I believe in liturgy

by Lowell Chilton in ,

Reflections on liturgy from a millennial seminarian. 

In peace let us pray to the Lord.

I believe in liturgy. Liturgy, or really leiturgia, is the corporate and private prayer that ties the church together.

For the peace from above, and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord.

Liturgy nurtures faith, strengthens commitment, and heals wounds.

For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the church of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.

Liturgy takes us out of our daily life, out of ourselves, out of our churches, and joins us to the koinonia of the whole church throughout all time.

For this holy house, and for all who offer here their worship and praise, let us pray to the Lord.

Liturgy is something ancient and something current and something future. 

Help, save, comfort and defend us gracious Lord.

Liturgy is alive.

Alleluia. Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Alleluia.

Liturgy brings the Word to life. Through living liturgy, we are able to glimpse the living Word and the life eternal. 

Into your hands we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

In the fall of 2014, there was a shooting in a public school north of Seattle. Around noon, some of us at the School of Theology and Ministry gathered together for a moment of prayer. Not entirely sure of how to end the prayer, I recalled these words. My entire life I had heard the pastor say them to finish the prayers of the church but I had never said in them worship. They came to me in the moment and were the right way to close the prayer time and move us into the Lord’s Prayer. We were a Lutheran, an Episcopalian, a Presbyterian, and a Congregationalist, and we were united in that moment and connected to the broader Christian community by the liturgy that goes beyond us.

The peace of Christ be with you always.

Liturgy connects us to the Holy Kiss, shared through the Christian community since the beginning of the Church. This Holy Kiss is a deep peace settling the heart and binding together the local community and the community throughout time.

In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread …

A few years ago, before I was in seminary, I was at a camp with my youth group. We were there with the youth group from a United Church of Christ congregation near ours. We realized on Friday afternoon that we had forgotten to arrange for a local clergy person to come for closing Eucharist; often one of the youth groups has an ordained person accompanying them. We decided that we would go ahead anyway. When we got to the part of worship for communion I was the adult closest to the table, so they all looked at me to go up and lead. I had not planned to lead communion and did not have a worship book with me, but I went up anyway and started into the words of institution. And my mind went blank. Seated to the right of the table was a Catholic teenager who had come as a friend of someone in the UCC youth group. She began prompting me on the words and we made it through together. Liturgy had nurtured her and all of us so that we were able to come together around the table even when the words failed.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Liturgy brings to life the mystery of faith. When we proclaim together the mystery of faith in public prayer and remember it in private prayer, it becomes more fixed in our hearts transforms the way we live.

This is my body, given for you.

At a recent wedding, I was placed in charge of ensuring that the chalice for communion contained the special wedding wine that one of the fathers had made. As I placed the chalice on the table, I saw the single loaf of bread on the table and immediately began singing “One Bread, One Body” to myself. Several days later this was still caught in my head as my newly married friend and I went for breakfast at a diner. While we were looking over the menu I started singing it and we started talking about it. The server overheard and this launched us into a discussion of worship music with a complete stranger. Liturgy joined us together across denominations and space.

This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.

There is a little boy at the church hosting my field education experience this year.  He is energetic and expressive at all times, but especially when he comes to communion. He throws his entire upper body, from the waist up, as far across the rail as he can in anticipation. And when he dips the bread in the cup, he usually dunks his entire hand in the wine. This is liturgy nurturing faith. This is connection to the eternal life in the community of Christ that comes through the Sacraments, which are made alive in the liturgy.

Go in peace. Serve the Lord.

Liturgy sends us out to share Christ with the whole world. Liturgy does not reside in the building, in us, or in the church alone, but in all of the world.


Liturgy excerpts are from Holy Communion Setting 1 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship.