One of the ways I am reengaging with God is through liturgy. Even though my husband is a pastor in a definitively evangelical church, a church which I have no intention of leaving, it’s been a healing experience to walk ancient paths week after week, repeating thousand-year-old prayers and returning again and again to a familiar sequence and pattern.
Perhaps liturgy is a way for me to deal with my uncertainty. There is comfort in sameness.
I also find comfort in the anonymity of being “just another church go-er.” Each week I slide quietly into my pew, alone. The Saturday service is sparsely attended, so I see the same faces each week. I clasp hands and pass peace, and, after many months, even know names and share stories with people who know I will only ever be a visitor in their midst.Liturgy is a way for me to deal with my uncertainty. There is comfort in sameness.Click To Tweet
They know it, and they welcome me all the same. Even taking time, in the beginning, to explain when to stand or bow or sit or kneel so I won’t feel out of place.
Together we’ve followed the liturgical calendar a full cycle around, the blue of Advent, the red of Christmas, the glorious white of Easter and the long green weeks of ordinary time. All the way around, we’ve journeyed to the somber, purple weeks of Lent, each week warmly welcoming and steadfastly unchanging.
Until this season of Lent began again.
This Lenten season the priest decided to change the rite we normally follow in the Common Book of Prayer. The pattern is familiar, but the words, the prayers, the responses are all slightly different. The discomfort and unfamiliarity are palpable in the room. Our recitations are jumbled and out of sync. There is an audible shuffling of pages through every transition, and even padded kneelers aren’t sufficient to soften our awkward pauses.
Each week we stutter, stumble and begin again, pressing through the discomfort until our voices align in unison. Each week the responses flow more readily and the prayers of penitence penetrate deeper into the dark places of our hearts and souls.
We’re stumbling through Lent together, dragged out of the familiar comfort of what we know onto an uncertain, less traveled path.
Maybe that’s what Lent is all about after all. Not merely the sacrifice of objects which may impede our worship, but a shift from comfort to discomfort. We’re meant to feel out of place and out of sync with each other and certainly with the world around us. We’re preparing for death, a process which isn’t meant to be easy or familiar.Faith is a series of little deaths and rebirths, each one bringing us closer to the center, Christ JesusClick To Tweet
Isn’t this the way of faith? It’s a constant series of little deaths and rebirths over and over again, each one bringing us around closer to the center, Christ Jesus. He is big enough to contain both life and death, and He is able to deliver us to them and through them as well. We travel a path at times smooth and certain, and at times darkened by shadow, but it is always the same path.
Easter is nearly upon us with its sunrise services and triumphal songs. Christ is risen!, we’ll say. He is risen indeed. But I think this year I may reflect a little longer on the gift of Life and Light, because we stumbled first through Lent, a time both somber and uncertain.
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