Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Body of Liturgy III

Humans are embodied creatures, who cannot be reduced to their mind, soul, or even belief. We are heart, soul, mind and strength. Following a Biblically informed anthropology, liturgy is able to minister to the whole-person by encouraging whole-bodied love for God. That is the argument of theological anthropologist James K.A. Smith; Christian liturgy is designed to minister to the whole person. Within corporate worship, liturgy deepens our imagination for the Kingdom: reading and teaching the word, prayer, confession and assurance, welcoming and hospitality, sending out, the ecclesiastical calendar and singing. Indeed, the call to worship in song follows the call of the Psalms to fulfill our vocation as humans who worship their creator (Psalm 95:6-7). Even in the sacraments, we are given a tangible enactments of the gospel, depicting God’s grace towards us in Jesus Christ.[1] Through touch and taste and sight, their rhythms remind us that we live by faith, remembering the past in anticipation of the future: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Christian liturgy is formative because it is charged by the word and the Spirit in embodying the gospel.[2]
Christian liturgy invites us to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). The liturgical habits of corporate worship, and the flow-on affect they have in the daily liturgies of the week, offer practices which are “dense” and charged with formative power through the Spirit. As Cranmer noted, these liturgies encourage “the most perfect and godly living”.[3] Insomuch as the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is re-enacted through these habits, our hearts are also directed towards loving God and desiring his kingdom. The habits of corporate-worship are a guard against alternative secular-liturgies that also seek to from our hearts and desires.

[1] The same is true of Israel’s festivals outlined in Deuteronomy 16. See David Peterson, Encountering God Together: Biblical Patterns for Ministry and Worship (Nottingham: IVP, 2013), 63-66.

[2] Cf. James K. A. Smith, ‘Sanctification for Ordinary Life’, Reformed Worship 103 (March 2012), 20.

[3] Thomas Cranmer, ‘Of Ceremonies: Why Some be Abolished, and Some Retained’ in The Book of Common Prayer 1662 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), xii.

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