The Power of Liturgy
Drawing Near to God
Why Liturgical Worship?
It is not just for a by-gone generation! Our younger generation is rediscovering the power of deep worship.
Almost thirty years ago, I can remember sitting around the EYC (Youth Group) room with four other adults and about fifty teenagers talking about worship in the Episcopal Church. It was pretty unanimous, even among the adults there. It was time to turn off the organ, bring out the guitars and drums, and really get down to worshipping God. Ramped up energy and Eucharistic Prayer “E” were the order of the day. (In case that doesn’t ring a bell, it is just the basic structure of the Eucharist found on BCP 400). No more boring liturgy that no one really understood. Get the disco balls and strobe lights warmed up. It was time to rock with God. It was definitely an energetic experience, but unfortunately most of the young people in that room are no longer in the church today. It wasn't that liturgical worship was weak, it was that the power of liturgical worship was not well presented.
Today, the surprising fact is that young worshippers are finding their way back. There is a significant movement among young people to abandon smoke machines, multi-purpose buildings, and rock star pastors with long hair, t-shirts, and holes in their worn jeans. Many of today’s youth are re-discovering the power of sacrament, tradition, and…yes, wait for it…liturgy!
When asked why, here is what these returnees say they are being drawn to:
Authenticity – They are growing tired of the gimmicks and tricks. They are the most marketed to generation to ever walk this planet. As one author put it, “They don’t need church to be something that it is not—an entertainment venue, a relationship course, a nightclub. They find it refreshing to enter a building which openly proclaims itself as a sacred worship space and to take part in ceremonies and rhythms which unashamedly focus on deeply worshipping an amazing God.”
Rootedness – In today’s world of light-speed change, believe it or not, there is a growing desire to be rooted and grounded in the traditions of the original church where people, along with the joy of knowing Christ, also embraced the words of Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God!”
Mystery – God cannot be contained in a 15 minute sermon, or even in 45 minutes. Ancient forms of worship liturgy allow us to return to an expansive sense of mystery, rather than trying to keep God captive within our meager words and limited understanding. Liturgy provides a profound and systematic path that helps us push through in order to draw near to God in the fullness of worship. While not abandoning the uplift of praise, it also allows us to continue to stand, and kneel, with an attitude of awe towards our incredible Lord.
Symbolism – In today’s world, people have become deeply visual. Shane Hipps, author of Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith describes it like this: “The word-centered, book-dependent communication style of previous generations has given way to a love affair with symbols and imagery, which are far better expressed in ancient liturgies than in contemporary worship.”
Participation – Sacramental worship offers a hands-on, multi-sensory, participatory act of a community in worship. Liturgy brings people together into a congregation actively engaging God, rather than an audience passively receiving a product.
Worshipping in a traditional, liturgical style, is powerful on many levels. Our liturgy, which came into being within the early church, is specifically designed to provide us a path that brings us into communion with God through Sacred Word, both Uplifting and Solemn Music, Sincere Prayer, and Powerful Sacrament. And then, through that ever deepening relationship, it calls us and sends us to embrace the world in His name being led by His wisdom and equipping.
Traditional liturgy is truly a gift worth exploring and sharing. If this style of worship has not been your experience, I invite you to come and see. If you have already found the power of liturgical worship, I encourage you to share that good news.
Liturgical Worship; it is a powerful way for all generations to draw near to God!