Liturgy. Not a word I use often.
Coming from a pentecostal church, that prescribed, repetitive form of worship is not particularly part of my church language. But my husband and I come from very different faith heritages (Mine: none. Saved as a teenager, parents eventually followed. His: rural Church of England, many years spent in the choir stalls with his parents, apparently bored to tears most of the time) This means that several times a year when we visit his family, we attend a church very different to our own. Now, I love the freedom of worship that we have in our church. It’s what I have grown up in and honestly, I don’t think I would feel at home anywhere else. But, I do love visiting my in-laws church as well – the atmosphere, the beautiful choir refrains, the simplicity and deep profoundness of some of the prayers and statements of faith that are repeated week after week by the faithful few.
It might not be a huge part of my Christian practice, but there is something about liturgy that I really do like. Perhaps it’s that repetition is intrinsically comforting to us as humans. It’s part of our psychology; it’s how we grow and learn, it makes us feel safe. Anyways, I get why people like it.
But it’s also something more. There is something transformational about the repetition of good truths, if we really let. them. in. It’s a quote that I first read in Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts:
“A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.” Erasmus
Sometimes I wonder: why do we need to keep learning and re-learning messages that are clearly true, important and good for our souls? Maybe because our souls are intrinsically stubborn, self-centred things that invariably – given their natural course – revert to type. And it takes a long time for something good to seep its way in and make it’s home in our heart.
Here’s the prayer we prayed in that little Anglican church that morning that sparked all this off. I really liked it, so thought I would share it:
Strengthen for service Lord, these hands that have taken holy things;
May the ears which have heard your word be deaf to clamour and dispute;
May the tongues which have sung your praise be free from deceit;
May the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love shine with the light of hope;
And may yep the bodies which have been fed with your body be refreshed with the fullness of your life;
Glory to you forever!