When I began my journey into the liturgical church, many referred to it as “walking the Canterbury trail.” While this isn’t a bad way to express it, I’ve recently come to a place and position that would push back gently on this expression. I have not been walking the Canterbury trail; I have been walking the path of the Church.
Let me unpack that a little. Basically what I’m saying is that liturgical worship did not begin with the Canterbury trail. Liturgical worship has been part of the worship of God’s people since He has set apart a people for Himself. If you doubt that, I submit to you that you have not read carefully enough what we would call the Old Testament.
Throughout the details that God gives to His people of how they are to approach and worship Him, He gives strict liturgical practices they are to follow. Those practices were not for the gathered worship assembly only by the way. Those liturgical practices were for all aspects of their lives. God laid out the rhythm of their lives based on feasts and harvests and on and on. In other words, God’s people were told to live all their lives by a certain pattern of time and way of life based on what God said, not what they decided. This is the point, by the way, of the Church calendar.
This is critically important for us to understand in the Church today. We don’t get to make this up as we go along. The worship of God, indeed how we are to live our very lives, is dictated by the One who gave us life.
We are far too individualistic in our approach and attitude toward our lives and our worship. We are far too worried about what we feel or what we want, what is “relevant” or what “resonates” with us. I even had an Anglican priest whom I know say to me that the “tools of Anglicanism” worked best for him and that’s why he was Anglican. He said that if it ever stopped working, he’d just walk away.
Let’s just stop and think about that for a second. This is the problem in the Church today. We think God’s prescriptions of how His people are to live are “tools” that, if they work for us are to be used but if not, they are to be discarded.
The hubris of this is astounding and so very sad.
As I have walked deeper into this way of living with the Church and walking with God, I have found a peace that is hard to describe. I have begun to drink from a very deep well of very ancient wisdom and I have found it to be wonderful, profound and life-changing. I have begun to worry less about my own self interests and desires and am learning to submit.
This is a dirty word to most of us: Submit.
We don’t want to submit to our government, our boss, the laws of our country. We most certainly don’t want to submit to one another or to a priest or bishop or even the authority of God’s Word or of His Church. We are in very grave danger spiritually when we refuse to submit.
In this I have discovered very great freedom. In submitting to the authority of God’s Word and His Church, I have found so much peace. I don’t feel like I have to worry so much now about my preferences or whether I like or don’t like something ‘cause it ain’t about me.
Guess what? It’s not about you either.
I was once the pastor of a church here in Nashville. It was a non denominational Acts 29 church. As their pastor, I was firmly convinced of the need for us as a congregation to submit to the teachings of and the worship of the Church. So we began to install liturgical worship and I began to have teaching sessions on the liturgy; what it meant, its history and the Scripture references where the source could be found.
A question from one of the members was asked. The question was along these lines: “This seems like a lot.” That part was more a statement of their personal feelings but nevertheless…”Can’t we shorten this? Can we contextualize this?”
My response was probably perceived as being impertinent or snarky. I said, “I do not have the authority, nor do you, to change what the Church has been saying to God in worship for the better part of 2000 years.”
Our pride is dangerous.
Our pride has infected the Church.
We need to repent and pray and submit to the Church. I’m not suggesting that we just accept what is taught blindly. I’m saying that, if the teaching of the Church lines up with what the Scriptures have to say (our ultimate authority) then we need to swallow our pride and preference and submit.
In our submission to God’s Word and His Church, we will find a depth that we have longed for and a peace that passes our own understanding. And maybe, just maybe we will find, in that submission, great freedom.
Soli Deo Gloria!