Being a “public servant” is perhaps not the most fulfilling and exciting job in the world, but it is nevertheless a very important and necessary part of our society’s functioning. Without a public service, many things we take for granted (e.g., Medicare refunds) simply would not happen.
To some the liturgy is even duller than the public service - but it is infinitely more important! The original meaning of the word “liturgy” (from the Greek leitourgia) means a “public service”. Liturgy was any public work by concerned citizens on behalf of society, and for the wellbeing of society. And that meaning has always been behind for our church’s “liturgy” as well. When we worship, we are serving the wellbeing of the world – even though many take that for granted. But as a father of the ancient church put it: “The world is ruled by the prayers of the saints”.
The New Testament describes many things as liturgy, even if the word itself is often lost in translation. Leadership in Christian worship (Acts 13:2), proclamation of the gospel (Rom 15:16), and charitable giving (2 Cor 9:12) are all described as leitourgia. So is the ministry of angels on our behalf (Heb 1:14), and most important of all, Jesus’ continual prayer for his church from the heavenly sanctuary (Heb 8:2,6), is described as liturgy.
Today, as we pray, praise and offer ourselves to God, we also will be serving the common good. Our liturgy is an act of public service for the wellbeing of the world. That is most obvious in the Prayer of the Church, but it happens in other ways too, as future Liturgy Notes will explore.
Challenge: Think of yourself as a public servant for the next hour!
A series of studies on the Liturgy – Linards Jansons