Leaving Sunday services each week, my mom would often lament that it seemed as though Christian charity was abandoned at the church exit.
Prayer and praise resounded loudly inside the church, but the parking lot was another story. Starting up their engines, each driver transformed from prayer warrior to Mario Andretti, muscling their cars to the front of the line to leave the church grounds.
My faith community takes pride in it’s consistent liturgy. Oh sure, there have been some word changes now and again, and updating of worship, I suppose everyone’s church has done that. But no matter where you go in this world, the community prayer is in the same form. The only thing that changes is the language spoken from country to country.
There’s a great comfort in ritual liturgy. It allows the worshipper to relax into the familiar rhythms of prayer, praise, thanks, profession of faith and Scripture instruction. Music and song lift the soul as we all serenade the Lord with joy.
When the service is over, we have a wonderful space to greet each other. We catch up, offer our promises of support and prayer, and celebrate the milestones achieved in the goodness of God’s grace. Then…it’s on to our separate lives.
The sharp contrast between the church community inside the walls, and the everyday community outside them, often comes into focus as fast as it takes to get to the car in the parking lot. So I wonder.
Is my definition of liturgy too rigid and small?
I agree with my mom. It sure seems like the recent prayer, praise and thanks somehow comes to a screeching halt after leaving the church building.
The ritual praise and song is meant to lift our souls and prepare us for the week ahead. Grace and joy are gifted to fill our spiritual bank accounts…but is that where it all ends?
I don’t think so. I don’t think Jesus ever meant for us to confine our praise and prayer to church, or even to ourselves. I believe he is active in every moment of our day, encouraging us to participate in the Liturgy of Life. We are constantly being joyfully invited to converse with the Lord and celebrate God’s presence in our world and neighbor.
Our work, our play, our acts of love can all be extensions of the grace-filled prayer we experience on Sunday. And because we do these things to praise, thank and honor the Father, our lives can be transformed. Each encounter with the Father holds the potential to take my life of ‘ordinary’ and make it extraordinary…if I decide to participate.
Life becomes a beautiful, life-giving liturgy.
Every time I reach my car after Sunday services, I think of my mom’s lament. That memory always reminds me that my prayer and praise can’t stay in the four walls of a church building. It must become a living thing, employed every day of the week, witnessing that Christ is real, alive and working in this world.
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