A Different Kind of Liturgy
I received a jury summons a few months ago, and I'm in the middle of my scheduled week of service. As I was sitting in the courtroom on my first day, it occurred to me that I was participating in a liturgy of a different kind. Liturgy, you may recall, is often translated as, “the work of the people.”
On that first day all prospective jurors filed into the courthouse where we were segregated into two different courtrooms. We found places to sit where we would read, play on phones, or sit in silence. At an appointed time the clerk arrived, welcomed and thanked us for being there, and showed a video about why jury service was an important part of the judicial system and our country. Sometime thereafter, we were all asked to rise as the judge came into the room and was seated at his bench. He then dismissed us for the day, reminded us all to check in every night to see whether or not we were needed the next day, and we all filed out of the courthouse.
On the first day of the week worshipers file into the church building segregated by their preferred service (8:00 or 10:15). Everyone finds a place to sit where they read through the bulletin, send in prayer requests from their phone, or sit/pray in silence. At the appointed time everyone is welcomed and thanked for being there and various important announcements are made. Sometime thereafter everyone is asked to rise as the worship service begins. And then at some point everyone is dismissed.
In both of these scenarios a liturgy, a work of the people, is taking place. In the first one, the work of the people is to ensure a defendant receives a fair trial and that person is judged based on the evidence provided. In general, unless you are an officer of the court, you are not likely to return until absolutely necessary.
In the second one, the work of the people is to gather with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven as we joyfully worship the Lord. We are gathered to offer our thanks and praise to the One who created us. We are there as a gathered community offering our particular gifts and talents for the glory and spread of the kingdom. In general, those gathered for worship on Sunday continue to gather on a weekly basis for fellowship, prayers, and the breaking of the bread.
You can find liturgies – works of the people – all around us. Only one of them, however, provides a holy community, only one of them provides a place to intentionally meet God, and only one of them provides living water and bread from heaven.
I pray that you find the liturgy of the church – the work of the church – holy and life-giving.