Ordinary Becomes Powerful

At 18 months, Dow would hold up a cracker and say “take, eat.” It was enough to make your heart melt. At 18 months, Whit, not to be outdone, now regularly sings these words, “Be Thou My Vision.” It is one of the hymns with which I serenade (matter of opinion I know) the boys to sleep at night, exclusively for several weeks following Graham’s birth. Obviously it has done its work in more ways than one. For better or worse, we are discipling all the time.

It reminds me of the power of liturgy and our somewhat routinized way of doing worship in the Anglican world. Years ago I went to see an elderly parishioner in a nursing home. She had been there for many years and had not recognized anyone or communicated in a couple. She had been raised, as many Episcopalians were, on the Rite 1 Morning Prayer. I said the service for
her but not with her for obvious reason. However, when I came the General Thanksgiving she joined in saying it word for word. She had core convictions she could articulate even through the fog of age and dementia.

On another occasion, I was standing at the bedside of a young man dying of cancer. His long battle was coming to an end. Sensing that, I asked his young wife and three young children to come into the hospital room and gather around him that we might pray. He had not said anything in couple of days. The doctors thought the cancer had metastasized in his brain. As we stood quietly I said, “The Lord be with you. As trained the family responded “And also with you.” I continued, “Let us pray.” Instantly this dying man  said “yes., let’s. Our Father, who art in heaven . . . ” Of course, the entire family joined in. Within minutes he was gone. His last act was to lead his family in prayer. Liturgy penetrated the innermost parts of his mind yielding a response of faith.

Never underestimate the value of tools God has given us to disciple. Liturgy can’t produce a Christian any more than sitting in a library will make us a book. But for the believer it can etch deep truths in the remotest recesses that can be summoned and transcend even the ravages of death.

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