For those of us in the midwest, one of the greatest gifts we’ve received during the quarantine are sunny and at-least-it’s-not-freezing days. We may not gather with loved ones but we can enjoy the sunshine, the blooming tulips and daffodils, and that comforting aroma that comes after the spring rain.
Braver souls than me, however, tell me there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. One dear friend is trying to spend several hours outside every day this year. (She started in JANUARY.) Regardless, whether you’re a fair-weather outdoors person or an every-day-outside person, this liturgy is for you.
Gather the few things you’ll need and find a place to pray and celebrate. Your backyard is great. A park is perfect. Deep in the woods or on a suspension bridge over a river would be just right. Get outside, somewhere with birds singing praise and the trees clapping their branches. Make the outdoors your living room for this time of prayer. After all, a garden was our original living room, wasn’t it?
May the Lord bless you as you pray!
(Click here for a downloadable, printable PDF of the liturgy.)
Megan Condry, youth and children’s director at St. Peter’s First Community Church, offers us another living room liturgy. This one is especially helpful for Holy Saturday, in the silence of waiting for Christ’s resurrection. It is, however, also a beautiful liturgy for use regularly throughout the year.
Silence. Quiet. Rest. These are not words we are familiar with in our fast-paced, frenzied, and busy world. Faster, louder, more seem to be the resounding phrases around us rather than quietness, rest, and solitude. The challenge of silence is not a new one for us and yet God makes it clear throughout His Word that it is through rest that we find our strength in Him alone. “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling,” (Isaiah 30:15). The way is simple and the instructions clear, but are we too unwilling? Does the fear of silence keep us at bay? Do we wonder if we can afford to take time to rest in God with all the other demands of our time? Are we unsure about what to do when trying to spend time in quiet with God? Do we worry about the things God might want to share with us so it is easier to just keep moving along? All those thoughts can keep us from God but we know through the Bible, through the experience of believers throughout time, and through our own quiet moments, that it is in our moments connecting with God that we find peace, hope, direction, and real rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
A Liturgy of Preparing, Eating, and Serving for Maundy Thursday At Home
On Maundy Thursday, we remember the night before Christ’s betrayal, when he joined his disciples for a meal (which would become The Lord’s Supper). John tells us he then washed the disciples’ feet as a sign of how he came to serve, and how we are to serve others. This liturgy is based on that story and invites participants to prepare and eat a meal together and to serve others in various ways. It can be done individually or with a small group.
Here’s the second Living Room Liturgy, which is a pair with the liturgy of laughter I shared earlier. Both practices, lament and laughter, are significant in times like this. Blessings as you pray! Download the liturgy as a printable PDF by clicking here.
I wrote a couple weeks ago about how social distancing may create an opportunity to practice solitude. What I’ve since realized is that for many of us it is not necessarily clear how to make the most of our solitude. Prayer is hard on your own. Without the weekly encouragement and example of praying together in communal worship, our own individual prayer lives can feel dull or diminished. So, I thought I’d try to offer some “Living Room Liturgies” that you, your family, or you with some folks on a Zoom call can use to give prayer a bit of structure. I hope you’ll share them if you find them useful! (Download the PDF here for a printer-friendly copy.)
Malcolm Guite’s collection of poems, Sounding the Seasons, includes short sonnets for the Christian year. As All Saints’ Day approaches, I am reading his poems for the day. “The gathered glories” is especially provocative. It reads:
Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards,“The gathered glories,” Sounding the Seasons, p. 58.
Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,
It glances from the eyes, kindles the words
Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright
With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,
The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.
Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing,
He weaves their threads into the web of being.
They stand beside us even as we grieve,
The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,
Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above
The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,
To triumph where all saints are known and named;
The gathered glories of his wounded love.
What I love is the tension Guite creates between my tradition’s custom of remembering the physically dead and the broader Christian concerns for those who are, in a number of ways, dead to the world. The “gibbet and the grave” conjures an image of one on the verge of death and one already dead. We remember not just those in the grave but those who, by Satan’s cruel hand and our shunning and shaming, stand at the edge of the grave.
Guite invites us, along with this week’s reading from Ephesians, to have the eyes of our heart widened, so that we may recall all the saints, in life and in death, not just those we’ve known.
A beautiful covering of snow is being whisked hither and thither in Huntington, Indiana, tonight. Our church community will not be gathering tomorrow morning in order to prevent folks from unnecessarily driving in dangerous conditions. So, I created this liturgy to encourage them to worship together in the Spirit while physically at home.
I thought some of our readers may delight, whose churches may also not be gathering, would find it edifying so I’m sharing it here! You can click here to download the PDF which has all of the links (to the worship songs and the homily).
Every blessing to you all. Stay warm and give thanks!
In one of his writings on the doctrine of the church in relation to ecclesial life in seventeenth-century England, John Owen makes what I think are a number of incisive and helpful comments on schism and unity. As a Congregationalist, Owen was susceptible to accusations of schism and divisiveness, but he suggests that a poor conception of church unity and a misguided zeal for that conception underlie the charges against the Nonconformists.
For Owen, the unity of the church is fundamentally spiritual, a function of believers being joined to Christ their head by faith. However, Owen argues, in his day many conceived of unity in terms of (humanly devised) external uniformity of order and liturgy and then sought to impose that uniformity on all churches in the land. This misconception generated charges of schism against Owen and his Puritan comrades and, intriguingly, was the principal cause of ecclesial disunity. Externalize unity and impose that external unity on others and those of a different ecclesiological persuasion will (justifiably) resist this. Hence those who are overzealous for unity are also the chief culprits in schism. Though Owen has in mind especially the Anglican leaders of the time, he mentions Rome as an egregious example of supplanting spiritual unity with an external unity ‘of their own invention’ (Works of Owen, 15:111-12):
For those of you who haven’t read Halden’s post, you should. This is an issue I tried to raise with Jamie Smith’s book, but wasn’t able to do so as well as Halden. After reading the post, my initial thought was: Liturgy is the fruit, and not the root, of devotion. The church, in my mind, continually makes the mistake of getting this backwards.
I commented in an earlier post about my reading of James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom and noted how much I’ve enjoyed reading it. I, for the record, am still enjoying the volume immensely, it being my holiday reading on airplanes, stuck in airports and on the occasional couch. I want to read the whole volume before offering any really critical interaction, but for now, I thought it would be fruitful to muse over one specific passage that highlights a central thrust of the work. In discussing the Pledge of Allegiance, Smith states:
What are the students doing when they recite this each day? Many will just be ‘going through the motions.’ However, given that we are liturgical animals who are deeply shaped by practices, I’m suggesting that a lot can happen when one just goes through the motions. The routine begins to inscribe habits of the imagination within us; the repeated saying of allegiance works itself into an orienting allegiance. What begins as a merely stated commitment begins to work itself into a functional commitment” (109).
It is at this point that I think Smith overplays the roles of practices as such, and offers something of an overly reductionistic anthropology. I will refrain from developing this critique until I’ve read the whole volume, and, I should add, I think his critique of a Cartesian anthropology as itself reductionistic is correct. Smith’s account of human persons as essentially lovers is, in my mind, the right way to go. But are we truly formed by practices, even when we are “going through the motions” as Smith suggests? Continue reading