Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord you God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.
This is a series of reflections on Scot McKnight’s book, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. It’s a book I unequivocally recommend for anyone. Each chapter opens with recommended Gospel readings. The reading for this chapter is: Luke 22:7-38.
To keep its past as part of its present, God gives Israel a series of rituals, routines, and rhythms.
This is not an insignificant point. Only once in the Holy Scriptures does God himself provided a detailed and specific ‘order of worship.‘ And that order is deeply liturgical, symbolic, and orders the days, months, years, and lives of Israel. It includes many, many ritual and physical actions. It includes many set prayers. Moreover, if the whole of Scripture speaks of Christ (which is certainly what both the New Testaments and early Christians asserted), then we see Christ in that ordered worship.
While our worship, as Christians, is and has always been different, I have difficulty finding any rational support for ignoring this aspect of our worship, corporate and personal. It’s pretty clear from the NT that Christian worship grew out of and alongside the first century synagogue tradition. The descriptions of Christian worship from the outset (including descriptions by men who were taught directly by the Apostles) are highly liturgical and seem to be similar to a first synagogue liturgy restructure to place the Eucharist at its center. Moreover, I’ve studied the ancient world and it’s a serious anachronism to try to place anything like our modern “non-liturgical” worship into that context. It doesn’t fit at all.
And truth be told, we are creatures of habit. Anything with which we attempt to replace a traditional ‘liturgy‘ quickly becomes, in all but name, a liturgy of its own. I don’t think my SBC tradition reflects enough on this point. Why do we resist any faith that demands we order our lives according to it rather than the other way around? I think we need to be more honest with ourselves and God in this area.
Not that there aren’t potential concerns.
Routines can become ruts; some people, no doubt, repeated the Shema mindlessly.
Sure. But how many people walk through our supposedly extemperaneous services mindlessly and out of habit? As with set prayers, the problem is not in the form of worship, but in the worshipper. And yet it strikes me that we need sacred forms in worship. We need to be faced with the sacred. We need it to shape our lives and our worship.
But there are rituals and routines that we all need, and when securely established, they become rhythms that create a beat, and they inspire in us a step and a dance. There are some gentle rhythms in nature, … There are spiritual rhythms, too.
And then McKnight makes an important point, even though it’s not emphasized at all.
Passover is the decisive link between the rhythm of Israel and the rhythm of the church. Roughly speaking, Good Friday is to Christians what Passover is to Israel.
McKnight explores the way the church calendar can order our lives. There is Sacred Time (Advent through Pentecost) and Ordinary Time (Pentecost through Advent). God’s love for us is front and center during Sacred Time. Our love for God and others comes to the fore during Ordinary Time.
Sacred Time captures our redemption. Ordinary Time our response. And within that calendar, we have activities, prayers, and daily rhythms. One or two days a week won’t cut it.
Scot McKnight identifies with the Anabaptist tradition so, as I’ve explored elsewhere, his views on the Eucharist itself flow more from the 16th century innovations of Zwingli than anything that can be connected with historical Christian belief and practice. Nevertheless, this chapter is worth reading. It is certainly thought-provoking, as is true of the book as a whole.