Shrink wrap. That was the only thing between me and the latest smooth tones of Karen Carpenter. I’d peel the plastic, feel the cover and, with great anticipation, open the album jacket.
If I was lucky, it was a double cover and would open up like a book. Faded images of Karen and her brother, Richard, in the background, words spread from left to right, and I would read every single one.
I’d set the record onto the turntable, place the needle in the first groove, turn it up really loud, and lay on the floor. I would let the entire album unfold over the next 45 minutes or so. Reading every word as it was sung, getting a feel for the flow of the songs.
This was my “liturgy” every time I played a new album. And it was a good one. All the time in the world, taking in the music, understanding the meaning and the order of the songs, enjoying Karen’s deep, velvety voice.
Of course, calling my relationship with Carpenter’s albums a “liturgy” is a stretch, but it was my rhythm—my way of listening.
Most of my Christian life, I was told that liturgy (even though that word was not used) was bad. It was called “meaningless repetition,” not heartfelt worship like we practiced. But even those of us who don’t consider themselves liturgical have a liturgy.
According to Google, liturgy is: a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted. Now that’s a fairly dry definition compared to what I now experience week by week in the form of meaningful repetition.
Every week my heart has a chance to re-align with my core beliefs. I participate in centuries-old ways of worship. Scripture is read—Old Testament, New Testament—silence follows to take in what was heard. A sermon based on the passages is shared.
Then we recite together the Nicene Creed, a beautiful synopsis of everything I hold dear. After that is much needed confession. I have a chance to get down on my knees and say out loud with my own mouth how I fell short that week. I receive forgiveness and blessing.
Then one of my favorite inventions ever: Passing the Peace. Hearing the words, “Peace be with you” multiple times from people around me has a way of softening the edges of the week.
The service culminates in the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist), a most appropriate focus of each and every week. The table is set, the wine is poured, the bread laid out. I go forward, receive the bread and cup and then sit back down in my seat.
I then watch as each person receives and is blessed. Little ones are prayed over. I feel as though I share in each person’s blessing as they make their way through the line.
This is my weekly liturgy with my church community. There is a simplicity, a rootedness, a sweet and peaceful spirit that pervades our worship. This is the best of liturgy.
Again, whether or not we call ourselves liturgical is neither here nor there. We all have liturgies. Another example of this is our Rule of Life. What practices, rhythms and patterns do you have in place to keep your heart and mind aligned? These are the things of liturgy. The patterns. The ways. The rhythms.
At this point, I firmly believe that meaningful repetition is good. I want every part of me, my mind, heart, soul, body to have a sense of this rhythm. The re-focusing and re-aligning of my soul is as real to me now as the need to shower or brush my teeth.
I love resting on a process that has stood the test of time. And, yes, even more than my liturgy of Karen Carpenter, my soul is at home in the rhythm of our weekly liturgy.
- What liturgies (meaningful repetitions) do you have in place as you seek to remain mindful of God and nurture your soul?
- In what ways have you embraced meaningful repetition in your work of formation?
- How do you remain focused on God and his ways day by day, week by week?