One of the things I most love about the intentionality of liturgy is how suddenly it can catch my throat in worship. Lately, though I’m always moved by words in music or scripture, it’s in the physical movement of worship that I am most reminded of God’s sweet presence, that I hear most loudly the movement of grace and forgiveness and restoration.
At Christ Church, we follow a liturgical tradition that is a bit odd (compared to your regular liturgical service…at least I think it must be). I’ve been told our liturgy comes from an African tradition of worship in the Anglican church and is highly influenced by the physical freedom of that tradition. So, when we offer up our fears and sorrows and “send them to the cross of Christ,” we literally raise our arms up and push the invisible things toward the cross at the altar. The first time I visited our church, I stared in wonder that this room full of seemingly normal worshippers wildly shoving at the air. And then, after a few weeks, I joined in. And I can’t get enough of it. It feels so good to throw my burdens at Jesus and then raise my arms to receive the blessing.
It feels good to cross myself. I’ve been crossing myself for a few years now, allowing my hands to move through the most sacred parts of me: my mind and my heart, brain to lung, shoulder to shoulder. There’s such an assurance as I pray that God is covering me: the words I will speak, the thoughts I will own, the air I will breath…it’s all already redeemed. I cross myself as a simple reminder.
Who would think that in an Anglican church I would watch the mother of four in front of me quietly move out past her row of children so she can make it to the aisle and dance (not distractingly, just joyfully) simply because the song has moved her?
I’ve mostly been the girl who skeptically raised an eyebrow at emotional worship. I’ve always inwardly sighed at those who seemed to only “feel the spirit” during the emotion-inducing key change and hyper drumbeat arriving three-fourths of the way through the new, cool praise song. But, here at our new church, I find myself in the midst of honesty, of movement that belongs to Jesus in all of its dorkiness, all of its sweet humility.
And always, at the end of the service, as we sing, the last remnants of those taking communion filing back into seats, there is my pastor walking the length of the rows, eyes fixed on us, holding high the Host, the bread that represents the body of Jesus, broken and strewn about for us, the broken and strewn about. Our pastor Cliff has this stare, the look of hospitality that I’ve rarely seen before. His eyes say, This is still for you, whoever you are. You can still come. You may always come.
And every week I stare at his face and every week I shiver at the deep magic* of the invitation. What is it for God’s life to be given, broken to pieces, and rebuilt? What is it for my life, your life, to be reformed by a story, a Person, that once was dead but now lives, that keeps living–its pieces given to all and yet always remaining whole? Such magic. Such an invitation, our hands in the air, chunking our broken places, our fears, our hopes, and grateful loves–toward the cross of Christ, and sighing that internal breath of relief that someone not only holds our empty fears, but is remaking them, and remaking us into who we always were meant to be.
*We’ve been reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe aloud to August and I’ve been reminded of the “deep magic” that brings Aslan back to life…