The Liturgy of Life

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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50 thoughts on “The Liturgy of Life

  1. Your mom is right! If we don’t carry our active faith and actions beyond church, what good is it? A friend once encouraged me, asking “What if I was the only example of Jesus someone saw in a day?” We carry Him everywhere, and our lives should reflect that. What good reminders of what we need to carry into a new week. Thank you, Ceil. 🙂

    • Hi Karen! What good is it? Such a great question.
      Your friend is so wise, and that’s a thought we should all be carrying around with us. It’s quite a challenge, at least to me.

      I hope I will always remember that my life can be a relection of the prayers I pray, and the things I do.
      Blessings,
      Ceil

  2. SUCH a beautiful post. During the years I was Methodist, I often commented it was such a comfort knowing the words of the service had been repeated by generations of my ancestors. I now go to a Bible church. Sadly there is no liturgy used in the contemporary service. The words of those age old liturgies, if spoken with thought and meditation, is a beautiful thing, but when repeated in rote–it becomes another race to the parking lot.

    Thank you for this thoughtful post, My Friend!
    Blessings!

    • Hi Lulu! I like the way you compared ‘rote’ prayer like the race in the parking lot. That’s a really good point. We have to fight to keep our prayer and lives fresh and full of the Spirit.

      I’m so glad you liked the post today. I think my mom is smiling from heaven!
      Blessings to you always,
      Ceil

    • Hi Sandi! When we are his reflection, he is right here, right now. Isn’t that an awesome thought?

      Thank you for your supportive comment, I really appreciate it!
      Blessings always,
      Ceil

  3. Amen, Ceil! We may get our spiritual tanks full at our weekly worship service, but we are definitely called to live that liturgy in the world all week long, serving others as Jesus served us.
    Did you know I attended a liturgical church for years (Episcopal)? Which denomination do you worship with? Sometimes I do miss the predictable rhythms of the worship, but Danny isn’t one for “formal” church. We are looking at a contemporary church near us to possibly attend regularly going forward.
    Blessings to you!

    • Hi Martha! I like the comparison to a ‘full tank’. It’s really true, and we need to continue to get back to that filling station too!
      I am a Catholic, and our liturgy is very steeped in tradition. I love the rhythm of prayer and praise. I didn’t know that you attended the Episcopal church! Our faith traditions are very similar.
      I hope you can find a church that feeds you and your husband. There’s nothing like the privilege of worshiping with our loved ones, that’s for sure.
      Blessings on your search, may you be led to the place where you both can be filled.
      Blessings,
      Ceil

  4. Your mom was right on teaching you that lesson of loving past the exit of the church door. We’re built up in the service to take Jesus out of the four walls for the rest of the week. Many in our everyday lives don’t go to church so it’s vital to take the Good News to them as the Spirit of God leads. Love the graphics!

    • Hi Mary! I have such a vivid memory of my mom’s thoughts about the parking lot. She was a very faithful person, and I’m sure it hurt her to see so may people lose the message they heard.

      Your point about us being the face of Christ to everyone is such a good motivator. I hope I can bring that Good News to others, remembering the grace I have been given.
      I really loved that photo of the woman and her child. Such love!

      Have a wonderful week!
      Ceil

  5. This is a beautiful post, Ceil. I like that description- that our life should be liturgy. I agree that our praise and prayer shouldn’t be something that is just for church on Sunday but it should impact every area of our lives. It reminds me of the song “The very next thing” by Casting Crowns, especially the line, “Let my very next breath breathe out a song of praise to you.” There are so many opportunities to be used by God if we stay open to his leading.

    • Hi Lesley! Thank you for your encouraging comment, I really appreciate it.
      The lyrics to that song are just so beautiful, a breath being a praise..that’s a lot to think about. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all did that? And I agree with you too that God wants us to be in harmony with him, so we can be instruments in his life giving love.
      Thank you for telling me about this song, I’m going to head to youtube to listen to it.
      Blessings to you always,
      Ceil

  6. Once upon a time a man went to a church he’d never visited before. As he parked his car in the church car park, someone came over and said: “Hey, you’re in my place!”

    He parked elsewhere, and sure enough, someone else said: “Hey, you’re in my place!”

    This happened a few more times, then someone explained that all parking spaces were reserved for certain members of the community. So he parked in the street and entered the church.

