Written by Jesse Tyrrell. Media by Noah Henry.
This week in the senior capstone class, Foundations of Christian Doctrine, we discussed liturgy and society. Though many different trails can be explored when discussing liturgy and society, Dr. Hartley made a point in class regarding hospitality that lead me down my own trail. As Christians we are called to be hospitable, and care for those in need within our society. True hospitality is inviting people into your space while making them feel at home. Hospitality does not mean I change my practices just to make them feel more comfortable; more so I am to be as helpful as possible explaining to them why it is I do what I do.
Gordon Lathrop, makes available an understanding of ordo and liturgy that requires the assembly. According to Lathrop, Christians are to invite people to discover God and especially God’s grace known in Jesus Christ. Explaining the concept of ordo we see it is a list of times and actions the community does in a certain place. For example, the ordo of the “Christian worship establishes the strongest possible signs at the center of the meeting and yet breaks those signs to the meaning of the mercy of God, making the ritual circle permeable and accessible to as wide a group as possible” (Lathrop 209). Simply, the ordo is the itinerary of what the church does. Following this understanding of ordo we look to the concept of liturgy. According to Lathrop, liturgy is a social event and its order proposes a vision of ordered society with a larger ordered world. When we as Christians are able to follow the ordo in a healthy manner, we are to meet people where they are and invite them into the hope we have in and through Christ, thus practice healthy liturgy.
As Dr. Hartley was sharing on hospitality, he used the example of inviting friends home for thanksgiving. The point he was making was that to be hospitable I need to explain to my guests what it is my family does on thanksgiving and why we do it. It wouldn’t make sense if my family changed the ordo and liturgy of thanksgiving just because someone else is joining us. Unfortunately, it seems as though many churches change both the ordo and liturgy to meet people where they are or to bring more people through their church doors. This changing of ordo and liturgy is usually masked behind the deception of hospitality. It seems as though many believe to be hospitable means that we must change both ordo and liturgy to make outsiders feel at home. One large issue with this understanding of hospitality is we begin to offer a different or even sometimes a false hope that does not allow Christ to be at the center of all that we do. The people whom churches are trying to reach become the center of all they do. When this happens it is not hospitality, it is bad theology. What I believe Lathrop suggests in his writing is that an honest example of hospitality is the ministry of Jesus. He was thrust into the world meeting people where they were; while at the same time, explaining and sharing the hope that is to come in and through him alone. He lived life with the poor, he fed the hungry, and healed the sick yet his ordo remained the same, only through him is anyone able to be reconciled with God the Father.
In closing, it is important to understand both ordo and liturgy. The ordo of the church is the list of times and actions we as a community are to do in a certain place. Christ is the center of all that we do. It is in this ordo where the Church can practice liturgy. Liturgy is a social event with an order that proposes a vision of ordered society with a larger ordered world. We see in the example of Jesus Christ that we are to meet people where they are, invite them into our homes, and explain to them what we believe and do in and through Christ Jesus. We are not to deceive ourselves into thinking that in order to be hospitable we need to change what we are doing to make people feel at home. Christ must be at the center of everything we do, thus the reason for what we do remains the same. However, to be hospitable means to walk our guests through the ordo and liturgy so that they may understand what is going on and hopefully they feel comfortable through the process.