I noticed that I could see the slowly turning fan blades above us in the reflection of his freshly shaven head. His blue eyes and silver goatee turned up to me quickly, recovering from almost choking on his salad.
“What did you say?”
I had just told him that I felt I had a sense of where God wanted my spiritual life to go next. I was a 20 year-old college student, the president of my campus ministry, and I hung out with my pastors all the time. More importantly, though, was the fact that I was crushing really hard on this girl that wouldn’t date me. Only later would I realize that this was a bigger factor in what I said than anything God had said.
“I want to become an elder at our church.”
As I go through these seminary discussions and readings concerning the relationship between Christians and cities, two things are pretty certain for me. First, God loves cities and had/has great intentions for them. Second, things went horribly, completely, and utterly awry.
I have the privilege of taking these courses along with incredibly thoughtful people. They haven’t just taken wholesale this newly “rediscovered” urban emphasis of Christian faith. They get the reality that God and the Bible have an urban-centric feel to them, but they really want to fight for a conception of God’s work in the world that comes to bear upon every person in every type of place in the world–not just city-dwellers.
And so I’ve been wondering: is this “urban call” to Christians a general one, or does it only go out to a very specific type of person? Are the difficulties in cities so big, so intractable, and so unique that only certain types of Christians with certain types of giftings could find a place for Kingdom work?
UPDATE: I posted a brief history of liturgy and its movements.
A couple of nights ago, those that help lead and facilitate the worship service at my church met to discuss how we should continue to grow and remain faithful to our mission in the city of Philadelphia through our liturgy and music. It reminded me once more of how much I love being a part of this church and its tradition, and how excited I am to live life with these people.
Meditating on these discussions about our liturgy, I was reminded of the myriad of ways that the structure of one’s worship service forms the people that sit there each Sunday. I thought of how liturgy functions. If you go to a church, it has a liturgy: some structure that proclaims a certain story and shape of existence, and it changes people to fit into that shape and story.
And this got me thinking of a document I wrote up a couple of years ago to help train and encourage those leading liturgy at our church. In it, I wrote about six “facets” of the diamond that is liturgy. And that’s what I wanted to post here today.
These are some ways that liturgy acts to shape us. After each thing, I’ve given a sample topic and tried to show how liturgy functioning in that way can speak to and shape someone in that area. This was originally meant as a guide for people that introduce the service and try to acclimate people to the liturgy.
I hope this reminds us that liturgy matters, and being intentional about your liturgy is such an important part of leading and ministering within your church context. If you don’t serve as a leader in this aspect of your church’s life, and don’t really speak to liturgy formation, I hope this helps you recognize the formative nature of your church’s liturgy, and that it helps you connect to and engage with your church in a deeper, more intentional way. For more on this, I could not suggest more highly James K.A. Smith’s book Desiring the Kingdom.
For those new to the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “One Shot, Two Ways“, which is a silly title to describe taking two shots, from the same place, at the same time, but trying to make them very different.
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Whenever I walk to my church, it’s one of the strangest experiences for me. I grew up in the South, when Sunday morning was a time of slow traffic, long lines at Donut shops, and lots of people milling around as they meander their way to their respective churches.
Not so, in Philadelphia.
As I walk down the few neighborhood blocks that stand between my house and the city center, I’m quite often by myself. I occasionally have my heart sink when I see a woman making the “walk of shame”, where she’s walking home in the same dress and heels from the night before, trying to fix tussled hair and making sure all of her personals are still in her purse as she walks. It could just be the time of morning and a potential hangover, but she never looks happy.
I usually see runners. They enjoy being able to run on the city streets in the cool of the morning with no annoying pedestrians to dodge. I also see a fair share of dog owners, still in pajamas, annoyed that their pet couldn’t hold it for a few more hours and give them more sleep.
When I had appendicitis last week, our preaching pastor visited me in the hospital. Having missed the service that Sunday–the first after Easter Sunday–I asked him what new sermon series he had started, now that Easter was over.
He looked at me a little surprised (as I’ve been so into liturgy and the Church Calendar the past couple of years) and informed me of something that I had apparently missed:
Easter is an entire season that is 50 days long.
(Wikipedia confirms.) Oh why do we shorten our time to rejoice and celebrate? This season is our excuse to go crazy and be joyful, bold, secure, and confident before our God and this world.
We have 33 more days before we celebrate Pentecost.
As I said the other day while introducing Lent this year, the Lenten season has historically been marked by three practices of those that participate in it. Prayer and fasting tend to get most of the attention, but almsgiving is another component of a Lent-historically-done-well. Almsgiving is the ancient term for giving materially of your resources for the purpose of charity, love, and grace.
I have never been good at giving my money away. Tithing has always been difficult for me to practice; giving to the homeless has been hard; and I always have a good excuse why I’m not able to give to some cause greater than myself. Sure, I’ll talk about the organization or even write a blog post in support of it, but it’s hard for me to part ways with my money.
This season, however, I wanted to try an experiment to fight against this and hope and pray that God meets me in it and grows me in deep, lasting ways.
This Lent, I want to give away some of my money everyday. For Monday through Saturday (the Church considers Sundays Lent “mini-breaks”), I want to give some amount of money to a non-profit or charity that can use it to help others.
But I need help.
If you have a non-profit or charity or social justice organization that you particularly like, could you leave a comment below telling me what it is?
Easter ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. It is any wonder people find hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? It is any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long over due that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system.
— Bishop N.T. Wright (thanks to Dano for the quote)
O God, who hath made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in thy Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship thee in security and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— from the Book of Common Prayer
you can also participate in Holy Week by joining Christians all over the world each day in morning prayer and evening prayer.