Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Subversive Liturgy?

"The day the "world changed" was not September 11th but way back in 33AD. The most significant event in our pasts is not our most shameful transgressions but the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our pasts are defined not by our sins but by Christ's victory. God's story is the lens through which we understand our current world..." (Shane Claiborne, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

A few months ago i spent some time with my fellow curates in looking at Worship. I thought a quick read of this book would be helpful in continuing the conversation. As a priest in the Church of England, I spend a large chunk of my week planning the service, either the sermon series, the music way in advance, the All Age worship, Collective Worship, or the service looming in a few days. I feel a pressure in this to always come up with something creative and new, to keep the services fresh. Yet our said communion and evensong have a set format which has some seasonal variation but no scope for wholesale change. There is something good about this too. We have four services (Sometimes 5) on a Sunday, if each of them needed to be constructed from scratch then this would be unmanageable. Even if the framework was used from Common Worship.

In worship we join in the communion of the saints, which reminds us of our place as inheritors of the promise from those who have gone before us, but also reminds us of our calling to tell another generation too of the hope within us, we stand in-between those who have gone before us and a generation not yet born, but are also tasked with sharing the good news to all.

It is easy to restrict ourselves to a reduced diet, by that I mean both liturgically and scripturally. Think about it for a minute, it is easy to stay within the gospels(though obviously you can edit out the bits you don't want to preach) when it comes to our preaching and it is easy to say familiar words each Sunday (whether you have set liturgy or not). During our session at St John's one thing that came up time and again is that liturgy should help us remember we are part of the big story. Just as it is easy to preach David and Goliath as a moral tale, the bully got his comeuppance, do we then conclude by saying that by our own skill and cunning we too can slay the giant we are faced with? Is David a moral example to follow or is the story so much bigger than that?

Here's a link to the companion website for the book

Leitorgia- Is often translated "the work of the people" or "public worship" both express part of it, however what I enjoyed about Shane Claiborne's introduction is the way he asks us to overlay our annual calendar with the liturgical calendar. It helps remind us that though January the 1st is the start of the calendar we use in this part of the world, the liturgical one begins in Advent. The working week begins on Monday, but Sunday is the beginning of the liturgical week. Though Easter floats around because of the moon (why do we still do this?), Easter itself asks us to look at the one who made the Sun and the Moon and is the source of all life. The liturgical calendar is in fact subversive. It asks us to look at our lives and see them as part of the big story. We centre ourselves upon Jesus Christ, As we pray and read scripture we are drawn into a story, the stories of the children of Israel are our stories. We too wander in the desert, turn away from the grace of God and forget who we are. Just like the disciples we too reject and abandon Christ, but just like the disciples and the children of Israel we too experience the grace and mercy of God who calls us "chosen and dearly loved". We too can join in the family prayer:
Our Father
Who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven
Give us today our daily bread
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one
For thine is the kingdom the power and glory
Forever and ever

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