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The “Work” of the People

[T]here are no unsacred moments; there are only sacred moments and moments we have forgotten are sacred. If that’s true, then it is our duty to reclaim the sacredness of our lives, of life itself.”                     
Andrew Peterson “Forward” in Every Moment Holy: Volume I[1]

When my vocational life took a 90-degree turn late in life, I went off to seminary looking forward to this new academic pursuit, particularly my studies in liturgy, that church-y word for what I had known as a lay person as “worship.” And my professors and my studies did not fail my expectations! From them, I learned, among other things, the history and theology behind the church’s sacramental acts, deepening not only my experience of them but also my faith. Of significance, I learned a proper view of liturgy itself from the ancient Greek origins of the very word “liturgy.” Liturgy means “the work of the people.” Not just the priest, not just a performance being observed, but work–active involvement of all the people in making ordinary moments, ordinary elements, into holy moments, holy elements. Yes, liturgy is worship, but it is far more than just that.

The church has long identified certain actions as “sacraments.” These rites require the work of priest and penitent, couple, or congregations of all sizes. Yet individual Christians have the obligation to make the whole of our lives holy. This charge goes all the way back to the Ten Commandments when, in Leviticus 19, the Lord charges Moses to tell the people, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) Yet this is hard, this holy business!

The book I referenced in the quote at the top attempts to sacramentalize, to make holy, every aspect of human life. There are prayers or liturgies for such mundane aspects of life as the paying of bills, losing electricity, before we access media, and in coping with the death of a dream. Suddenly, the “secular” becomes the purview of the “sacred.” Yet isn’t that as it should be?

Tomorrow, we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The holiday, as with so many things in 2020, may look very different than it usually does for many of us. Either we will eschew the large family gathering or, at the very least, there will be people missing around our tables.

So, how will you make this day holy? How will you offer up thanksgiving to God for the gifts God has given you this year? How will you give God thanks as did the earliest arrivals on these shores, who first gathered around a table to offer God thanks and praise for surviving their own challenges and hardships?

[1] Andrew Peterson “Forward” in Douglas Kaine McKelvey’s Every Moment Holy: Volume I (Nashville: Rabbit Room Press, 2019), xii.
The Rev. Sharron L. Cox
Associate for Outreach, Pastoral Care and Women's Ministries
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