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I was hanging out with Asher today in his bedroom with the window open. As a plane flew overhead, he spoke the “word” he uses to refer to planes.

“Dool”, he said.

I think that stands for ‘duel engine aircraft’.

Anyway, planes fly overhead all the time and he always points up and says his word. Today, however, the plane sound was immediately followed by another familiar city sound – that of sirens. That is, it’s familiar to me. Somehow, Asher hasn’t heard these as often in his short life. He simply gave me a puzzled look. I’m sure he’ll soon have a word for sirens, too.

I’m not sure what he was thinking, but for me, a very specific past experience came to mind. I suddenly remembered something that I hadn’t thought about for quite sometime.

planeBack before I was married to Nathalie, we had a small group – like a simple church – which was made up mostly of her girlfriends who worked with her at Moose McGillycuddy’s bar. What I remembered today was what one girl used to say when ever sirens were heard.

“God Bless,” she would utter, almost under her breath.

I also remember that Nathalie picked up on this at some point. Based on accompanying utterances (usually also whispered) I found that this public expression of blessing was really a spontaneous prayer for those who may be injured in whatever accident to which those public servants were being called.

This memory got me to thinking: What other daily liturgical practices do we engage in without even noticing it?

The word “liturgy” comes from the Greek word leitourgia. This word, used in the Greek city-states long-before Christian worship existed, means “public works”. The Assembly of the city-state would assign specific projects to its rich citizens. These assignments were works designed to enhance public life.

When the term was co-opted by Christians (it appears thoughout Scripture and is often translated “ministry” or “worship” in English) it came to refer to specific works done in the context of a public worship service. The Liturgy of the Mass involved (and involves) specifically ordered acts of worship including prayers, music, and rituals. Even Baptists have “liturgies”. These basically consist of whichever practices are regularly used for worship, however “informal” we might label them.

Reflecting back on the original concept of liturgy as “public works”, I started thinking: Is there some kind of unique daily liturgy that each of us follow as we go about our busy lives? Do we perform “public works” – in the midst of others, on behalf of God?

Now, I am not talking about some official daily public works, such as the Daily Offices (prayer practice structured throughout the day at specific hours, originating in medieval monasteries). Rather, I mean: The casual words we speak and actions we perform on a semi-regular basis that somehow refer to our faith or point us and others to God.

“God Bless” at the sound of a siren certainly fits this category.

So would the blessing of someone when they sneeze. I also feel compelled to pray for strangers when I see ambulances at the scene of an accident. Our mealtime thanksgivings are certainly in this vein. What about non-prayers?

If we view our city as our “cathedral”, we might imagine that walking out our front door constitutes an “Act of Entrance”, just as the procession of clergy is, or call to worship songs are. Following the fourfold worship pattern, our “Word” piece, would have to do with the ways we listen for God’s voice as we tromp around the city streets. Do you hear Him in your server at breakfast? The news articles peeking out from the newspaper dispensers? Is he audible even in the midst of honking horns and blaring sirens?

In most churches, next comes some kind of “Eucharist” piece. Even if it doesn’t include the bread and the cup, this “Thanksgiving” time is typically focused on gratitude for the work of Christ on the cross. What is our eucharist of the streets? Perhaps it is our grateful response to that reoccurring (often nagging) realization that if it were not for Grace, we would find ourselves begging on the streets like that homeless woman, or yelling in anger at that shop-owner for getting our coffee order wrong. What is our grateful response to our daily state of grace?

Maybe we respond with a tangible act of blessing as we invite the homeless woman to share a bagel and some coffee with us. Maybe it is another silent but focused prayer that God would meet the angry man in his anger and the cursed barista in her derided spirit. With some intentionality, it is very possible that through these simple liturgical acts (public works) we could be remembering His body and blood and proclaiming his death until he comes again.

Finally, comes the Benediction – or “Sending into the world”. In our ‘world as sanctuary’ this part of the fourfold service seems a bit askew. Haven’t we already been “sent” as we walk along the alleys and sidewalks? Yes, but it seems that we often forget our “sentness” and our mission. Maybe all of the public works listed above – and the many more we haven’t mentioned – all function to remind us that we have gone into the world, and it is here we are to preach the gospel.

If necessary, using words.




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