Lewis on Liturgiology — Part 1

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:2
I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.

Reflection: Lewis on Liturgiology — Part 1
By C.S. Lewis

There is no subject in the world on which I have less to say than liturgiology. And the almost nothing which I have to say may as well be disposed of in this letter.

I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.

To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplification, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain—many give up churchgoing altogether—merely endure.

Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it.

Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like it “works” best—when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it.

As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

*Excerpt from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in my heart the love of your Name; increase in me true religion; nourish me with all goodness; and bring forth in me the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 31 (Listen – 2:03)
1 Corinthians 11 (Listen – 4:20)

Saved by Mercy

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:12
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Reflection: Saved by Mercy
By J.R.R. Tolkien

If you re-read all the passages dealing with Frodo and the Ring, I think you will see that not only was it quite impossible for him to surrender the Ring, in act or will, especially at its point of maximum power, but that this failure was adumbrated from far back.

He was honored because he had accepted the burden voluntarily, and had then done all that was within his utmost physical and mental strength to do. He (and the Cause) were saved—by Mercy : by the supreme value and efficacy of Pity and forgiveness of injury.

1 Corinthians 10.12-13 may not at first sight seem to fit – unless ‘bearing temptation’ is taken to mean resisting it while still a free agent in normal command of the will. I think rather of the mysterious last petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. A petition against something that cannot happen is unmeaning.

There exists the possibility of being placed in positions beyond one’s power. In which case (as I believe) salvation from ruin will depend on something apparently unconnected: the general sanctity (and humility and mercy) of the sacrificial person.

I did not ‘arrange’ the deliverance in this case: it again follows the logic of the story. (Gollum had had his chance of repentance, and of returning generosity with love; and had fallen off the knife-edge.)

No, Frodo ‘failed.’ It is possible that once the ring was destroyed he had little recollection of the last scene. But one must face the fact: the power of Evil in the world is not finally resistible by incarnate creatures, however ‘good’; and the Writer of the Story is not one of us.

*Excerpt from the draft of a letter to Miss J. Bum, July, 26 1956. From The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (Mariner Books, 2000).

The Refrain
This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes — Psalm 118:23

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 29-30 (Listen – 5:33)
1 Corinthians 10 (Listen – 4:04)

Freedom for the Benefit of Others

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 8:1, 9
“Knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up”…. take care that this right of yours (freedom in Christ) does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

Reflection: Freedom for the Benefit of Others
By Saint Polycarp c. 125 C.E.

I rejoiced with you greatly in our Lord Jesus Christ… though you did not see Him, you believe with joy unutterable and full of glory; unto which joy many desire to enter in; forasmuch as you know that it is by grace you are saved, not of works, but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

Be compassionate, merciful towards all men, turning back the sheep that are gone astray, visiting all the infirm, not neglecting a widow or an orphan or a poor man: but providing always for that which is honorable in the sight of God and of men, abstaining from all anger, respect of persons, unrighteous judgment, being far from all love of money, not quick to believe anything against any man, not hasty in judgment, knowing that we all are debtors of sin.

If then we entreat the Lord that He would forgive us, we also ought to forgive: for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and we must all stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, and each man must give an account of himself.

Let us therefore so serve Him with fear and all reverence, as He himself gave commandment and the Apostles who preached the Gospel to us and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of our Lord.

Let us therefore, without ceasing, hold fast by our hope and by the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ who took up our sins in His own body upon the tree, who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, but for our sakes He endured all things, that we might live in Him.

Let us therefore become imitators of His endurance; and if we should suffer for His name’s sake, let us glorify Him. For He gave this example to us in His own person, and we believed this.

— Abridged and language updated from The Epistle of Saint Polycarp to Phillipi.

The Refrain
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel. — Psalm 69:7

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 25 (Listen – 7:12)
1 Corinthians 6 (Listen – 3:03)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Samuel 26 (Listen – 4:30) 1 Corinthians 7 (Listen – 6:09)
1 Samuel 27 (Listen – 1:59) 1 Corinthians 8 (Listen – 1:54)

The Art of Ending

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 5:3
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit.

