"Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relived".
Sometimes I have a problem with 'new' liturgy.
Back in my school days, one of my teachers beautifully hand-wrote a copy of all of Newton's famous hymn so we could sing it in assemblies, and I really started to miss that treat in the light of the recent 'new' popular version, which omits half the original verses, and chops in part of Charles Wesley's 'And Can it Be' (in itself a superb hymn) as a repeating chorus.
I know, it's just personal preference, but it does touch on something important.
School gave me a whole series of routines, which, even though it took a while to sink in, allowed me to begin to realize that many of the everyday things in life really matter and give us place amidst our time here. When we find those routines making room for engaging with each other - creating a place for the richness of community - then we begin to truly benefit from what is going on.
The same is true, of course, in church. The reason for liturgy, sacraments, preaching and teaching in a communal context, is because they give us the same kind of environment in which something deeper can transpire - a growing together in the deeper things of faith and life.
Robert Farrar Capon, of course, nails it:
We need good liturgies, and we need natural ones; we need a life neither patternless nor overpatterned, if the city is to be built. And I think the root of it all is caring… True liturgies take things for what they really are, and offer them up in loving delight. Adam naming the animals is instituting the first of all the liturgies: speech, by which man the priest of creation picks up each of the world’s pieces and by his wonder bears it into the dance. “By George,” he says, “there’s an elephant in my garden; isn’t that something!” Adam has been at work a long time; civilization is the fruit of his priestly labors. Culture is the liturgy of nature as it is offered up by man. But culture can come only from caring enough about things to want them really to be themselves – to want the poem to scan perfectly, the song to be genuinely melodic, the basketball actually to drop through the middle of the hoop, the edge of the board to be utterly straight, the pastry to be really flaky. Few of us have very many great things to care about, but we all have plenty of small ones; and that’s enough. It is precisely through the things we put on the table, and the liturgies we form around it, that the city is built; caring is more than half the work.
We can so easily detach the spiritual and the natural, the holy and the mundane, but in God's good work of creation, both are found in the very same place at the same time, so everything becomes valuable and worthwhile because of that.
There are, of course, many moments in life which fragment us from such wholeness, not least our own personal sins and weaknesses, but the joy and splendor is that the one who cares is here, and can aid us in some of our hardest moments.
In Psalm 93, David contrasts the immovable nature of God's throne and what He has established with the roar and fury of the floods. Yes, those waters are high and constant, breaking upon us all, but the psalmist's gaze sees further - greater, higher than such pestilence and travail is the testimony of God, sure and unmoved. Such care is what truly holds us.