Things Worth Noticing: 2/4/22
Awash in Liturgy
For much of my early Christian life, I considered “liturgy” to be a dirty word. That way, I thought, lied the Roman Catholicism of my childhood with all its sitting, standing, sitting, kneeling, sitting, and so on. No thanks.
What I’ve learned, though, is that humans just are liturgical beings. Getting our kids ready for school, pledging allegiance to the flag, standing in line at Starbucks—these patterns of life take on a religious character in that they form us to be certain kinds of people: attentive care-givers, devoted patriots, caffeinated consumers, etc.
When it comes to worship, everybody has a liturgy—even the lowest, most “primitive” Baptist worship service. There’s no need for a printed order; folks just know when it’s time to sit and listen or stand and sing. Why? Because they’ve been formed in a pattern of worship. And, as our more liturgical brethren figured out long ago, those patterns communicate truth (or falsehood) just as loudly as the preacher.
Whether we’re in the standing in a sanctuary or sitting in a Starbucks, the question isn’t whether we’re being formed; it’s how. Christian discipleship is a matter of taking all our patterns of thought and action captive to the obedience of Christ, so that we might be both formed and transformed in accord with truth of Scripture.
Today’s two things lead us in that direction—the first by describing our liturgical reality and the second by offering up just one way to lean into it.
You Are What You Love
James K.A. Smith is an interesting thinker who’s really challenged me to come to terms with what I shared above, especially in his Cultural Liturgies series. Smith tried to write those books for a popular audience, but they’re far more demanding than he originally intended. To remedy that fault, he wrote You Are What You Love.
Smith can wax a bit too phenomenological at times, and I think that, in his quest to combat the false notion that human beings are merely “brains on sticks,” he doesn’t aways give the Bible and theology their proper due. Those criticisms aside, this book draws deeply from the Augustinian well to show just how pervasively we’re affected by the things that capture our attention and affection.
It’s well worth your time.
Now, Go Love the Creator
At the gym this morning, I discovered something new that grabbed me immediately. Like it sounds, A New Liturgy is a setting of older hymns in a newer style, mixed with liturgical readings. The album I listened to was No 4: Creation, and it led me into a unexpectedly profound time of worship… right there at Planet Fitness.
A Short Disclaimer on This Recommendation and Any Other I Might Make
As I prepared this newsletter, I learned that A New Liturgy comes out of a handful of ministries with which I’d take some issue both theologically and practically.
If I were to examine the artist’s theology point by point, would I love everything I read? Probably not, but that’s the case for pretty much everyone I come across. Such is life for those blessed (cursed?) with theological knowledge.
I’ll do my best to never lead you astray, but I pray you never take a recommendation like this one as blanket approval of everything a writer or artist has ever said. Even the best of us is broken, and all our works come well short of the mark.
I’d restrict my recommendations to perfect works if I could, but then I’d never have anything to share.
That’s it for this time. I pray you’ll pay more attention as you move throughout your life this week and always ask the question, “How am I being formed right now?”
Until next time,