As a protestant who grew up in denominations marked by the space they put between themselves and their Catholic forebears, i have never had a great trust of liturgy. Liturgy becomes rote. Rote is faith in the freezer. Hard. Inflexible. Cold. Dead.
As i seeped and simmered, i came to equate rote with religion. i learned no matter who we are, no matter what we believe about God, we all have faith in something. We all have a religion. We are all worshiping something or someone. We cannot help it. It's how we're made.
Like a good protestant, i came to understand and say (with no small amount of smugness) it's not religion, it's relationship. Faith is not in what i do, rote, it's in what HE's done. i cherished my freedom from all forms of rigidity, i celebrated in a casual style of worship service. Not quite hippie love-in or quaker meeting, we weren't deconstructionalists or anarchists, we were more libertarian, i guess.
A few more years in the crockpot however and i've come to understand that even as we all must worship, even as we all have faith in something, we all have liturgy. No, maybe we don't follow a dictum laid down in edicts from Rome, and maybe we don't have a board at the front of the sanctuary telling us what number hymns we will sing in what order and a bulletin that we don't even really need to look at anymore because we know the order of worship by heart, can recite it in unison (a term here meaning that dead, flat, monotone we all speak in during a service as if we were reading the fine print on a legal document instead of the Living Word) but we all follow patterns. We all have systems. We all make plans.
We were made for Rhythm.
Even someone like me, as painfully Northern Occidental and genetically, environmentally rhythmically-impaired as i am, have and live and was made for rhythms. i wake up at a certain time, i eat at certain times, i work at designated times. Lives, like songs, have frameworks. Sometimes the beat is fast, driving, energetic. Other days have a more languid tempo, relaxed, slow, contemplative. Some days are speed metal, some days are dirges, others yet are reggae, polkas, waltzes, dubstep, hip-hop, country, ballads, blues and even jazz but each day, each year, each life, has a rhythm. As if there is some outrageously hip angel of God in dark glasses, a pipe hanging from his lips, a soft hat cocked on his bobbing head and the mother of all upright basses in his long, steady fingers, tap, tap, tapping out the sound that was the first sound we became conscious of in the womb. Life has rhythm.
And so does faith. God built us for rhythms. Seasons. Tempos. Beats. Spiritual disciplines, creeds, liturgies are training. Like soldiers, warriors, drilling certain steps into ourselves until our bodies can react correctly in times of stress and fear and chaos without prompting or conscious thought. Like sages, we are so deep in Scripture we have the Word for every season, situation and praise. So our days are not idle, our minds not bored, our worship not empty, our prayers not prattle, our hearts not tempted by desires unfit for our natures as Priests and Kings and Sons of the Living God. For in our hearts and heads we hear the drums and basses and cymbals and guitars pounding out the steady rhythm to which the kingdom of the God of All Rhythms marches and dances.