Cultural Liturgies


Walking to work is one of our cultural liturgies.

In his book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation, Christian philosopher James K. A. Smith talks about what he calls “cultural liturgies,” those daily habits we engage in as a Christian society that reveal what our beliefs are.

Smith in his thesis reframes the word liturgy to mean “Love-shaped habits—whether sacred or secular—that shape and constitute our identities” (Desiring the Kingdom. p. 25).

He goes on to say, “Malls, stadiums, and universities are actually liturgical structures that influence and shape our thoughts and affections. Humans—as Augustine noted—are “desiring agents,” full of longings and passions; in brief, we are what we love” (Desiring the Kingdom, Baker Academic, 2009).

The quote from St. Augustine that Smith is referring to here is is the well-known prayer: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

The deepest desire of our heart is to rest in our God.

And as Christians daily routines (in church or not) reveal that love and desire to be with God. Think about that the next time you head out to your usual trip to to grocery store, your regular stop at the gas station, your time at your school or workplace.

All of it is a kind of worship and a kind of revealing to the world where your priorities lie. Do you say a pray before meals in public? Do you read your Bible where people can see you? Do you talk about your experiences at church or your relationship with Christ as you go about your day? All of these habits and activities are just as important and just as telling as singing hymns in church and saying the Apostles’ Creed aloud.

Each word and motion and action is a way for us to show the world what is beneath the surface and what is found deep within our souls: our love for the Lord.

But because of our compartmental way of looking at the world, we can so often forget that God desires us to be in continuous striving to know him more and help others to know him more.

So remember that whatever your routine is for today you, as a Christian in this world, are in many ways always on your way to church.

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