    As he sat on a pew, someone said: “Hey, you’re in my place!” This happened a few times and everywhere he sat someone moved him on. So he stood at the back of the church.

    During the sermon, the priest noticed the newcomer. So he welcomed him and asked him “Who are you? Introduce yourself.”

    The man stretched out his hands and said: “I died in your place!”

    You see, Ceil. When we go to church it is to meet Jesus. But many people use it as a beauty parade to show off their latest dresses, or car, and they consider themselves as part of the audience. But we are not the audience. God is. We are the performers, the worshipers, there to give thanks for what He has done for us.

    Great post Ceil. Your mom was very wise.

    God bless.

    • Hi Victor! I just love this story of yours, you have such an inventive way of illustrating your point We do gather to meet Jesus, and to meet him in each other. Anything else misses the point.

      My mom was a spark of a person, there’s no doubt of that. I always remembered her comments about the parking lot. It rings just as true today.

      Thank you for your imaginative story, it certainly points to the heart of things.
      Blessings,
      Ceil

  7. Your mom’s observations are astute (as are yours)! I think we forget that we see Jesus living out His life in the gospels more outside a formal liturgy. It is seen more often in the relational connection with His Father and His followers. Our worship services can and should be a grand time of community, but it was never meant to reside in a building. We can easily forget that the church is us, the living stones Peter talks about, rather than the structures where we gather. Good reminders here, my friend! Blessings on your day!

    • Hi Pam! Thank you for your kinds words about my mom. She was a very faithful person. I really like your reference to us as ‘living stones’, capable of building up the church in our lives…because the church is us! Just as you said.

      Thank you for visiting today my friend. Have a peaceful night,
      Ceil

  8. I remember listening to a preacher’s sermon many years ago, and he talked about the ‘participants’ and the ‘bench warmers’. The bench warmers are people who attend worship services on Sunday, but do nothing else. The ‘participants’ are the ones who attend worship services and help others as much as they can, according to their means. Great post, Ceil, and lovely photos.

    • Hi Linda! I like your preachers idea. I never thought of it in quite this way before, so thank you for telling me about it!

      I know that God wants us to be participants, and be the face of love in this world. I hope I’ll always remember that.
      Thank you for your kind words about the post today, I really appreciate it. I love that photo of the mom and child.

      Blessings,
      Ceil

  9. So true! Recently I was driving somewhere and was in a hurry. I was irritated with the car in front of me because it was just poking along and I couldn’t get past it. When it turned I realized it was someone from my church and I was very grateful I hadn’t been tailgating or buzzed by them! It was a good reminder to me to drive like those on the road with me were people I know, because doesn’t everyone deserve a little grace on the road?

    • Hi Mari! Yes! We all need grace, on the road or off. It’s so easy to get annoyed at others. I’m glad you were able to be patient! You are a good model for me to follow.

      Have a peaceful night,
      Ceil

  10. Beautiful words, my friend! I love this thought…I SO want to live my life day by day in such a way as to show Jesus’ love. My dear Mom used to tell me that we are the only Bible some people will ever read. Whew, that lays quite a responsibility upon us as Jesus’ followers, doesn’t it? So happy to visit with you…you are such a blessing to me! God bless you abundantly, in return!

    • Hi Cheryl! Your Mom is so wise, I love that saying. I can’t just listen and pray in church, my life has to carry that message.

      Thank you for your kind words here Cheryl. I’m so glad that we are connected through our blogs. We can support each other!

      Have a peaceful night,
      Ceil

  11. Your mother was a very observant woman! So sad yet so true too. It is wonderful that you think of your mother’s words as you leave the church, and a great reminder to know that the really, the most important part of our relationship with the Lord takes place outside the walls of the church, as we allow Christ to work in us and through us as we go about our daily business. A wonderful reminder, and I enjoyed your post very much 🙂

    • Hi MM! Thank you for your encouraging comment, you are so thoughtful. I do think of my mom’s words, and to me, it shows how much importance our words have. She may have thought it was a side comment, but it fell deeply in me.

      You are so right about how important our lives in the world are. We have to carry in us the body of Christ, and be his hands and feet. May I always remember that.

