Fidelity, or “Why do we bother?”: Chapter 28 of Joan Chittister’s ‘The Liturgical Year’

by Ian Walden

The sun is setting. The feast of Easter is fading to memory. Ahead lies the long road of Ordinary Time. The next ‘high point’ in the Liturgical Year is a long, long way away. So when the candles are out, the colours are muted, and the words are, well, ordinary – why do we bother with these routines, these rituals, these practices?

The end of the noise and fuss and excitement is a good time for this question. It’s already forced me to re-examine my motives. It’s convicting to hear Sister Joan remind us that “we do not live a liturgical life to look good to other people. We do not develop a liturgical spirituality to affect a kind of spiritual dimension to our lives. And we certainly do not go to Mass regularly to avoid hell.” Ouch. Too often my newbie enthusiasm for this liturgical lark is akin to a shopper’s delight at a little-discovered bargain – consumerism ethos included.

So what’s a better answer? Chittister’s is that we are all (like a character in a parable she tells) being asked, silently but daily, the searching question: Are you Jesus? And I for one would like to say (perhaps also silently, but daily nonetheless) that yes, indeed, I am. I would like my Ordinary Time, my ordinary life, to be lived extraordinarily well, “no matter what other elements of life emerge to seduce us as the years go by.” No matter how far removed Jesus’ first earthly presence seems, no matter how absent his Spirit feels, no matter how improbable his Return appears, I want my life to be the evidence of Things Unseen. I want it, even this summer, to be both site and source of redemption in this world. More than a sacrifice, I need re-creation. I need my life to be witness that I am (and therefore all are) defined by the beautiful future, not the tragic past.

And as we’re all learning, in the Pentecostal economy, becoming like Jesus (learning to think like he thinks, to act as he acts, to allow his life/mind/heart to saturate ours) is something that can be learned. And learning takes repetition, re-enactment, constant re-membering. It takes fidelity, constancy, regularity. All else (and this also, paradoxically, is all the difference) is the in-breathed, dry-bone-stirring  Life of God.

Where have you seen Jesus lately? Where has his life continued in your midst, in the habits, reflexes, instincts, or desires exhibited by Jesus people – including yourself? Was it surprising, extraordinary, or surprisingly natural? Was it obvious, or seen only after reflection? What kind of practices, what kind of liturgy, might possibly (feel free to speculate, to guess!) have contributed to this miracle, this new Presence?

In the hope of glory, Amen.

Happy Pentecost!

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. Andrew is preaching on “The Road to Emmaus” rather than on Pentecost this week (finishing up his series on “Eating With Jesus,” check it out at BACC). Since the road to Emmaus is all about the revelation of Christ in and through us, I thought it would be appropriate to use “Spirit of Faith, Come Down,” a hymn written by Charles Wesley, for our call to worship and our benediction. 
We’ll read the first two verses as our call to worship, while we light multiple candles on our table – to symbolize the tongues of flame that descended upon the disciples. The final two verses will be our benediction.

Spirit of Faith, Come Down

Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788
Music: Sacred Harp
Tune: BEALOTH, Meter: SMD

1.  Spirit of faith, come down,

reveal the things of God,

and make to us the Godhead known,

and witness with the blood.

‘Tis thine the blood to apply

and give us eyes to see,

who did for every sinner die

hath surely died for me.

2. No one can truly say

that Jesus is the Lord,

unless thou take the veil away

and breathe the living Word.

Then, only then, we feel

our interest in his blood,

and cry with joy unspeakable,

“Thou art my Lord, my God!”

3.  O that the world might know

the all atoning Lamb!

Spirit of faith, descend and show

the virtue of his name;

the grace which all may find,

the saving power, impart,

and testify to humankind,

and speak in every heart.

4. Inspire the living faith

(which whosoe’er receive,

the witness in themselves they have

and consciously believe),

the faith that conquers all,

and doth the mountain move,

and saves whoe’er on Jesus call,

and perfects them in love.