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“We have said that religion is arguably the most powerful and pervasive force in human society. This is both a historical fact and a dynamic reality shaping our present and future world community. As such, we must all take religion seriously.” - Kimball, Charles, When Religion Becomes Evil, Los Angeles, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 2002, p.

How better to do this than to examine our own religion and its conceptual underpinnings?

Christian Liturgy
Updated: 01/19/2021

What is Christian liturgy?

Christian liturgy refers to a somewhat formal,structured pattern of worship service for the congregation which may vary somewhat according to the occasion  It is generally infused with signs and symbols whose significance, based on nature or culture, has been made sacred through Old Testament events and has ostensibly been fully revealed in the person and life of Christ. Some of the aspects are public prayer, sacred music, rites, ceremonies, sacraments, preaching, consecrations, Bible reading, tithe and offering gathering and public witnessing.

Centered around the religious architecture of time involving a weekly Sabbath or special "Lord's day", where people come to congregate at a special dedicated place, it is a powerful way to engage people in a religious  program usually called a "church service".

Man was not made for liturgy

There should be no question as to the effect and effectiveness of liturgy, and it can have beautiful and majestic aspects to it. Yet liturgy constitutes an intellectual soporific, a major part of the "opiate of the masses". As such, it is a poor substitute for rewarding and fulfilling fellowship, and is just a weekly dose of artificial spiritual time; an honored but nevertheless false substitute for real empowered living in the Kingship of the Heavens. And giving God a few hours each week should keep him happy?

Imagine there being liturgy in an Edenic environment. The real enhancement of life comes from fellowship and sharing personal interaction, but liturgy stifles this and tends to supplant the free flowing exchange of camaraderie. Why cannot we see that church organizations, their structures and buildings and environments are not sacred, but the fulfillment and enhancement of life IS? There is nothing in the corpus of what Yeshua said that supports this sacralizing of these organizations and buildings. It is all a carryover mainly from Judaism.

Regarding this, the Christian community has it all backwards and upside down. Organizations have no legitimate intrinsic value except to serve people, yet the reverse is promoted, and people are asked to sacrifice for and serve the organization. The model and source of insight to settle these issues should be the life of Yeshua. Where did he engage in or deliver liturgy to his followers during his ministry and fellowship on earth? Where and when did he start an organization for the people to serve? PEOPLE should be served, not organizations.

To get a better feel for what is wrong with liturgy, consider the following contrast:

God's house hospitality and experience

When you visit a church service–ostensibly God's house–if you are greeted at the door at all, it is by a paid or volunteer greeter that may or may not know who you are, and who hands you a bulletin outlining the program of the day. You are expected to enter, find your own place in rows of hard pews, keep gravely quiet while the organist plays, and get with the program of liturgy. You are expected to kneel for the opening prayer, and stand up and sing the opening song whether you feel like singing at all or so early in the morning. Usually there are some announcements that are delivered at this time. Your are then expected to listen to a mission's report and an emotional appeal and call for tithes and offerings, and to donate in full public view. At this point you are treated to some kind of musical performance of ostensible sacred music. Then comes another formal and "special" prayer by one of those important people designated to be honored by sitting up on the stage along with the pastor or rector. Finally the preacher is introduced, and you are subjected to a sermon or lecture, usually by a cleric, who may or may not have any real wisdom or even common sense, but who is trained to deliver his thoughts talking down to you from a pulpit or lectern. You are expected to pay rapt attention, and to NOT fall asleep regardless of whether you are bored or just dog tired! Finally, there is a stand up closing hymn, and a benediction or ending prayer. Then you file silently out.

Hospitality and experience

When you visit my house, I personally greet you at the door, invite you to come in and make yourself at home. After we are seated in comfortable furniture, you will hear words that generally go like this, "Hey, good to see you. What can I get for you? What can I ply you with? Would you like fresh coffee, fruit juice punch, or ice water?" And after delivering the requested beverage, I will sincerely inquire as to what you have been up to, how you are holding up under the human condition, and as to what is new in your life.

If you look tired, and want to take a nap, you will be invited to use the guest bedroom. You will be assured that I can entertain myself until you are refreshed. When the time comes, we will sit down at the table and eat a nutritious meal of quality food, and you will be free to accept or decline whatever is offered, and to select your own portions. I will not subject you to a canned program with a required duration, and I will not solicit you for a donation. We will talk about or do whatever we so desire at the moment, whether that is to  listen to music, watch TV, play a game, take a walk, etc. Usually we will have a meaningful discussion where the goal is to arrive at a reasonable and common conclusion that cements or solidifies our communality. You will be expected to stay as long as you want, and to leave when it suits you. There will be no liturgy, the atmosphere will be convivial, you will have a wide latitude for behavior, and humor will be encouraged and appreciated. Reverence is not required but only respect. There will be fun, conversation and discussion, not lecture of preaching. You will not be required to sing or pray! Need I mention that you will not be expected to dress formally or in your Sunday best.

In my own personal experience and spiritual journey out of Christian fundamentalism, once I dissociated my salvation from church going, the ignorance, superstitious ceremony, shopworn ritual, and pretentious liturgy became anathema to me. I haven't missed it in decades.

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