Hi everyone. Rob here.
Last week I wrote about how the past never stays in the past. On Sunday I saw a beautiful example of how the holy in the past can come through to the present as well. I took a break from the church where I’m the pastor and went to the Anglican Cathedral in our city. It’s a place I sometimes go to when my soul is troubled, busy or confused. There’s something about the rituals, the liturgy and the Eucharist that connect me once again to God’s grace and love. After the service I had a real sense of being deeply connected to God’s ongoing redemptive story that began in the garden all those years ago.
There are three aspects that helped with that connection: participation, scripture and ritual.
Participation: Whether it was saying communal prayers, kneeling, singing, passing on the peace, receiving communion while kneeling at the altar or simply standing together, the service was very participatory. We were in it together, and that carried with it the sense of being in it with saints past, present and future.
Scripture: We read from Jeremiah, Hebrews and Mark, with a special ritual before the words of Jesus were read. Scripture saturated the prayers, the liturgy and the hymns. Here’s an example from ‘The Collect’ – a beautiful short prayer offered together by the people:
O God, you give light to the blind and comfort to the sorrowing, and in your Son you have given us a High Priest who has offered the true sacrifice for us and yet can sympathise with us in our weakness: hear the cry of your people and lead us home to our true country, where with your Son and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God in glory everlasting. Amen.
Here you see Isaiah, Hebrews, Exodus and Romans in just a few lines. The effect of this is that mind and heart resonate with scriptural truth in a way that sermons only sometimes achieve.
Ritual: We all have rituals in life and every church has it’s own rituals, whether they admit to them or not. Rituals always carry the danger of becoming merely ceremonial and devoid of significance. The rituals at the cathedral, however, carried weight because they helped tell the redemptive story. There were rituals around the bringing in of the word, the reading of the gospel, the communal time of confession, communion, the saying of the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed and more. The ritual would say, pay attention! This is significant. It matters greatly. The fact that these rituals have been carried out for many years added to the weight of them.
Now, I’m not saying we should all head down to the Cathedral and become High Church liturgists! I love my church and how we do things. What I am saying is that we all need to be connected to the story that God has been telling since the creation of the world. This connection to the past, present and future of God’s redemptive plan needs to come to us by a variety of means so that we feel profoundly and personally connected to it. The service on Sunday helped me, but what helps you?
I entered that service with the fallout from a personal failure trying to send unhelpful messages to my heart. I left feeling re-called into God’s kingdom and purposes, and embraced as a son with authority in the estate. Perfect? No. Redeemed? Yes. So, go where you need to go to re-connect with the God of history, the God of past, present and future. Then re-engage with your world because you, my friend, have a vital role to play.
Grace and peace everyone.