THE PRACTICE OF CHURCH LITURGY SHAPES OUR BELIEFS

“Lex Orandi Lex Credendi” This Latin phrase means ‘”practice shapes the way we believe.” “Practice shapes liturgy”. The “doing of liturgy” shapes our beliefs. The way we worship shapes the way we believe. In the early church there was liturgical tradition before there was a common creed, and before there was an officially sanctioned Canon of Holy Scripture. Liturgical traditions of the church through “practicing liturgy” shapes our theological framework for establishing the creeds and the canon. In other words, we shape our belief system in the same way that the early church shaped their beliefs. We look back to the early church for clarity of practice. Liturgy was shaped through many hundreds of years of “practice”.

An, just as liturgy shapes practice, the phrase made famous by Soren Kierkegaard, “life is to be lived forward, but it is to be understood backwards”. In order to understand the significance of Easter, we must look back to the first Easter. We must look back at Palm Sunday and see in perspective of Jesus riding into Jerusalem and by looking back we can gain a better understanding of how to apply that insight into our present time.

In order to understand the significance of the Eucharist Table, we have to look back to the Last Supper. It was in this meal that Jesus speaks the words referred to as the words of institution that became the core of the Christian Eucharist that we share weekly when we come together. This was the final meal on what we call Maundy Thursday that Jesus shared with his disciples. And, in order to understand more fully the full meaning of this final meal, we explore the teachings and the words of Jesus in the Gospels that led to his arrest and execution.

Who was this Jesus that we share the last supper with every Sunday morning? The gospels reveal to us that Jesus was controversial. He bypassed religious and social norms at times in order to capture a teaching moment. These teaching moments included times where he ate, drank and spent time with those outside of the religious, political and social community; those considered as undesirable or unholy.

The public activity of Jesus then forwarded into his death and resurrection. Easter! Jesus’ last supper is also the same supper repeated over and over and over again. Today at the altar of the Lord, we celebrate the teachings and life of Jesus as He came to earth in human form. We celebrate his arrest, death and resurrection. We look backward in order to look forward. On Easter Day we celebrate our life enveloped into the resurrected life. We look backwards to the words of Jesus: “If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross daily and follow me”. (Luke 9:3)

We remember the past, but we play it forward. We live in the present with our eye toward the future. We continue to do that practice of remembering and celebrating that Jesus called the first disciples to do. The practice of the early church included the Eucharist service in their early beginnings of meetings. St. Paul encouraged Christians in both Corinth and Thessalonica to celebrate the Lord’s Supper when they met together as recorded in 1 Thessalonians, which is believed to be one of if not the earliest New Testament epistle written.

There are no undesirables or marginalized in the Kingdom of God. All are brothers and sisters in Christ, and, a kingdom philosophy that promotes and recognizes that “the first will be last and the last will be first”. This brings us back to the last command of Jesus at the Last Supper with his disciples, and that command is to be followed in the past and into the present and into the future.

That command is this: ”Love one another as I have loved you”. (John 13:34) “The practice of loving others shapes the way we believe”. Another definition for liturgy is “the work of the people” It’s not just good advice, but it is a command. And by the doing of this command, our faith is instructed. The practice of loving others shapes how we believe. good advice. It’s not a suggestion or a recommendation. It is a command. ·’Agape” means to love without expecting anything in return. It’s a deep and holy word, to love deeply from the heart.

Today we celebrate the resurrected Christ. It’s a time to remember, to play it backward before we play it forward. When we celebrate Eucharist at Easter we are remembering all the seasons of the church year. It’s like reviewing a video of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus; everything that leads to this climactic experience of Easter.

Christ took the cup of death and died. We drink the cup of salvation at the altar and are raised with Him in eternal life, right now, right here, in the present. We remember the past and play it forward to the present and forward into the future. The cup symbolizes death, and the cup symbolizes life.

Jesus Christ has risen from the grave! Easter has come! Christ is alive! During Easter we look backward and then forward to Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out into the church and ”we become the Body of Christ, the legs, the hands, the mouth, the eyes and the ears of Jesus”. (1 Cor. 12:27) As we pick up our cross daily, just as Jesus picked up his cross, we continue our journey toward the heavenly Jerusalem, and on this liturgical journey we are transformed daily by the cross of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, enjoying the presence of God in our lives.

Jesus lives! Jesus is Lord! Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

Amen

The Reverend Dr. David Madsen