Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Shape of the Liturgy, or How the Liturgy Shapes Us

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...Image via Wikipedia

The shape of the ancient liturgy, what Gordon Lathrop calls the Bath, the Word & the Table, has the ability to shape our Christian spirituality in ways little else can.  For, not only do these actions provide symbols that directly link us to the distant past of our faith -- the cave and the catcomb, but the earthly & existential present-ness of the water, book, bread and cup somehow also directly link us to the the Christ of God.

In fact, I would argue that regardless of how one views the sacramental nature of the water, book, bread or cup, quite nearly every Christian believer comes to the "table of the LORD," the waters of Baptism, or the "Word of GOD," with the distinct expectation that she would somehow meet the GOD who is there. And, I would also argue that she will not leave disappointed, even if most of us do not have "eyes to see." It is GOD who has promised to meet with us. It is God -- the Great I AM (which supremely means I AM PRESENT) -- who has determined to touch us through Jesus the Christ, Spiritually mediated in the water, the book and the table.

 It has been so from the beginning. Which means we stand in this moment of history on the work (the liturgy) of others. It means by our participation in the liturgy we are presenting to the watching world the present-ness of GOD. And, we are at the same time offering to the next generation the hope necessary to sustain the one meta-narrative that can shape the world for good.

Sometimes I offer this benediction by John Drescher to the end the work of the people

As you go from here, go forth in faith.
Go, joining the faithful of all the ages,
Who labored long, Who suffered much, Who rejoiced greatly.
Go forth in faith,
Knowing God created us for a purpose,
And Loves us with a steadfast love
May the peace of God go with you...   

Reference Material:

Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology    Invocations and Benedictions for the Revised Common Lectionary
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