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Entries in Fred Sanders (1)

Wednesday
Dec212016

The protection of liturgy

I confess to having absolutely no aversion to liturgy. Every church has a liturgy, of course. Some use a prescribed liturgy such as the kind found in the Book of Common Prayer, and some churches have a less structured liturgy, but if we have an order of service, we have liturgy. 

I started reading Fred Sanders' book The Deep Things of God. Wow. What an excellent writer! I love it so far. In this book, Sanders explores how the Trinity is part of the fabric of our faith, even though we may not realize it (something he refers to as tacit Trinitarianism). Once we realize the foundatioin of our Trinitarian faith, we can probe its depths.

One way our Trinitarianism can become foundational is through things such as liturgy. Sanders aims to show how Trinitarianism is foundational to evangelical faith, but it is also foundational to churches which use liturgy. The majority of the book focuses on how Trinitarianism is evident in more evangelical elements such as the gospel itself, prayer, Bible Study, and conversion. But he includes the reality that liturgy builts Trinitarianism into the church. He does not suggest that every non-liturgical church suddenly become liturgical, but neither does he dismiss liturgy, which I found refreshing. I remember the days, early in my faith, when I stuck my nose in the air after attending a Baptist church with a liturgical form. There was no way I was going to attend that church. I've softened.

Sanders quotes Gerald Bray on the topic of liturgy, and I found his comments interesting:

If the service is good and the spirit of the congregation is right, a fixed liturgy may appear to be an irrelevance, even a constraint on the freedom of the Spirit . . . But when the times of dryness come, when we reach a plateau in our spiritual growth, then the structure of a liturgy that keeps both the biblical depth and the biblical balance can provide us with fresh inspiration and keep us from falling into the many different errors caused by our natural proclivity toward omission and distortion. A person who is well trained in biblical liturgy will have a feel for what is orthodox because it will be embedded into his consciousness.

A few years ago, I took the time to actually look at the Book of Common Prayer. I was interested in the guides for daily prayer. I wanted to incorporate more Scripture into my prayer, and I looked at it online before buying one myself. It was a great way to introduce a rhythm into my prayer time which included regular, daily Psalm reading as well as following a set Scripture reading plan. I am a person who does well with order and rhythm, so it was very helpful to me at a time when I felt a little dry. When you look closely at it, the liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer has a lot of Scripture; sometimes, more Scripture is covered in the morning prayer time than is covered in a church service at my own church. You may think I'm falling of the deep end, but consider what other women do when they have times of spiritual dryness. Sometimes, they look for "new" and "better" ways to connect with God, like through books such as Jesus Calling.

When women feel spiritually dry, they look for ways to be closer to him. Perhaps their daily devotion time is falling flat, and they don't know what to pray. They want something to liven things up; so they are drawn to books that promise them a deeper relationship with God, all the while forgetting that the best way to draw close to God is to listen to him speaking to them and dwelling on the truth of who he is. I believe what Bray says may be helpful for avoiding this need to stray toward books like Jesus Calling. I know that when I am spiritually dry, falling back on a better rhythm helps me from looking in areas that won't ultimately have a lasting effect. Even if it's my personal prayer time, a little liturgy helps.