I am sitting quietly, at the end of a busy day, on Good Friday evening. Part of me wonders – did I miss it? Did I miss Lent? This year, my personal progression through the journey of Christ has been a different one.
A few years back, I graduated from seminary and departed from a community that sought to live within embodied expressions of the story of Christ – we sought to indwell the liturgy. The new church communities in which I’ve been involved have been wonderful in many ways, and overflowing with hospitality. However our family has felt the absence of the liturgy as a guide for our own lives, and particularly during Lent. I have lost a corporate sense of the journey, as manifest in historic prayers, common readings, and sensory experiences in worship each week, as well as in multiple community prayer gatherings throughout the week. Admittedly, seminary is a special time in life – maybe even a glimpse of what Kingdom worship could look like. But while I have lost some of the drama and rhythm in worship, I have gained a greater understanding of simplicity of Christ’s journey. A clear purpose lived out in ordinary ways with extraordinary – Kingdom-ushering – results.
Since leaving this time in graduate school, I have tried to capture the liturgy in my own life during the seasons of the Church Year. As is typical as many of us approach Lent, I began to think through ways that God might be calling me to modify my spiritual practices during the season. I considered giving something up. I considered adding more spiritual disciplines. I considered exercising more, shopping less. I tinkered with contemplative prayer. But somewhere about the second week, most of these goals dissolved. I was still processing the death of my grandmother a few weeks before. I was making significant decisions about my calling and vocation when two new job opportunities suddenly surfaced. My family and I were discerning God’s will for some next steps in our family life. These were all “ordinary” occurrences – happening naturally in our lives. We didn’t have to force the journey. I felt the desperation that I often strive to feel during the season of Lent. But it was real. No, I was not journeying to a physical death on a cross; but these ordinary life meanderings have placed a weight on my heart and mind that has drawn me into the journey of Christ, and ultimately to the foot of the cross.
In a place of hunger, I found myself creating my own liturgy. Our family created liturgies. When I was up too late working the night before, I shared my morning prayer time with my son when I couldn’t get up early enough to pray on my own. New liturgy.
When I felt the weight of late-winter gloomy weather, my son and I jumped in the car with a worship CD and drove the Kansas hills, singing, praying, laughing. New liturgy.
My husband and I, overwhelmed with decisions, busy schedules, and family health problems, began sharing more intentional prayer time in the evenings. New liturgy.
Each of these new practices has been borne out of necessity, out of hunger; and less out of obligation or striving. The Greek word leitourgia, from which we derive our word, “liturgy,” can be translated “the work of the people.” What if sometimes our work is washing dishes, running errands, waking, and sleeping? This work bears weight, and sometimes this weight is enough.
I know every day of our spiritual journey is not like this. I know every Lent is not filled with decisions and trials and grief. But sometimes life’s natural events are enough for us to enter into Christ’s life when we recognize our own desperation. We must remember that He became like us in order to draw us to Himself. He became ordinary that we might have the opportunity to be extraordinary. We continue to be on the journey of being human, and being re-formed into His likeness, and every moment of being human can become a formative practice – an ordinary liturgy that draws us into Christ’s extraordinary journey. I didn’t miss Lent – Lent took hold of me instead.
Will you allow your ordinary life to become liturgy?
Shannon Steed Sigler is a community artist, curator, and theologian. She also serves as the Director of Social Media Communications for BeADisciple.com. Shannon is the mother of a delightful two-year old and the wife of a liturgical scholar. Her own work and research center around a Wesleyan paradigm for the visual arts. Visit her website here.