Friday, February 4, 2011

Sabbath as Liturgy

“Liturgies or worship practices are rituals of ultimate concern that are formative of our identity – they both reflect what matters to us and shape what matters to us” (Desiring the Kingdom 93). They are the practices that grab hold of our love and direct it to some “ultimate” end. As I have said earlier, I believe that our telos is Love. There are many “liturgies,” acts that shape our desires, to be found within the Church (and outside the Church).

James K. A. Smith notes, “This liturgical affirmation of materiality is commonly described as a sacramental understanding of the world – that the physical, material stuff of creation and embodiment is the means by which God’s grace meets us and gets hold of us” (Desiring the Kingdom 141). The sacramental imagination, as such, is the intuition that God meets us here in the material reality and we are called to respond in material ways. It is through these practices that God shapes us to embody the Kingdom of God back into the world.

“These are habits that play a significant role in shaping our identity, who we are. Engaging in these habit-forming practices not only says something about us, but also keeps shaping us into that kind of person” (Desiring the Kingdom 82). We must be intentional and cautious about participating in ritual without a proper understanding of that ritual. Otherwise, we engage in traditionalism, which places highest priority upon the act, not the end goal. However, ritual is important in that it keeps us continually in remembrance of our calling, which is a constant call for the Israelites in Deuteronomy. We often forget what God has done and are swayed to follow foreign gods.

The idea of time plays a prominent role in the worshiping community. The Christian calendar calls our attention upon Christ. The aspect of time indicates and shapes our entrance into worship. The colors, the smells, and the lighting all demonstrate a posture that we take in worship. Whether it be penitence or rejoicing, the Christian calendar calls us to respond to the work of Christ, rather than being fixated on obscure, trivial realities. Nor, do we orient ourselves in the world by the world’s understanding of time. Rather, we find Sabbath rest. In this, we come to appreciate and understand the significance of our lives, which is not wrapped up in production.

Sabbath, as Brueggemann argues, plays a vital role in our liturgies. Brueggemann writes: "The reason that Sabbath is a radical discipline is that it is a regular, disciplined, highly visible withdrawal from the acquisitive society of production and consumption that is shaped only by commodity. Work stoppage and rest are public statements that one’s existence and the existence of one’s society are not defined by the pursuit of commodity, and that human well-being is not evoked by commodity but precisely by the intentional refusal of commodity" (Mandate to Difference 59).

Sabbath reminds us who we are and who we belong to. Thus, we are called to live in the world as a particular type of people in a particular way. We are not the world’s and we do not need to live in the world on its terms. We understand relationships to be of primary importance, even at the expense of our person.

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