For my forty years of being a Christian I have been a Bible person. From the start, I listened to the KJV New Testament read from the same small vinyl records my grandmother who had passed had listened to. For most of those years I have listened to the Bible being read over and over again. And have attended church all of those years. All churches have their liturgy, even if it may not be much in volume or depth. Of course “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” has plenty of meaning and depth in and of itself. We do need other words, if we take the Bible seriously. And that is what the best in Christian orthodox tradition has done through the centuries. We do well to plug in, and learn. And from that actually participate.
The fullness of life is in Christ and is Trinitarian in essence: of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This life is centered, or we could say finds its center in Christ. And in his death and resurrection. Of course his incarnation, life and ministry preceding that; his ascension, the outpouring of the Spirit, and his return (to come) following. So our existence is cross shaped and it is rich.
I have been well trained—especially in the past, the formative years—to at least be suspicious and more likely shun all things Catholic. It is so ingrained in me that I am not sure I’ll ever be over it, not that I am considering becoming a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox either, for that matter (I did at one time consider considering becoming Roman Catholic, but decided against that). I now can appreciate and respect at least much of what is in that tradition, without buying into all of it.
But I am becoming more and more convinced that we would do better to incorporate more of liturgy into our lives. I think of prayers read along with scripture, and other things which accompany that. I think of the Lord’s Table, called the Eucharist being more central in our practice. And yes, even though I’ve regularly pushed back against sacramental understanding, there is no denying that sacrament does have some part in life, and perhaps more than what I’ve been taught or have accepted. One can arguably make the case for a more sacramental understanding of baptism and the Lord’s Table from scripture.
And I have been heavily influenced by Scot McKnight, who recently was ordained an Anglican deacon. Since I was raised Mennonite, it was rather natural I suppose for me to come back to and embrace a pacifist understanding for the follower of Christ. I read two of McKnight’s commentaries years ago, found his blog, Jesus Creed, in its relatively early going, and found in him a Biblical scholar I could almost entirely track with (not that I could keep up with all of his thought). I was, by the way revolutionized in my theology and turned around back toward my Anabaptist roots through N. T. Wright’s, The Challenge of Jesus.
Our own church, Redeemer Covenant Church through our pastors Jack and Sharon Brown is much more steeped in the tradition of church liturgy than any church we’ve been a part of before. And we appreciate that. We’ve been around, actually as part of good churches and a variety at that. We in Jesus are all in formation, hopefully. I see myself moving toward more of a liturgical stance, not taking away from what I’ve learned to appreciate of other aspects of the fullness of life that is ours in Christ.
I have really only an introductory appreciation with very little practice of the Book of Common Prayer. Everything I have taken from it I appreciate. I do love my NIV, and I imagine I always will, and do wish it could be incorporated into the text, but I can live with another translation in that (I like the NRSV maybe second, and appreciate that is translates the Apocrypha).
Churches not steeped in the tradition of Christian liturgy can depend far too much on human constructs. But more about that perhaps in another post. For now, I simply close with one of the many liturgical notes we find in scripture itself: