Saturday, November 18, 2017

Advent, Inborn Necessities, And Bilbo's Poetical Rendering Of Liturgy


It's Thanksgiving week, dear friends, and I find myself much distracted from the festivities and instead more baffled at how close we are to the end of year mark. How does it manage to hold the same shock value every time it rolls around? It's a mystery to me and particularly frustrating at the moment because I'd rather the attention be spent on what's happening here within time, rather than at the closing space of it. Maybe this is the reason Advent is so attractive every year - not as a countdown to the holidays but as a forceful self reminder of the holiness here in them, in every day, for that matter.

You know, liturgy.

A word sometimes associated with church spires and stale customs, I know, because it was that to me too until recently. It's embarrassing to admit, but in all my trying to put a name to the repetitive nature of life these past several years, said name happened to be the very thing I've played whac-a-mole with since I could first lisp John 3:16 as a hammer over anyone or anything. This is weird and contradictory though, since liturgy is simply worship, albeit repetitive worship. It's inborn, it's the path well walked, it's what we do every single day in every single thing. I'm searching for a fast poetical rendering off the top of my head,  and, oddly, it's Tolkien that comes to mind, more specifically Bilbo's wandering song.

The road goes ever on and on Out from the door where it began.Now far ahead the road has gone.Let others follow it who can!Let them a journey new begin,But I at last with weary feetWill turn toward the lighted inn,My evening rest and sleep to meet.

We're born right into the same block building, playground playing, dish washing, laundry doing, meal cooking, to and from work trudging, church going, family raising, attempting of success in life in our own times and ways, pondering of what it's all for, and frazzling ourselves at the fast passing of it all that our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were born into before us.

But this isn't expressively human. The turning of seasons marks the same repetitive nature, as does the coming and going of the tide, the migrations of birds and whales and butterflies, and on and on and on. It seems that a pattern of worship was molded into all creation, right down to our own DNA, so that the Psalmist couldn't help but sing, "the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day to day utters speech and night to night shows knowledge." It makes me wonder at a whole new depth in the declaration of the psalmist who further cried, "I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Marvelous are your works; that my soul knows right well."

My soul knows right well.

It knows that faith isn't the forging of new paths of worship in old territories as I've told myself for years and years. No, it knows that faith is the very substance of things hoped and looked for long before I was walking this well worn way. It knows because it is fearfully and wonderfully made to know, that it is marvelously made so that it might know (that was a mouthful). And because of this, it knows that old traditions of worship like advent are necessary because they're signposts that remind me to pause and remember just who and what I am, and Who writes my story.

As limited and broken as my understanding of this whole big picture of liturgy is, this, this is something wondrous and worth giving thanks for.

Happy Thanksgiving, sweet friends, and may the beginning of your advents or your sweet Decembers (as some of my friends in other countries call it) be blessed as we pause in the presence of the Lord together.