      Hope you had a wonderful Monday,
      Ceil

  12. Beautiful, Ceil! I love this line: “Our work, our play, our acts of love can all be extensions of the grace-filled prayer we experience on Sunday.” Taking Christ into the world–both in word and deed–is probably the biggest challenge we face as Christians. Yet it is the only way to fulfill God’s great commission to us–go and make disciples.

    • Hi Pam! The great commission is a wonderful way to frame how we are to go forth and be Christ to one another. We can take him with us at all times, which is an awesome responsibility but an awesome grace too.

      I hope we all make disciples as we just go through our day, witnessing in love and patience.
      Monday blessings,
      Ceil

  13. Someone posted an article on FB about how millennials weren’t attending church and I provided insight. A churchgoer got defensive, but I’m not the only one who left organized religion because churchgoers disappointed me deeply. The hate and judgment I saw among the women in the churches I attended in my teens and 20s scared me away. I guess I expect more out of Christians? If I ever called someone on her gossiping, she’d say, “I’m judging the sin, not the sinner” (despite the fact that she’d spent 20 minutes gossiping about an actual person). I felt very unwelcome and judged in every church after spending so much time around people who are avid churchgoers. I’m sure someday I’ll get the courage to go back…

    • Hi Stephanie! Oh my goodness, I am so sorry about your experience in the churches you have attended. I would hope that you just found a few bad apples, but I’m sure it doesn’t seem like that to you at all.

      I remember reading that the body of Christ (the Church) is imperfect because humans populate them, and that includes me too.

      You are a precious child of God, and should be treated in that way. I really hope that someday you will find a community who will treat you as Christ-bearer that you are. You are so talented and have a love for people…you would be a huge asset to any community.
      Thank you for sharing your story today. I appreciate your candor.
      Blessings,
      Ceil

  14. Your parking lot story had me smiling! I’ve seen too the before church rush in the parking lots, as well including even entering in places where signs indicate ‘no entry’ just to try to cut time and be on time! “Each encounter with the Father holds the potential to take my life of ‘ordinary’ and make it extraordinary…if I decide to participate.” This line really resonated with me today. The extraordinary happens outside confined walls and comfort zones, and when in action that always is rooted in love.

    • Hi Lynn! I guess that rush can happen at any time, not just leaving the church building.
      I love the way you phrased how ‘extraordinary happens outside confined walls and comfort zones’. I love that! It’s scary out there, but the rewards are many. I know you wander away from your comfort zone on a regular basis, and challenge yourself to become a better person and servant. I want to be like that!

      Have a peaceful night my friend,
      Ceil

  15. Hi Ceil! I agree with your mom’s insights. It seems that so many go to church for something to do, a task to check off the weekly “to do” list, or to be seen. Sadly, the worship mindset doesn’t seem to always make it to the parking lot. Living for Jesus is really about faithfully walking with Him between Sundays.

    The rote prayers can lack meaning if not prayed with our hearts and with understanding what they really mean. It’s really about praying with a humble heart (no matter what position our body is in).

    Blessings!

    Kim

    • HI Kim! You make an important point about learning prayers. It’s good to know them, so to pray with our fellow church goers, but understanding what we’re saying is just as critical. It makes prayer meaningful.

      I am so thankful for my own church/prayer community. They inspire me to alway do better, and to be Christ to all I see. Hard to do of course, but it’s always my goal.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment today Kim. I really appreciate your thoughtful words.
      Monday blessings,
      Ceil

  16. I love this – “We are constantly being joyfully invited to converse with the Lord and celebrate God’s presence in our world and neighbor.” So true, Ceil. It’s a 24/7/365 thing, right? Love and hugs to you!

    • Hi Trudy! Oh yes, it’s always available to us, isn’t that amazing? God can’t wait for us to talk to him, and to be his hands and feet in the world. It’s an awesome thing, imagine that we are the body of Christ…that is such a privilege.

      Love and hugs right back to you,
      Ceil

  17. Ceil: Your mother was observant. We are told to “Take the Name of Jesus With You,” and we are told that our faith is not just a Sunday faith but an all-week faith. Sometimes, I fail at this. But I do try to do better that I did in years past. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

    • Hi Cecelia! Your comment made a song start playing in my head “Take the Word of God with you as you go, take the seed of God’s word and make it grow…”

      Our faith is for every day, no question about it. Especially in the parking lot! We all try every day and fail sometimes, but God knows our hearts. He knows you are always trying, and he loves that.

