Does a prayer have staying power? Does a litany change anything, or anyone?
There are prayers I treasure; I particularly love Cardinal Newman’s “O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen….” When leading worship, I sometimes worry I will forget the Lord’s Prayer right in the middle. I find comfort, before preaching, in saying the words out loud “may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts…”
Almost every week I write liturgy for the bulletin, usually a call to worship and a prayer of confession, maybe communion liturgy. I spend a fair amount of time on it (and make it available elsewhere on this blog). I enjoy the process; it adds the sense of poetry to my usual to-do list. Some of the stuff I write isn’t half-bad, if I do say so myself.
But occasionally the thought comes: does this make a difference? People get one shot at their part in the call to worship, and then we’re on to the opening hymn. Did a word catch them? Did a phrase redirect their thoughts? Do the words of confession that I put together resonate at all with at least one person in the pews?
Lately I’ve decided that the liturgy – or at least the liturgy in our Presbyterian worship – is momentary. The grass withers, and the liturgy fades, but the word of the Lord will stand forever.
And maybe that’s not bad. A petite-four is a momentary thing; so is a sidewalk drawing. Which is not to say those things aren’t beautiful, brief though they are. If everything were eternal, we’d be overloaded.
Maybe liturgy is like KonMari for worship – something non-essential that is done with once uttered. I think I’m okay with that.
But I’ll write on, not for eternity, but for the moment.
5 thoughts on “The grass withers, the liturgy fades”
Yes, they matter, and people do notice. When I’m struck by the words, I cut them out and post them on my bulletin board to be revisited periodically.
Linda said what I was going to say! The words of the liturgy DO matter and DO resonate, whether for a moment or longer. Sometimes, they go straight to my heart and linger there. They might strengthen or challenge or comfort me. So, thank you for the time you spend writing these words, and for the gift they are to those of us who read and speak them.
Exactly as Linda has said. This week’s was especially meaningful to me. I keep some for a while…some I keep for a longer time…some I’ve had for years. The words and thoughts do resonate.
Joining Linda, Sue, and Caroline, I have been known to cut a few out, to save, and savor, myself. I did not grow up in a church with this kind of liturgy. It took me awhile to become comfortable with our corporate prayers. Now, I look forward to them, to see what new viewpoint they might bring to my life, and my relationship with God and people. Thanks for putting so much thought and creativity into them!
Well, yes and no. The words of the liturgies, old and new, bring strength, comfort, and hope to people who are accustomed to litanies and have confidence in the words of worship spoken by some number of other people. Some people, however, want every word they say to God to be their own original words, then they find how difficult that can be and they don’t realize the comfort in the familiar and memorized. I write new calls to worship for nearly every week, as well offertory prayers, opening prayers, and 23 Communion services. For me, these are times of prayer and strength. For the congregation, these are new words that some will make their own. The word liturgy comes to us from the Greek liturgia, which means work of the people. The words of our liturgies may change, as will the people who say them, but the God to whom the people speak will not change, and the liturgy will not wither as long as there are people who continue to do God’s work. Thank you for sharing your words in your blog and on your site. Blessings.