OUR VALUES: LITURGY
BY THE REV'D CANON DAVID HYMAN
MAY 1ST, 2017
The fourth stated value of our diocese is Liturgy.
Every church has a consistent form it uses for its worship services. This is liturgy. Even the Baptist church I grew up in had a liturgy (song, prayer, sermon, offering, song, prayer, lunch).
That said, Anglican liturgy is unique. It connects us with the worship forms of the ancient Church. It expresses the theological convictions of reformed Christianity. It teaches us to pray Holy Scripture. It has a steadying effect, as it tethers us to the constancy of God during the changes and chances of this life.
In our diocesan values, it states (italics mine), “Our common worship is both rooted and relevant, drawing us fully into God’s presence through Word, Sacrament, and the Holy Spirit. Our worship is liturgical, timeless, and adaptable. It opens the door to deep personal transformation for all who participate with hearts open to God.”
I want to take the three italicized words above and briefly unpack some reasons why liturgy is a value in our diocese.
The word common does not mean something that is ordinary or unrefined. Rather, it means that which is shared together or held in common together. Though our churches are dispersed across several states and are ministering in an array of contexts, our common liturgy unites us to one another. We pray the same prayers. We declare our faith in the same creeds. We come to the Lord’s Table using the same words. This nurtures in us a family resemblance, where we as sister churches — united in one faith, one Lord, and one baptism — manifest the unity of the Body of Christ in a coherent and particularly tangible way.
Liturgy transforms us because God the Holy Spirit is pleased to work in and through it to this end. This is the same Spirit who changed chaos (disorder) into cosmos (order) at Creation. As the Spirit completes the Trinitarian plan of salvation, he completes the liturgy by revealing Christ to us through it, whereby we are changed by the power of his saving work. Isn’t this what we long for, for ourselves, for our people, and for this world?
We often talk about liturgy as the work of the people, which perhaps overly emphasizes our responsibility to do the work. What liturgy invites us to do is participate in the work of God who is actively redeeming us, making us holy, and advancing his kingdom. Therefore, liturgy most hospitably sets the table for us to have intimate communion with God where we are nurtured by his grace through Jesus Christ and then sent to live out his purposes for our lives in this world.
May God continue to use our common liturgies to transform us into the image of Jesus and grant us the grace to earnestly participate with him in the work he is doing in us and in our communities.