Grace and Peace from Our Lord Jesus Christ!
I’ve been discussing the order of worship on Sunday mornings in these articles for a little more than a year because of how crucial it is for us and our children to develop a deep faith. In a day and age when people think that the chief end of humanity is to feel good and be happy and that God welcomes those who are good into heaven when they die but God is not relevant day-to-day in life, the things that we do each week on Sunday morning help us to resist buying into these lies. My desire for my own children is that they might have a deep faith that will cling to Christ even when being a Christian gets in the way of them feeling good and being happy. I want my kids to be able to push back when inundated with alternative liturgies like consumerism the other six days of the week. I want my kids to have such a deep faith that they would be willing to lay down their life for Christ. And I want this for myself, my wife, and for you too. So I want us to ask: ‘How do we make this stick during the week?’
Consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer.1 Bonhoeffer was a Confessing Church pastor in Germany who was executed by the falling Nazi government on April 9, 1945 by hanging. The camp physician who had witnessed his martyrdom for Jesus Christ said several years later, “In almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”2 It is worth asking: ‘How did Bonhoeffer make this stick in his own life? After all, many pastors in Germany had sworn their loyalty to Hitler. What made Bonhoeffer able to endure to the end?’
Bonhoeffer understood that the mainline church then did not have what Jim Belcher says we all need today: “a daily liturgy of worship and life to go along with the weekly corporate liturgy of the gospel.” The order of worship each Sunday morning was not enough in the face of the onslaught of Hitler’s Nazi liturgy, which Belcher says was “perfectly orchestrated to reshape the desire of the German people” and designed to “win the hearts and minds of the German people.” Nor is our order of worship on Sunday morning enough for you to stand up to the barrage of consumerism – let alone the other liturgies seeking to win your hearts and minds during the week. You need, if you don’t already have one, a daily liturgy of worship and life that reinforces what the weekly liturgy is doing in your heart, mind, will and imagination. And for many of you who already pray and read Scripture regularly during the week, this is an invitation for you to delve deeper.3
Let me encourage you all then to look at Sunday’s bulletin or read again some of the newsletter articles over the past year and think about ways you can reinforce various parts of the order of worship during your week. Consider your daily prayers as an example. You might pray beyond the sick list and even pray by singing. After all, on Sunday you practice praising God as God, confessing your sins, giving thanks for the good news and your many blessings, lifting up the sick and dying, and interceding for your enemies. Dying to themselves, children taught at home to pray this way during the week will be able to push back against the influence of the world, cling to Jesus even when it gets tough, and prepare to lay down their lives. This is what it will take for it to really stick. This is what Bonhoeffer did.
1If you are not familiar with Bonhoeffer there are several excellent articles and books to which I can point you, including a chapter in Jim Belcher’s In Search of Deep Faith and if you are particularly ambitious you might even read Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.
2Quoted in Jim Belcher, In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity, p.253.
3Belcher, “The Secret of Finkenwalde: Liturgical Treason,” in Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture,eds. Keith L. Johnson and Timothy Larsen (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), p.198, 201-202.