As I write, 2017 has taken off in good form here in Milwaukee with so much sunshine that the snow, which has become small mountains of frozen grey goop, is melting. My faith community began the New Year where we took Communion as the first meal of the year. We spoke together a Call to Worship, and held each other up during Prayers of the People, we sang hymns and folk music, and pronounced a Unison Benediction together.
In other words, we created liturgy on this first day of 2017.
Liturgy means “the work of the people” — as Baptists we are particularly inclined to lean into the work of liturgy– the work of public worship in rituals of faith. Liturgy is so full of grace because we take the work of our hands and see that it becomes infused with the mystery of the grace of God. We do this every week, over and over, because in doing it, we develop faithfulness like calluses on our hands. The hands become strong and they remember, especially in the most difficult of times, who God is and what God has done.
The work of liturgy does not belong solely to the pastor. It belongs to the Church.
And it is in this frame of mind, that I think of 2017.
The work of justice-making and peace-building does not belong to any institution as a whole. Like liturgy, it is the work of the people. When the power is grass-rooted in diverse ways, it cannot be controlled by an elected leader of any kind. The power is in the people.
And because it is the work of the people, it is beautifully complex, grass-rooted, and also fraught with pain, misunderstanding, blame throwing, shaming, and burn-out. Growing edges are so often jagged and grace so often needed.
But the work is ours to hold.
May 2017 bring new calluses for our hands so that they aren’t so blistered anymore. And maybe a little Bengay for the sore backs…
This makes me infinitely hopeful for this year. I cannot wait to do this work together.
On a personal note: The work of my own evolution and growth in faith and life does not belong to anyone else, but myself. The work of forgiveness is mine to do. The work of power-sharing and ally-building starts with how I engage in these practices in my daily navigation of the world. Though the work of the people is done in community, it has to start within me.