The Art of Practicing Redemptive Liturgy
After God created Adam he immediately put him to work naming animals. We don't hear Adam's opinion about the work, just obedience. In Gen 2:19 it's almost like God doesn't already know what is going to happen. I can relate to that new-Dad feeling of oohing over each new skill Junior can do… until boredom sets in and Junior starts exerting his free will to disobey by playing in toilets and chewing on electrical cords. My beautiful little creation falls so quickly into depravity. So I discipline Junior for destruction of property, theft, violence, or just general tomfoolery. Strange how Adam's cycle, God's story, is our story too.
What does that cycle of work, boredom, distraction, disobedience, discipline, and restoration teach us about God? About us? As a teacher I live within the endless cycle of school. In college, I discovered the concept of “hidden curriculum.” Hidden curriculum is what you teach before your lesson plan even starts: your smile, your class rules, your routine, your teacher's desk, your seating arrangement, the amount of homework, the type of homework, etc. What do I teach students before I even start to teach my students?
As an aspiring philosopher, this concept of teaching and learning hidden curriculum blew my mind. I could not get over it. I started questioning everything I did in my classroom, but it didn't stop there. What about when I’m outside the classroom? In the hallway? At lunch? At the grocery store? Sitting at home on the couch? Shopping on Amazon? I felt my life unravel before the fine-tooth comb of hidden curriculum long before I understood what to do about it. For a few years I felt powerless to do anything about it. How can you take control of hidden curriculum? My answer came within redemptive liturgies.
The book You Are What You Love goes into great detail about carefully taking a “liturgical audit" of your life to assess what it is you truly love and worship. This audit powerfully reconciled the hidden curriculum I saw in my life with the gospel curriculum in my soul. What does the Genesis account of Adam's work/boredom cycle teach us about ourselves? Everything. It teaches that Romans 12:2 isn't a cute motto, it's very real. It teaches us to renew our minds because the world has taught us liturgies to choose sin in youth, adulthood, and old age. I can, and ought, to have it my way all day, every day. The world's liturgy is sin and self. What was Jesus’? Sacrifice. Everyday Jesus sacrificed and gave mercy to widows and orphans. He brought healing to the sick and dying. What was Adam's? Work. Subduing all the world was a big job, only to be interrupted once a week with a Sabbath rest.
What two liturgies most often consume our lives?
“What did you do over your vacation?”
“I went shopping/traveling/playing at the beach/mountains/golf course.”
That is the world's liturgy. Do we buy it mindlessly? In the liturgy of the world, work is for vacation and vacation is for mindless play. Even the non-answer is an answer:
“What did you do?”
“Nothing, I got my mind off of work so I could relax.”
Right? Has God created us for mindlessness and play? We say no with our lips then indulge the world in liturgy after liturgy of self. Then after years of this liturgy we have crises of faith because we have lost all meaning in our lives. We find ourselves bored, distracted, and entangled in sin.
I am not a legalist. Celebrating people and events are important. My wife and I have created a liturgy together every five years. We take two weeks off to be far away from our kids to celebrate what God has done in our marriage. My point is not that we make busyness our focus like Martha did in Luke 10:38-42, but that we make the Kingdom of God our work. That “vacation" and “rest” is filled with sacrifice and work for God’s kingdom, not regularly for our own temporary pleasures. We were not created for rest we were created for God, to glorify God by loving him and obeying his commands.
Let the world see how empty and unsatisfying the liturgy of self is by teaching them with redeemed liturgies of sacrifice and work. You can take work off to serve, to obey God's command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28). Why don't you? What stops you from redeeming the secular liturgies in your life? You make time and spend money on things that are most important. The hidden curriculum of you routine and your wallet betray your heart's affections long before your lips do.
So, what do you love?