Liturgy for Everyday Life–A Lesson from Parenting
No matter how hard my family tries, Sunday mornings always seem to be a challenge. Can you relate? Most of us can. And if we are honest, when children are young, it seems like our spiritual lives suffer. So in this blog post, I try to make the case why I think liturgy is a powerful antidote to the hectic pace of the Sunday morning roundup!
Sunday Morning Scramble
If you have been a parent, then consider the following scenario. We have all been there, rushing across the parking lot from the car and then dragging our children into the sanctuary of the church. As the deacon welcomes you into the sanctuary where you are to worship God, you immediately feel the warmth of blood flowing to your face as you become flush from the embarrassment of being seen outside fussing at your kids before entering the church. Hoping the deacon does not see the slight redness of your now rose-colored cheeks, you look around to find the first available pew and hurry the kids to their seat. Tired and bewildered, the events of the morning still replay in your mind as the shame of yelling at your children to get dressed and move toward the car quietly settles into your mind.
“Help me God,” you say to yourself.
Then the call to worship happens. “Please stand,” says the worship leader. You politely stand. And then out of the corner of your eye, you notice your toddler son has just decided to decorate one of the hymnals with the crayon you gave him, which in hindsight is another reminder of the deficiency of parenting wisdom being demonstrated that day.
So instead of preparing yourself to worship, you instinctively grab the crayon out of his hand, and as retribution for this gross infraction, he proceeds to scream and cry, drawing disapproving scowls from several people. Frustrated and bewildered, you quietly pick him up and walk out, missing the first song. You came to worship God. Instead, it has become an exercise in futility, frustration, and despair.
Jesus–Our Shelter from Chaos
If you have ever been a parent or know someone who is a parent, you have probably observed the same phenomena. The formula is simple. Chaos breaks out before church resulting in a troubled heart and mind, leaving you feeling disappointed and disconnected from God.
Jesus amazes me. When you think he goes left, he turns right. When debating with his enemies and it seems they have boxed him in, the tables turn, and they walk away defeated wondering how this Rabbi from Nazareth out-foxed them again. The same is true with his disciples. When they asked him to teach them how to pray, he responded with a simple liturgy to follow. “Father, Holy is your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:2b-4, ESV).
Simple, elegant and to the point, Jesus strikes to the very heart of basic human needs: a focal point of worship, physical and spiritual nourishment, and shelter from chaos.
Finding God–Everyday Liturgy
After teaching his disciples the liturgy, he teaches them about the nature of God’s heart. He is the Father, waiting and desiring to hear from his children. “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give you a snake instead of a fish?” (Luke 11:11 NRSV). When children are acting out, or chaos in relationships seems to fill our lives, it is easy to project our feelings of anger and frustration onto the Lord believing that is how he feels toward us. But the master of simple, profound truth dismisses these ideas altogether. When we approach the throne of God in worship, we are allowed to come to him as a needy child who comes to a father asking for a simple meal.
Each Sunday we come to worship filled to the brim with life’s chaos and feeling depleted spiritually from a sin-saturated world. As a remedy, he returns us to the basics and teaches us “When you pray say, ‘Father, Holy is your name.” The beauty of this liturgy is that it jars us from the complexities, to which we are so often attracted, and sharply focuses our attention on this most important spiritual principle: God loves us. Amen.
This post originally appeared on the Knox Theological Seminary Blog.