“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…”
You know how the rest of it goes, right?
I can’t exactly remember how old I was when it hit me, but I do remember there was a point in my late-elementary or early-junior high school years when I stopped in the midst of the Pledge of Allegiance and asked myself two questions: (1) What does this mean? and (2) Why am I saying this everyday? The whole routine had become repetitive and monotonous. I was mindlessly reciting something that was familiar and it had lost any sort of meaning it had once had to me.
You know where I’m going with this, right? When we use familiar phrases (or prayers) over and over again, we are at risk of saying (or praying) them mindlessly. And if this happens, the true meaning of what we say and what we pray may be lost on us.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I believe the Lord’s Prayer is probably the most dangerous prayer out there; not because it’s violent, but because we are actively praying for God’s will to be done and that we would play an active role in making that happen. And because God’s ways are higher than our ways and God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, we will be participating in something we may not understand. And yet we boldly pray (every Sunday): God’s will be done.
Which begs the question: What else are we missing? What are those phrases we say or sing every week that can become repetitive, monotonous, and meaningless?
Kyrie— When we use our sung liturgy, we sing “Lord, have mercy.” This is called the kyrie, which is the shortened form of kyrie eleison, meaning “Lord, have mercy.” This is a plea and a prayer for all those gathered andfor the whole world.
Apostles’ Creed — This is our confession of faith. We’re not just reciting three paragraphs about God when we say the Apostles’ Creed. We are actuallyconfessing what it is we believe. The next time you say this creed, I invite you to think about what it is you are confessing.
Great Thanksgiving — This one always gets me because when this is spoken, it can sound kind of ironic. Read this in a flat, monotone voice and you’ll see what I mean: The Lord be with you. And also with you. Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give God thanks and praise.
Hymns — When we sing hymns, we are inevitably professing something about our faith. Pay attention to the words, read them, listen to them. Hymn writers pour their blood, sweat, and tears into these words. What do they mean? What do they tell us?
Needless to say, anything can become repetitive and meaningless if we let it. Let’s notlet worship become one of those things, for it is during worship that we set ourselves aside and give our thanks and praise to our Creator, Redeemer, and Inspiration…. Because it is indeed our right, our duty, and our joy to give all of our thanks and all of our praise to our God.