Mark Buchanan on Liturgy

In his wonderful book, The Rest of God:  Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, Mark Buchanan muses on the meaning of “liturgy”:

“I was converted within a Low Church tradition … Yet over time I began to realize that the Low Church is just as bound by liturgy as any church, and maybe more so because we think we’re not.  The Low Church enshrines–makes a liturgy of–austerity, spontaneity, informality.  And we have our unwritten but nonetheless rigorously observed codes and protocols.  We love our traditions, even our rigmarole, every bit as much as the next guy, only ours is earthy, rustic, folksy.

“So I changed my mind about liturgy.  It certainly can become dull and rote, but so can anything … At its best, liturgy comprises the gestures by which we honor transcendent reality.  It helps us give concrete expression to deepest convictions.  It gives us choreography for things unseen and allows us to brush heaven among the shades of earth.

“Our most significant relationships and events have a liturgical shape to them.  They have rites of passage.  Birthdays and homecomings, graduations and good-byes.  Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter, birth and death and marriage:  all are marked by words and actions, songs and symbols, customs and traditions that enact them and complete them.  And all these things also provide us with a means of entering them.  What is a birthday without a cake, at least one candle burning on it, and a huddle of well-wishers, wearing clownish hats, singing in their ragged, hoary voices?  What is a birthday without a liturgy?

“What liturgy accomplishes is nothing short of astonishing:  It breaks open the transcendent within the ordinary and the everyday.  It lets us glimpse the deeper reality–the timeless things, the universal ones, the things above–within this particular instance of it” (The Rest of God, 8-9).

Buchanan goes on to explain meaning of the Greek word for “liturgy” in its ancient context, and why it was “odd” for the early church to use it to describe its public worship. But, you’ll just have to get the book and read it for yourself.  It’s well worth it!

Bruce Benedict and the Liturgy Fellowship

I’m going to be sharing more material from my friend Bruce Benedict, Director of Worship and Community Life at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (PCA – Raleigh).  Bruce is on the forefront of the movement to bring ancient liturgical traditions into a contemporary setting.  Bruce blogs and shares his song-writing work at Cardiphonia, which has a bunch of great resources.  Bruce has also recently started a group effort called the Liturgy Fellowship:  “The Liturgy Fellowship is a site dedicated to listing resources for Worship Leaders, pastors, musicians and other Worship Artists.”

Some recent insightful posts from Bruce’s blog include:  “Liturgical Caffeine for Sunday Worship” and his reflections on the recent National Worship Leaders Conference.  A tantilizing excerpt:  “While the morning worship services were a bit more subdued, the evening services (not concerts according to the artists) were consistently hitting the 90-95 decibel mark.  Which according to most charts means hearing loss with sustained exposure.  The message I took home was that God is so powerful he will rock my ear drums to pieces in worship. Or possibly that in modern worship we are called to suffer bodily for Jesus.  The technology present in much of modern worship is part of the DNA of the sound and experience.  It really exists as a lesser member of the Trinity.  (Or could possibly be a replacement for one of the other members that rarely gets mentioned).”

Bruce attended the conference with Zac Hicks, wh0 also has a helpful overview of the conference.  Bruce and Zac collaborated on a eucharistic hymn, based on the Emmaus Road narrative.  The song is typologically rich, Biblically-grounded, and reflects Calvin’s theology of the Lord’s Supper.  It is also singable, which is a chief fault of many contemporary Christian songs.

Leithart on Liturgy in Song of Solomon

Peter Leithart has some intriguing thoughts about the liturgical implications of the Song of Solomon:

“The opening statement of Song of Songs 2 is spoken by the Bride, but the Bridegroom chimes in with an enhancement.  This is the liturgical structure of conversation, and of life, and of love.  When Adam named the animals, he found no one to share in His priestly task in the garden-sanctuary of God.  He is not looking first of all for a sexual partner, or even a friend, but for a liturgical partner.  He needs someone who will speak back to his word.  Eve is created to speak back to Adam the enhancing, glorifying word of the bride, as humanity, the Bride of God, speaks back to her divine Husband.  As James Jordan says, women were created to talk back to men, and that back-talk is primarily liturgical, though the liturgy finally encompasses all of life.

This is the structure of the Psalms and Proverbs.

In many Psalms, the verses are two lines long; the first states something or exclaims a praise to God, and the second is the enhancing, glorifying response.  The second line “parallels” the first, but it is not merely a restatement.  It is the glorifying, feminine response to the masculine statement of the first line.  “Bless the Lord, O my soul” says the priest; “And all that is within me, bless His holy name,” comes the Bridal reply.  That dialogic structure is inherent in much of the church’s liturgical tradition.”

Read the rest here …

On the “road to Rome”?

Contributor Rev. John Allen Bankson (PCA) has started a new series at his personal blog which is highly relevant to the issues we are sorting through:

On the “road to Rome”? (Part 1)

On the “road to Rome”? (Part 2)