February 3, 2012

Liturgies of Sufficiency: Individual versus Communal Wellbeing

Darlene Jackson

Darlene Jackson

Administrative Coordinator

Center for a Livable Future

Pastor Mary Gaut, of Maryland Presbyterian Church, reminds us that we were created to give Praise to our God—and that if someone is hungry, we must feed them before they can be receptive to spiritual food.

In the fourth session of the Baltimore Food and Faith Enoughness series, we focused on how to worship, and how we let our hunger and thirst for things compete with our beliefs.

Worship is an outward expression of who we are as a religious community, and it consists of our beliefs, our faith, and our liturgy practices, whether it is Holy Communion, Baptism, honoring the Sabbath, fasting during Ramadan, or singing beautiful hymns that touch our very hearts and souls. Although we are all from different religious backgrounds, and we practice different types of worship, we were all created to give praise to our creator, as well as to show love to our fellow brothers and sisters who are outside the religious community. It is our responsibility to share in the love and joy that comes with being a child of God.

To do that, we must first ask ourselves, “Do we believe in our Liturgy practices that we partake in within our own religious communities? Are we confident enough to share and engage in conversations with those of another faith other than ours?” When you think about it, the world communicates its views and issues better than we do in our religious communities, because we sometimes are unsure about why we even engage in the liturgy practices, or our convictions. As humans, we hunger and thirst to feel complete, and consequently we fill those voids by acquiring houses, fancy cars, money and other materialistic values, and that has become the focal point. We are driven more by what we desire than what we believe or think, and therefore our definition of the good life has become very materialistic. We are emotional creatures, and rationale becomes secondary when making decisions. David said it so clearly in Psalm 63:1-8 what we as true believers should thirst after:

1 You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.  2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. 6 On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. 7 Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. 8 I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.

The saying “I am what I eat” is very powerful, because what we feed our natural man and our spiritual man is what we become. Behavioral change is necessary in order to have a sustainable future, and the message from the religious community has to touch people at the very core of the community’s hearts in order to bring change. To do this, we must first come together as a community for a common good, and then share the word of GOD, as well as our liturgy practices with them. As one of our participants pointed out, something as simple as an “Apple Festival” can bring together people of different faiths, but there is one common goal that particular day, and that is sharing in the love and joy of a community.

Pastor Gaut also shared with us the Individual and Communal involvement:

Individual: The point of my involvement with my community of faith is to connect with God as the source of strength, healing, transformation and renewal.

Community: The point of my involvement with my community is to connect with a bigger vision and be challenged to work for the greater good of a larger whole.

Communities are made up of diversity, but isn’t that what makes communities so strong and unique? People coming together to protect what is their own, and what is important to them. Whether we realize it or not, how we worship and carry out our liturgy practices shapes our thoughts and beliefs, and influences us as individuals as well as religious communities more than we realize. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we internalized our faith practices like our natural practices to the point that we just do it without thinking about it?

At the end of the day, we are all God’s children and the word of God commands us to love, so in spite of our religious preferences, and how we carry out our liturgy practices, we are to go out and reach those that have not yet been introduced to the religious community, because we are our brother’s keeper and we are all important in the sight of God. Each liturgy practice has its place in Worship, so let’s go out into the community and bring the two groups together for one common good, and bring about change that the world will recognize as the blueprint for sustainability, and that is oneness!

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