrant: Is the Father with us?
People: He is.
Celebrant: Is Christ among us?
People: He is.
Celebrant: Is the Spirit here?
People: He is.
Celebrant: This is our God!
People: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Celebrant: We are his people;
People: We are redeemed.

He wrote in the similar call and response fashion because he finds himself edified in those situations in a liturgical service.  "I need to join my voice to a group of people reminding each other what is true, not just listening to a sermon, but partaking in one."

And that's what we need.  How often do we think of worship as something we can observe and not participate in?  How many people come to church, never sing, only listen, and then go home, unfulfilled?  In that situation, how easy is it for the service to be something seen and not lived?

For worship to be a scheduled time, not a way of life.

We need to be edified this way.  We need to be part of a group of people reminding each other of who God is.  Why He is worthy.  What is true.

From there we can personalize it to our situation.

Were I to write the verse I need to be singing, the liturgy I need reminding now, it would go something like this.

"Has my God always provided?
He has.
Does the Father truly love me?
He does.
Will He guide the path before me for the glory of His name?
He will.
And is He alone who's worthy of my praise?
He is.

What would your liturgy be?  What are you needing to remind yourself of?

Perhaps you simply need the reminder that He is worthy.  And all the rest will fall into place.

"Is anyone worthy?  Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave

He is David's root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue

He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the son

Is He worthy? Is He worthy

Of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?

He is

I then encourage you, when your feeling leaves you, when words fail, when the Spirit seems distant, when praise seems impossible, find your liturgy.  Find the pattern, the structure that you can remind yourself of.  Find your ebeneezer, your token of remembrance that keeps faith alive.  Find what reminds you that the Lord is He who "made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.  The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watched over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the father-less."

"Is it good that we remind ourselves of this?
It is."

Is He Worthy? Songwriters: Andrew Peterson, Ben Shive, The Bicycle Music Company, Music Services, Inc.

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