Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Liturgy as Formation - 2

So Liturgy of the Word is easy and the one we love to pursue.  We go to Bible Studies and Sunday School classes but this is qualitatively different than sitting with Jesus.  Now, there are Bible Studies that spend significant time in prayer and relationship with each other and with Christ.  Kudos to them.  The Word informing the relationship.  Perfect.  For most, however, the liturgy of "being with" Christ is so much harder, too hard in fact to press into.  Unfamiliar territory for most of us and uncomfortable.
When Jesus walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, He taught them the whole way, and "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked..."  BUT, when did they know Him?  When did their relationship with their lost Savior and friend come alive?  In the breaking of the bread.  Our second work of liturgy is the breaking of bread.  It is literally that in our sharing with each other in the Eucharist, and almost impossibly, it is more than that as the Bread of Life becomes part of us and we are part of Him.  We end, no, shift, our intellectual relationship from that of figuring it out to engaging with Him.  As I was graining with Mr. Philip under last night's moonless sky, I did learn some more about Mr. Philip, but what I learned was translated in the process of poling along and paying attention into respect and admiration.  I grew to know him.  The Liturgy of the Eucharist is a model for the liturgy of all our engagement with Christ and others.  It is the work of the people in doing stuff with each other in order to translate our learning about them and Christ into knowing them.  "Depart from me you workers of iniquity.  I never knew you."  Harsh words.  Jesus is not talking to the Pharisees here.  Harsh words to people who were doing a lot and thinking a lot but never laughing a lot and crying a lot and eating a lot with Jesus.  So this second part of the Liturgy of Formation, relationship building, is perhaps the most important leg of the three legged stool.  You MUST do things with Christ and others.  You must do things with the "least of your brethren."  "Associate with the lowly."  "Love your enemies."  It is essential to your formation to run counter to the world and even in some regards to our churches by ensuring that the time spent learning about Jesus is in proportion to your spending time with Him and with others in non-learning activities, breaking bread (Eucharist and meals), going for a walk, fishing together, time alone talking to Jesus without your Bible, making sure that the lesson you learned in class is applied and changes who you are, building a boat together.  "And this is how they will know you are my disciples, how you love each other."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Liturgy as Formation - 1

Liturgy (literally the "work of the people") is formation.  Most Americans believe that formation is simply the next fad word for religious education.  However, Jesus in John 5:39 states, "You study the Scriptures diligently thinking that by having them you have me but you know me not."  Being a Jesus follower is not a matter of the head except in that our knowledge orients our worship.  Knowledge informs us about Who we are worshiping.  Evangelicals often get lost in the pursuit of knowing about God and forget to say "Hello."
There are three parts to our historical liturgy: 1) learning about Whom we love (the liturgy of the Word);  2) spending time with Him (worship/Eucharist) and; 3) proclaiming reconciliation to Him (evangelism).  The easiest is learning "about".  It requires almost no commitment or sacrifice on our part.  It requires little humility, submission or subjugation. It is also the source of the enormous problem today creating "pick and choose" Christians and the rampant "all roads lead to God" philosophy.  We learn about poverty and about child soldiers and about alcoholic Smith in the last pew and we can simply lament and be filled with pity and sentimentalism.  That is "about-ness".  There are many thousands of people, you may know some, you may be one, who know about Christ but for whom, Jesus' Lordship is despised.  The hallmark of salvation, as we all have heard again and again, is relationship and yet our congregations allow scant relationship building and love learning and teaching.  If you would be formed, if you would form your child, into a persevering Jesus follower you must engage in the liturgy of formation.  It is a dance.  There are rules to be sure, but if you simply obey the rules you will never dance but die alone.