liturgy thoughts

Posted: November 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

Several years ago, someone who regularly read my blog (which was more in an email form than a blog page, back then) asked permission to use something I had written as liturgy (Karen’s short definition of “liturgy,” for you who are asking what that is:  written words on a page, to be used as prayers and pieces of worship.)  Her husband was pastor of a church and they thought it would make a nice piece for worship.  I was deeply honored and moved and of course said yes. 

Liturgy is tricky business.  I watch with amusement the interactions of my daughter and son-in-law on this topic; she’s not a fan and he really, really is.  I think they are good for each other in the way each challenges the other on this topic.  She keeps him aware that things written down easily become, for some, a “by rote” and not from-the-heart proposition, and that’s good, since he’s a seminarian.  He picks up ancient liturgy and reads it with all of the feeling and devotion that its original writers must have possessed when they originally inked the words, and that’s good too…it is wonderful to remember that the words don’t HAVE to be droned mindlessly/heartlessly.  

I’ve been everywhere on the map, when it comes to views on liturgy.  I have loved it and used to to go to deeper places.  I have been bored or frustrated with it.  I have wanted to see newer creative expressions come alive.  I have experienced the way it can lead my thoughts, if I will let it. 

Marrying G, who is a messianic Jew, has added a whole other element on that topic for me.  Early on in our dating relationship, he gave me his Siddur (Jewish prayer book) to take home and use.  It is a whole book of prayer and liturgy. There are prayers for everything in it.  There are scriptural meditations galore.  I quickly found that opening the Siddur each morning and reading a passage aloud as part of my morning quiet time was a great addition – that I learned and grew as my heart and mind turned the words over throughout my days. 

For the first few weeks of our marriage, we floundered a bit as we worked out our morning quiet time, prayers, etc.  We didn’t pick up the Siddur right away.  There didn’t seem to be TIME, between the multiple devotional readings and the time spent just praying freely together, all wrapped around the busy work of breakfast and packing his lunch and such.  But his job is challenging on many levels, and life was throwing some challenges in along the way, and it didn’t take long until we concluded:  we needed to work in some Siddur time.  Devotionals gave us different ways to view familiar scriptures.  Personal prayer gave us space to pray for one another and our loved ones.  But the Siddur added a different element:  it focused our attention on the character and majesty and might of God, and reminded us of our position with Him.  That was NEEDED for the meeting of the challenges – it was and continues to be a great way to put on our “spiritual armor” before we put on our shoes and head out to face the day.  “Not having the time” is not really an option for us, if we want our days to go well, you know?

Last week when we were worshiping at JPUSA, the speaker there shared a part of an Episcopalian prayer.  It was so good that I’ve gone and downloaded the Common Book of Prayer, as I think that’s where Episcopalians get that stuff.  I’m looking forward to checking it out.  Today while cleaning our room, I listened to an NPR bit about a girl’s brush with death via rabies.  In it were a couple of examples of liturgy prayers that people grabbed and hung onto, using as a survival weapon with all the strength they had. 

So I guess I’ve swung back around, away from my aversion to liturgy, for this season of my life.  I do think it can have value, if we don’t do it by rote, if we don’t do mindlessly or heartlessly.  I do think it is another way to help us connect to God.

If we let it work that way. 

 

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