Last night I found myself at one of the most beautiful churches in the area, sitting with a friend, celebrating the bright sadness that is Ash Wednesday. It was a transcendent experience as liturgical services often are.  I recently wrote a few paragraphs on why I love liturgy to a new friend.  I thought I’d share it here with you four. 🙂

I am a big picture person, so when I think about the church, I think about the Kingdom, as in all people worshipping God across time and space.  I think of the great number of believers who have gone before, (Abraham! the disciples! the early church in Rome! the gospel spreading across the whole world! the monastic, missional and revival movements!), I think of everyone across the world right at this moment worshipping with all their languages and political backgrounds and racial groups, then I think of the snapshot in revelation of us all worshipping together at one moment in the future–the great cloud of witnesses in Heaven around God’s throne. So, that’s reality, and on Sunday, I want to be thinking about that–the big picture of the Kingdom.

but let’s be honest: my little story is what I’m obsessed with.  All week i’m in my own head and thinking of my needs, my anxieties, my concerns, my job, my clothes, my world.  All week, I’m living in my story, trying to find God, asking Him to intervene, to help me process, to come and speak, trying to pull him down (and, graciously, he’s incarnate and he comes and meets me where I’m at.  yay God!).  When I go to worship on Sunday, I want to escape out of my own little myopic world into something bigger, into the Kingdom. I want the relief of knowing that my world is not the world and that God is bigger, on His throne, reigning over everything.

I feel like liturgy and hymns and creeds and tradition are like a net that lifts me out of my own world. It’s a huge relief to come to church and forget about my own story, to be lifted up into a realm where I hear the gospel story (creation, fall, redemption) over and over again in the creeds, the hymns, the readings, the sermon. It’s awesome. It gives me context. Also, there’s a lot of talk in liturgy about the saints and when I hear saints, I don’t think of creepy people with gold plates behind their heads, I think of bible characters and great missionaries and people who have loved God and pushed back the darkness in their own ways.  It’s sweet to remember them.

By contrast, when I go to more modern church services, the worship songs aren’t usually about the character of God, the state of my sinfulness or the promises of the gospel–they’re usually about how I feel towards God.  Which is great if I’m feeling good and connected, but honestly, often I’m not. It’s better to sing about what I know is true about God rather than what I feel about him.  One of my favorite hymns is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” where every stanza starts with feeling disconnected from God and how that doesn’t matter.  The truth of the gospel is what matters.  It’s a relief to sing it because I don’t have to conjure up any feelings–I can just be where I am and let God do the rest.

Also, liturgy unites me with other believers because the basic service has been around for centuries. Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican–they’ve all go the same basic structure to the liturgy and if you study it, it mirrors the 5 Old Testament sacrifices that God set up as His original order of worship in His ideal society.  Plus, my favorite part of the service is where you sing “Holy Holy Holy” and acknowledge that you’re singing along with the angels in heaven.  Pretty cool. My favorite part of the year is going to a high church Easter Vigil to celebrate the resurrection late at night. It’s amazing.

There you go. Liturgy gets me out of my own head and puts me in a bigger story, a larger context where heaven and the past and the future come crowding in close and my little worries fall away. It’s a beautiful relief.