Last week I proposed to you a new (maybe more accurately, a novel) definition of the term “liturgy.” A Christian liturgy is a communal sacred activity whereby the participants are shaped and formed in godliness. Now, this could take pages to unpack, but allow me to simply state a few of my presuppositions.
Let me remind you of the three main ingredients to this definition. First, my definition of liturgy begins with the adjective, “Christian” as a principal modifier. Everything we do (or may I now add, refrain from doing) shapes our lives and our loves. Do your choices have a distinctively “Christian” flavor to them? Second, I do not see sacred liturgy is not a private act but as a communal one. Liturgically speaking, our lives are most highly impacted as we touch one another, collide into one another, and graciously offer care for one another’s well-being (see 1 John 1:7 for a wonderful one verse homily of corporate Christianity). Third, the most obvious given is that liturgies shape and form us, the participants.
Let me give you an example. This weekend, the Society of Biblical Literature is holding its annual meetings, where thousands of Bible scholars throughout the world converge in one location. Our overt task is to present papers and to work in hundreds of forums to learn more about Jesus. But a secondary agenda is to network with one another, exchange ideas (and a few resumes), and to fellowship over meals and coffee. There is a true sense of “liturgy” about this event; some Christian some not so Christian. First, the Christian. In a standing room only worship service Sunday Morning, Daniel Block (OT scholar at Wheaton College) reminded us all of what it means to revere and personally honor the name of the Lord. Powerfully, we were charged not only to be teachers of the Biblical word but to profoundly live out the Word before the community were are entrusted to live among. He closed with the following passage:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:16-17 NIV).
Now, the non-Christian aspect of liturgy. At some presentations, biblical scholars are simply jerks. Their presentation style can be self-inflating and condescending to opposing views. Often, some folks sit in the audience, typing away on their computer to the neglect of the presenter and to the detriment of the surrounding audience. The worst example was during a paper being delivered by our own Bart Bruehler. Someone in the back of the room answered a cell call and continued in conversation until what I would call a “presentation bouncer” tossed him out. Thus, the way we operate in a liturgical setting is certainly a demonstration of the shaping which the Holy Spirit has accomplished in our lives.
So, may I ask you a parallel personal question? In a liturgical situation which we may call a classroom, “Are you letting Jesus shine?” Do you Facebook while your professor presents? Do you practice actions which sanctify or de-consecrate the classroom? In chapel, are the people around you being detracted from worship because of the light on your phone during texting? Or may I ask you to risk all for the Kingdom and actually act like a “bouncer” and asking someone not to hinder the “liturgical moment” and stop texting!
In a moment when You are speaking to us or thru us
May the liturgical moment we cooperate within be another wonderful means of grace
May the sacred time, the sacred place, and the sanctifying effect of your corporate body reveal Your Glory on earth.
May our humanity and our shortcomings not quench the Spirit of Christ.
Now, Go with God
Almost all the Bible Department at Indiana Wesleyan University is here at the SBL conference. You would be so proud. Dr. Ken Schenck presided at one session and will present a paper at another. Dr. Steve Lennox presented at a Psalms session. Dr. Bart Bruehler will present two papers this weekend. An IWU alumni Alicia Myers (PhD student @ Baylor doing her dissertation on the Gospel of John).