Reflection: The Art of Ending
By Steven Dilla

The magnitude of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys is astonishing — 48 locations, and over 8,000 miles of travel, in less than two decades. Add in the intensity of traveling on foot and animal, without modern cartography or weather prediction, and we begin to see the nomadic apostle’s fortitude.

Physical strain was only part of the weight Paul carried though. He mentions at times ferocity of spiritual attacks, but his writings allude to another pain he would have carried daily: the emotional weight of leaving friends and work behind as he pursued his calling. In his letter to Corinth he reaches back as if to say, though our time together ended, my love for you has not.

“Great is the art of the beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Endings in vocation or relationship are difficult. Industry leaders soften the blow with words like pivot or merger; relationships now dissolve after one party gets ghosted.

“Whether we like it or not, endings are a part of life,” explains Dr. Henry Cloud in his book Necessary Endings. “They are woven into the fabric of life itself, both when it goes well, and also when it doesn’t.”

“Certainly I am not saying that every time something is not working, it should end. In fact, it is usually the opposite…. But there is a time, a moment, when it is truly over.” — Henry Cloud

We try to avoid endings because of the pain they bring. Yet sometimes endings need to happen — new opportunities need to be pursued, painful (or abusive) relationships need to be abandoned.

The word in scripture for life without endings is “eternity” — until that point we must navigate endings well. Dr. Cloud suggests three principles:

  1. Accept life cycles and seasons.
  2. Accept that life produces too much life.
  3. Accept that incurable illness and sometimes evil are part of life too.

Dr. Cloud concludes, “When done well, the seasons of life are negotiated, and the proper endings lead to the end of pain, greater growth, personal and business goals reached, and better lives. Endings bring hope.”

One of the reoccurring themes modeled in the apostle Paul’s life is his profound grasp on hope — Christ himself, who would never leave nor forsake us. It was the good news of Christ’s steadfastness which allowed Paul to traverse the many endings of life, even death itself.

The Greeting
The Lord lives! Blessed is my Rock! Exalted is the God of my salvation! — Psalm 18:46

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 24 (Listen – 3:36)
1 Corinthians 5 (Listen – 1:58)

The Strength in Being Broken

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:11-13
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

Reflection: The Strength in Being Broken
By John Tillman

The Apostle Paul never took a strength-finder test. He preferred to boast, not in his strengths but his weaknesses.

Modern evaluative tests can be a helpful tool to match up serving opportunities with our temperaments, but when relied on too heavily, they can put the focus on ourselves. There is a danger of allowing our consumerism to affect even how we choose to serve in the church.

We live in a day where the popular idea behind ministry training is to focus on developing one’s gifts. Gift inventories, personality surveys, and strength indicator tests are the rage among those who want to be equipped for ministry today. But these kinds of tests set your eyes on your gifts. They put the focus on your strengths and your natural abilities. They make you the center of attention. However, the Lord is far more interested in your weaknesses than in your strengths. He’s interested in breaking you. Why? Because when there is less of you in the way, there is more room for Him to work.

As we survey church history, we discover that A. W. Tozer’s piercing observation is most accurate: “All great Christians have been wounded souls.”

Where we have been broken, we rely more heavily on Christ. And where we rely on ourselves, we are unlikely to do successful work for the kingdom.

It’s not hard to spot a Christian in ministry who isn’t broken. Unbroken people don’t know how to lay their lives down and lose. They only know how to try to win. If they’re criticized, they retaliate. If they’re attacked, they return fire. If misunderstood, they defend in anger. They are capable of doing all sorts of damage to others in order to save their own ministries and keep their reputations. On the contrary, people who have been broken by the hand of God know how to turn the other cheek. They know how to go the second mile. They know how to give their coats when asked for their shirts. They know how to speak well of those who misrepresent them. They know how to return good for evil. They know how to lose. And in so doing, they exhibit the Spirit of the Lamb and allow God to win.

What we learn through brokenness can’t be learned any other way. The strength we need to find has its source in Christ alone.

*Excerpts condensed from God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola

The Call to Prayer
Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are they who trust in him! — Psalm 34:8

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 23 (Listen – 4:18)
1 Corinthians 4 (Listen – 3:15)

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