Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Why Behind our Liturgy

A couple of you have asked why we have chosen to have the liturgy that we do on Saturday nights so I thought it might help to explain it a bit more. Here we go.

First of all, in order to understand the why behind our liturgy, you need to know why it's important to have a liturgy in the first place. When you think of that term, does it scare you? Do you think of medieval, non-feeling, inauthentic, ancient faith when you hear someone mention a liturgy? I know I did for a long time. I always thought that liturgy, meaning an order of service, was a dead tradition. That is, until we started our Sabbath dinners. Now stick with me for a moment.

A liturgy itself is not the problem. You can walk into any church and find people simply going through the motions whether there is a deemed "liturgy" or not. And in fact, many churches who say they don't have a liturgy, really do have one. They just don't want to call it that. Every church has an order to their service and well surprisingly, it gives order to the whole thing. Without it, there would be chaos and people wouldn't know what was coming next and that would distract them from worship. A liturgy is meant to enhance and aid in people worshiping God because it gives them an outline of where they need to go. The term liturgy has just gotten a bad rap in the modern church age as many are trying to move as far from traditionalism as possible. And I'm not saying I haven't thought the same thing either. But I have come to see that a liturgy isn't necessarily the problem.

So, if you're having a hard time with that term, know that I understand where you're coming from, but there's really no need to be afraid of it. Repetition and order teach us, who so easily forget, how to stay the course. God had his people, the Israelites, keep to certain ceremonies that had order and they also had an annual calendar that reminded them of the God they served. That's also another argument for looking more into knowing and following the church calendar (which I am just starting to learn a bit about and never thought was important at all before) but...I'm getting off-topic. The point is, we have a liturgy on Saturdays that is pretty much the same because it helps us know what is going on and it teaches our children, through repetition, how to worship God.

So that's the reason for the liturgy in the first place. Now I'll explain why we do it as we do. Again, know that this is our way. You can feel free to pattern your dinner after whatever you want to. It's your family. It's your style. This is just what we do. We follow somewhat loosely, a traditional Sabbath dinner in a Jewish home. That is why we light white candles and use white linens and such in a lot of our meal. However, I also got a lot of ideas from the article I've mentioned including the idea of praising each family member. Nancy Wilson also talks a ton about Sabbath Dinners on the Femina blog under Sabbath Living. I'm not sure if praising each family member is traditionally Jewish or not. I don't know where that comes from. But we liked it and used the same passages that Nancy Campbell, the author of the aforementioned article, had outlined for each person in the family. I do know that in a Jewish home the Father always takes the lead and bestows blessings on his family. How that plays out in your home, is really entirely up to you and your husband.

Here's the bulk of our liturgy:

Proverbs 31: The virtuous woman. Fitting for the husband to read about his wife in front of their children and then praise her for something she has done or just for who she is. We start with this because, as the husband leads, he loves his wife first. Therefore, she is the first to be praised and honored (yes...I love this).

Proverbs 3: This passage my husband chose for our boys. It is a passage written directly from a father to his son. We used to have a separate passage for each child but it got too tedious. It was meaningful but too much for the kids at their age. Maybe when they're older and can sit longer to listen, Steve can again choose a passage for each. Proverbs 3 is a beautiful passage relegating all the wisdom a father would want to pass on to his son(s).

Psalm 127-128: These Psalms talk about the blessings God gives to the man who fears him. They include a happy, fruitful home where the wife and children are flourishing, and remind the hearers that unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. It exhorts the blessed man that one day he may see his "children's children" and how that is among one of the most cherished earthly blessings a man can have. That is why we read this passage for my husband.

Communion: We take communion weekly at church and our children participate with us. We see it as God feeding us. Therefore, we see it as fitting to teach our children more about the Lord's Supper by practicing it on Saturday nights. We pray for the bread (Steve does) and then partake. Then we pray for the wine and then partake. It's a time for celebrating and remembering. That's why we always dip our hands before, to symbolize cleansing (the kids love this) and ask forgiveness if need be, and then why we remember all that God has done for us by toasting at the end and exclaiming "God has been good to us!".

The Doxology/Gloria Patri: We usually sing the Gloria Patri, which is a traditional song that is sung at the end of our church service on Sundays every week. Sometimes though, we sing the Doxology. The point is to sing a short hymn together. It reminds our children of church and leaves a sweet taste in their mouths for the next morning. It also concludes our little order of service.

Then we eat!!

So that is pretty much it. It takes us about 20 minutes to get through the liturgy. When we have guests, it takes a bit longer as there are more people to be spoken about (no one gets left out!). Also, we give the kids a small piece of chocolate, at the beginning to remind them of God's goodness and sweetness in their lives. It also helps, practically speaking, as they get a little snack right off the bat and can then wait a bit for their meal. Sometimes I still dispense a small snack to the littlest ones (like puffs or cheerios) because we don't want it to be a horrible experience for them. We want it to be joyous. That usually seems to help and doesn't spoil their appetites too much.

Hope you're enjoying this little series. More next time.

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