Many of you are familiar with the word “liturgy.” In most minds, the word conjures up images of public worship services that are formal, reverent, and predictable.
“Liturgical” churches worship through traditional/ancient music, recite creeds & prayers, and place the communion table in the center of the altar area while the preaching space is off to the side. If you have attended a Roman Catholic or an Episcopal church — or even a good many United Methodist congregations — then you know what a “liturgical” service is like.
As you might suspect, Good Shepherd is not typically defined as a church heavy on liturgy.
However, I believe that this past weekend of Christmas-oriented worship gatherings captured the essence of “liturgy” at both Moss Road and Zoar Road.
That’s because the word “liturgy” literally means “the work of the people.” So a “liturgical” service is less about worship style and more about people participation. And that understanding of “liturgical” very much defines what happened this past weekend. Here’s are five reasons why:
1.Our 5 p.m. Kid-Centric Christmas Eve Service featured four different meditations given by four different GS leaders. My only role in that service was to start the candle-lighting portion of the festivities. Of the four “meditations,” my favorite came from high school senior Rachel Brooks . . . a Jesus-centered young woman I have known since she was in diapers.
2.All THREE Moss Road worship gatherings began with 10 year old David Clayton reciting Luke 2:1-21 FROM MEMORY. What is the point of getting together on Christmas Eve if you’re not going to tell the Christmas story? And what better way to tell it than to recite Dr. Luke’s version of it? And what better way to do that than to enlist the services of a precocious ten year old? At all three services, David was unflappable and the ensuing move of the Spirit was unstoppable.
3.Chris Thayer and Sammy Gonzalez preached live at our Zoar Road and Latino Campuses. That’s not unusual for Sammy, who typically takes and then personalizes my sermon for delivery in the Latino service. Yet the primary method of sermon delivery at Zoar Road is my message from Moss Road on high resolution video. For Christmas Eve, however, we had Chris go “live.” (We’ve got some other surprises up our sleeve along those lines for 2017.)
4. On Christmas morning, Madison Reeder delivered the meditation. I know that a good many churches decided not to have a Sunday Christmas morning service, given all the emphasis put on Christmas Eve. We ultimately decided to offer one, with the provision that I greatly discouraged staff from attending. So it was “high touch, low tech” in our new Living Room, with volunteers leading the a capella singing of some of our favorite Christmas carols. Madison’s message — called When God Drops By When You’re A Hot Mess — was marvelous moment in full circle ministry. When Julie and I arrived at Mt. Carmel UMC in Monroe in July of 1990, Madison was 11 months old and her family had lifetime ties to that church. So I have known her all her life. What’s more, on a Sunday in 1994 (I think), I invited her father Bill Reeder preach for me at Mt. Carmel. Fast forward 22 years, and Madison has moved to Indian Land, SC, (convenient to Good Shepherd) and is one of our children’s ministry leaders at the Zoar Campus. So when I knew I wanted the people to hear a different voice than mine on Christmas morning, Madison was the first person I thought of. She immediately said “yes,” and her content AND delivery on Sunday were terrific.
5.I didn’t feel great about my own “Pin Drop” message on Saturday night. I wrestled with it all week. We changed some of the technical support for it. And then — horror of horrors! — during the Saturday night singing I decided to change the bottom line. The BOTTOM LINE! This never happens. The end result was that I did more “talk to thinking” than my usual “think to talk-ing.” But in the middle of my delivery and even my discomfort, I kept remembering: “oh yeah . . . this weekend is way more about the work of the people than my sermonic precision. God’s got it, the people are filled with his Spirit, and we’re going to be OK.” And so we were.
And now you know how we at Good Shepherd became a “liturgical” church.