The Liturgical Call to Adventure

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

John A. Shedd (1928, Salt in my Attic)(1)Special thanks to Garson O’Toole at Quote Investigator for the great work on quote attributions.

The Liturgy as Narrative

Part III

The Readings

Close your eyes for just a moment and put yourself in Heaven. It doesn’t matter what you think Heaven looks like, just stand there and look around. What do you see? God and other loved ones? What do you feel? Peace? Look closer and ask yourself: Are these things in stasis, or are they changing?

We know the one constant in life is change. We look forward to growing up. We anticipate new challenges and new adventures. We look forward to the day when …. fill in the blank.

When life gets difficult, or tragedy happens, our perspective changes. We once looked forward to the new, but after tragedy we cling to the past. As long life is good, new things are a joy. When life is hard, new things often hurt. Sometimes they hurt so much that we hold on to the past with an iron grip. Only to find that life moves on without us.

It takes time, but we understand that stagnation is death, and change is life. If change is life, it makes sense that Heaven itself isn’t about stasis, but change.

New lessons are hard, because we don’t expect to need to change in our life. Stasis, I think, is so much more comfortable than change. But in change, God can teach us how we must rely on his Word and nothing that we have been able to previously crutch upon.

Pastor Evan Gaertner

In story telling there is a Call to Adventure. It’s when the main character is faced with a decision to remain where they are (stasis), or accept the challenge (change). Sometimes the call to adventure is a request, other times it’s a necessity, and on occasion the main character simply has no other choice. Regardless, the main character must decide if they are all in, or just along for the ride.

In the Liturgy, we have a Call to Adventure in the Scripture readings.

We start in the Old Testament to remember what’s come before. The history in those first books of the Bible tell us what has happened. We see God’s grace and God’s wrath. We see decent people and vile people and we are astounded at how often its the vile that carry the message of God to the people that need to hear it.

After reading from the histories in the Old Testament we switch to the epistles in the New. These are the letters written by the Apostles to the Jews and Gentiles who now bear the name of Christ. As you can guess, these epistles are mainly theological.

The Old Testament histories tell us what has happened, the New Testament epistles tells us what ought to happen.

Every epistle is a challenge to the Christian, sparked by the words spoken by John the Baptist.

Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

John the Baptist, Matthew 3:8 ESV

Christianity is an active faith. We are saved by grace through faith and not by works, but to do good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). Bearing fruit, is a call to live the new life we’ve been given, not sit and wait.

The epistles guide us in what this fruit looks like.

This is the moment to accept the call to adventure, or reject it.

I’m not talking about salvation. I’m talking about being a laborer in the fields (Matthew 9:35-38).

Just as the world doesn’t stop to mourn our tragedies, the liturgy doesn’t stop to await our decision. The next step in the liturgy is either a joyous refrain, or obligatory hymn.

In John 6, many who had accepted the call to adventure turned away, but we rise and sing Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67 ESV)

“Alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Allelulia.”

Simon Peter, John 6:68 ESV (Alleluia’s added)

We remain standing to hear the Gospel reading.

In literary terms this is called “going through the door” because the words of Jesus change us. The alternative is to remain in stasis and follow the remainder of the liturgy with an unmoved heart.

Or our hearts can be moved by the words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus, the Christ Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

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