In worship God shapes our lives and transforms us “from one degree of glory to another”as we behold God (2 Cor. 3:18), source of all, eternal Word, and Holy Spirit. In worship our visions, desires, attitudes, yearnings, wills, and lives are recast, molded, and shaped to conform to the dying and rising of Christ for the life of the world.
The Rev. Daniel Benedict in Patterned by Grace: How Liturgy Shapes Us (13)
One of the challenges of today’s church centers around formation. How do we make space for the Holy Spirit to shape us into Christ-likeness in our personal lives but more importantly in our communal life.
In the next few weeks we will talk about Baptism as the movement of God that initiates us into communal life. The Eucharist is God’s movement that helps us sustain our communal life in a world that idolizes individualism, personal preference, and a consumer mindset.
In John 6:35-40 Jesus tells us not just that he is the “bread of life” but that being that bread is a key aspect of his identity as savior and Lord. It is this “bread of life” that we center around at table and that then transforms us into a people who become bearers of eternal life.
So, I’ve been thinking, what centers our life of worship? How does our worship shapes us “to conform to the dying and rising of Christ for the life of the world?”
Liturgy is not a worship style but a way to center our worship life. In other words, liturgical worship means that God’s people gather and are the key active agents in the life of worship. A liturgical people are engaged, centered by the hungers of the community (not of particular individuals), and convicted by their engagement in worship to be “salt of the earth” in their communities.
When the Eucharist becomes our center we place our encounter with the Risen Lord in bread and wine as the pinnacle of our common life. This gathering to encounter the Risen Lord is the obvious next step after we have gathered around the story of faith and around the proclamation of that story as it relates to our life today. Both elements, the encounter with the word and the Word, are needed as we are shaped into Christ as a community.
The common life that the Eucharist fosters is pivotal to help seekers be transformed into servants. It does this by our repetition of salvation history in the prayer around table, by our kinetic movement as we come forth and receive grace, and by the growing recognition of our human condition and our being healed over time within community. It is also my prayer that our encounter with Christ at table calls us to find discipling communities outside of our worship life so that we can grow deeper in our life with Christ.
When the Eucharist becomes our liturgical center it forces us to be about the salvation (the healing, redemption, and restoration) of all people and all of creation. This means that we are driven by our encounter at table to be engaged in the work of justice. We must engage our communities whose hands have made our common life possible, whose stories have made us who we are, and whose struggles are our struggles. A Eucharistic ethic forces us to live into love of neighbor, even those who are our enemies, and to be agents of systemic change in our communities that pave the way for all people to experience the “salvation of our God.”
A Eucharistic life is a rehearsal of kingdom life. A life that makes present the work of Christ . . . are we ready?
And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. Luke 7:22 (NRSV)