      Have a blessed day!
      Ceil

  18. Hi Ceil!

    You know, I can relate to this, to your mom. Unfortunately, on both sides. How quick we are to forget that we are to live our faith outside those walls. I was reading what some of your readers commented. I agree like what Karen (the first comment) said. I heard that encouraging quote before, but forgot about it. I will try to remember it and share it with my own family.

    Love and hugs to you!
    Patty

    • Hi Patty! I’m really glad to hear that you read some of the comments here, because they are filled with wisdom. Yes, Karen’s mother was wise too, and I’ve heard that saying before as well.

      I think it’s fair to say that I’ve made plenty of mistakes, both in the parking lot and beyond. But I have to keep trying, keep putting myself out there and try to be Christ to everyone. It’s a never ending challenge, but I’m up for it!

      Love and hugs right back to you 🙂
      Ceil

  19. I absolutely agree with what you have written Ceil. My dad was a believer and, although he died when I was eleven I have memories of holding his hand as a little girl, coming out of Christian people’s houses that we visited. There would be meetings and discussions in those houses, and I actually remember people talking about Jesus.
    It is as scripture says ‘God does not live in a house made with hands’ and as Jesus said ‘ where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’
    Wherever we are with believers it is wonderful to gather, give praise, and pray.
    God bless Ceil.

    • Hi Brenda! What a great tradition you had with your dad, visiting with others and talking about Jesus. I wonder if that still happens today? I think it really underlines how important it is to stay connected with people of faith. It helps us to be encouraged, knowing there are others out there trying to be Christ every day.

      Love your last line. It is wonderful!
      Have a wonderful day,
      Ceil

  20. Ceil: Thanks for reminding us that we need to take our Jesus outside the walls of our church buildings, for he is IN us, not just with us. I would have liked to know your mom–she sounds like a wise lady!

    • Hi Jeanette! How nice to see you again! Thank you for your visit today.

      You would have loved my mom, you and she share that humor gene. I think you’d be thick a thieves in that, and in faith too.
      He is in us! We have to remember that Jesus is not to be found in only one place, he is in all and through all.
      Have a peaceful night my friend,
      Ceil

  21. beautifully written. I thin a key word you wrote is space – space to love, worship to pause and embrace life, to serve. create space to be with God and with others. All liturgy – liturgy – the work of the people – work we are called upon to do all our lives. great reflection, Ceil

    • Hi Jean! I like your definition of liturgy, it really is an outflowing of our work, lifted to the Lord.

      I hope I always create that space to be with the Lord each day, and to take the gift of his grace and move into my life outside the church walls with it.
      Thank you for your encouraging comment!
      Blessings,
      Ceil

  22. Your mom shared such great wisdom. When we see God in our everyday, He absolutely makes it extraordinary. I want to be the one who chooses to participate in any of the encounters God is sure to be a part of outside of church. Blessings!

    • Hi Mary! And she did it in such an off-handed way too. She wasn’t mad or anything, just incredulous. It really shows me the power of the words we speak to our children.

      Hope you had a great weekend!
      Ceil

  23. Faith without works… that’s the verse that came to me as I read this, Ceil. Our faith should show up in our works outside the church doors as well as within. How often we fall short of God’s ideal in that respect!

    • Hi Alison! I think you and my mother would get along very well. Yes! We should be ready to be Christ to everyone in our lives, not just inside the church, but in our world.

      Have a peaceful evening,
      Ceil

  24. OH Ceil, this is just so beautiful. Thank you for this. It is an ongoing charge for us all to truly understand that Christ’s grace and guidance continues to flow from our Lord in every moment of our lives and not just when we are in a building, a service, or a study. The deepest enduring faith falls often outside those doors, when we are reaching the lost, bearing the burdens of others, and prayerfully stepping into each day with an invitation for Him to join us with every breath.

    I believe Jesus wants us to be abiding in Him always- EVERY day of the week. Your message is exquisitely written.

    • Hi Chris! Thank you for your own reflection on taking the Lord with us outside the walls. There’s a lot to do in the world, and we are the ones called to do it.

      Thank you also for your encouraging comment about the writing. I appreciate that so much.
      Have a wonderful weekend!
      Ceil

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