by Paula Francis Price (beingmolded.org)
Recently, my husband and I were looking for a new church. We both had lists of what we wanted in worship. But as we visited different churches, all of which are a beautiful representation of the body of Christ, we realized, our souls deeply desired a service that pointed us towards Jesus, and for us, that meant a liturgical service.
Regardless of whether I was attending church in South Carolina, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, India, Dubai, or Georgia, the repetitive motions of the liturgical services have been a reminder that worship is about God.
I studied abroad in Dharmsala, India. While there, I learned Tibetan and studied Buddhism at the Dali Llama’s school. I attended a little Anglican church, where the entire congregation spoke Hindi. The priest could only say “cupcake” in English, and I only understood enough Hindi to watch Bollywood movies.
Despite the language barrier, when it came time for confession, I recited the words in English as the congregation recited the words in Hindi. As the Priest pronounced me cleansed from my sins in Hindi, I felt the Holy Spirit affirm his words.
Despite knowing that private confession works and practicing private confession regularly, hearing a priest absolve me of my sins, reminds me that it is Jesus’ death on a cross, not my hard work, that washes away the stain of my sin.
Greg Goebel writes, “The voice speaks, and the people hear audibly that God has mercy, that he forgives, and that he does so through Jesus Christ. The human conscience needs to hear that voice.”
As I stand with the body of Christ, I feel the freedom to bare my soul before God. To share with him all the ways that I have fallen short. The grace to do that within a community reminds me that we are one body of Christ.
Passing of the Peace
I fancy myself a social justice warrior. I would much rather be focusing on the hope of the kingdom of God than the broken relationships my pride leaves in its wake. And yet, God calls me to seek peace in every aspect of my life.
Tish Warren writes, “I can get caught up in big ideas of justice and truth and neglect the small opportunities around me to extend kindness, forgiveness and grace.”
I am close to both my sisters, but that closeness has never stopped us from fighting. Often arguments would accompany getting ready for and driving to church. When my family passes the peace, we kiss each other on the cheek. Even before I understood the significance of saying, peace be with you, the resentment and anger from any previous fight would melt away, when we would extend the peace and kissed each other.
While there is nothing magical about saying the words, peace be with you, the act of weekly extending peace is a repetitive motion that teaches us to be a reconciled people. Every week, I’m reminded of the reality that Jesus desires me to be a person of peace.
Our world is divided, and the divisions seem to get deeper and uglier each day. But when I turn to my pew neighbor, I don’t get to ask, “Do you agree with me on politics?” before I extend my hand and say, “peace be with you.”
Jesus said, “I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
The church is supposed to a foretaste of the diverse kingdom we see in Revelation. Finding a church where you agree with everyone is not only impossible; it also robs you of the opportunity to learn to be a person of peace.
The passing of the peace reminds me who it is that has reconciled us to one another. It’s not my maturity that allowed me to forgive my sisters – if I were waiting for that, we would still be at odd – but Jesus who reconciles us to one another. The simple act of passing the peace reminds me that it is Jesus, not me that brings peace.
Two weeks ago, my unborn baby boy danced on my bladder throughout the night. I slept less than two hours before my three-year-old woke up, ready to play candy land. By the time the service had started, I was asleep with my eyes open.
But as I walked to God’s table, and the priest placed the bread of life in my hands, and the chalice bearer offered me the blood of Jesus, I was fed with the spiritual food.
I do not always remember the passages or the points of the sermon, but week after week, I am spiritual fed.
John H. Armstrong writes, “The Lord’s Supper tangibly reminds us of what Christ has done for us: He has reconciled us to God and to one another. And that’s worth feasting over.”
It is Christ who reconciled me, Christ who feeds me, and it is Christ that I worship at church.
Walking to the altar with my three-year-old reminds me that all are welcome to God’s table, and we are united as we feast on his grace. The communion table is for all and the fact that we eat at one table unites us.
Liturgy reminds me that worship is about Jesus. While I can often focus on myself, it is the methodical liturgical practices that force me to hope in Jesus.
Paula Frances Price works with Greek InterVarsity. Over the past ten years, she has worked on the campus of the University of Georgia, training fraternity and sorority students to be lights in their chapters. Through her work with Greek InterVarsity, she has seen the freedom Jesus provides when his invitation to love all people is taken seriously. Paula Frances is originally from Spartanburg South Carolina. She now lives in Athens, Georgia with her family. You can also follow her on Twitter.