26th January 2014

Liturgy in Action 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
Romans 12:1 (NIV UK) 

Many people who do not come from churches with a liturgical tradition tend to have a rather negative reaction to the idea of liturgy. They associate it with a very formal service, with rigid ritual and prescribed prayers. This kind of worship service can seem contrived and artificial to people who are used to less formal worship styles. 

If, however, we only consider liturgy in that context, we miss something important. Liturgy is not just something that the ‘high churches’, like Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox Christians do. Liturgy, whether we recognise it or not, is something we all do as part of our daily routine, the order or pattern of our lives. 

Our English word, liturgy, comes from the Greek words latreuo and leiturgeo. In the Ancient Greek world, leitourgio was used to describe a public duty or a service to the state undertaken by a citizen. A leitourgos was ‘a public servant’. Any general service of a public kind could therefore be described as liturgy. Someone who did not accept this public duty was known as an idiotes—an idiot! 

The Greek word translated “worship” in the scripture quoted above was latreou, and Paul’s readers would see the connection. As citizens of a community they did not want to be thought of as idiots, so they accepted their responsibility for public service. In the same way, as Christians, they should make themselves available to God for the work of the Kingdom. Paul continues in Romans 1, verse 2, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

We are to be conformed to Jesus Christ whose whole life was one of self-giving service to lead others to the true worship of God. He is, then, as the author of Hebrews put it, our Leiturgos, our Great Worship Leader (Hebrews 8:2). 

Do you see then how “liturgy” is not just something ‘religious’ and what we do in church?  It is part of the rhythm of our daily lives. 

The temple in Jerusalem was a very liturgical place in the religious sense, with ceremonies going on all the time. At the dedication, Solomon prayed, “May your eyes be open toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place” (2 Chronicles 6:20). 

We no longer have a physical temple. Now God’s people are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, where acts of sacrifice and service, or liturgy, continue day and night, “without ceasing” as we share God’s love and life with those around us. 

Merciful Father, we ask for your help in realising that we have a work to do, a liturgy, all the time, everywhere. We do not live occasional religion, but we are Christians all the time. Our liturgy is to grow out of our daily lives lived through Jesus Christ. And this we ask in Jesus’ holy name.

Study by Joseph Tkach


joeandtammyAbout the Author:
Joseph Tkach is the President of Grace Communion International (the Denominational name of The Worldwide Church of God UK), and resides in California, USA.

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