Jesus the BeggarOver the March Break, I read James K.A. Smith’s book, “You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit” and yesterday at the Upper Grand Principal’s Meeting, we spent an hour exploring the implications of this book. James Smith makes the argument that liturgies, or habits, routines and common practices, have a lot of power and influence to teach and to direct lives. In fact our lives are filled with liturgies. We commonly think of the sacred liturgies that we find in churches; however, Smith makes the argument that we are surrounded by secular liturgies as well that reflect the beliefs of our culture. In his book, he explores the liturgy of the mall and how it reflects the vision of the good life expressed in the belief of consumerism. Liturgies have the power to re-centre our lives back to God, which is why we go to church, but they also have the power to draw us away from God and centre us in other beliefs.
As I thought about the liturgies in my life, this example made its way from my unconscious thought to my conscious thought. My son has epilepsy, which for the most part does not impact the way he lives with one exception. He cannot drive. Whenever, I am home and have the opportunity, I drive him to work. It is a routine or a habit, but contains a liturgy. I take the same route every time. Just before I enter downtown Kitchener, I drive past St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and outside of the church is this beautiful sculpture called “Jesus the Beggar” made by St Jacob’s artist Tim Schmaltz. If I am not quite paying attention, I have been startled by the sculpture because I momentarily think it is a real person sitting on the sidewalk. Once I begin thinking, I am reminded of the sculpture, the story it represents and teaches and the verses printed above. I am intuitively being taught what the artist and the church wants me to learn, which is to remember and serve the marginalized of society because through these actions we serve Christ. The beautiful thing about this particular liturgy is that the next thing I do is drive into the core of downtown Kitchener. If you have been to the core of downtown Kitchener, it does not take very long to see the marginalized of society. I need that simple liturgy of viewing a sculpture and its rich teaching before seeing the marginalized to re-centre my thinking. It is too easy for me to drive into the downtown and begin to judge the marginalized. I need this re-centring in order to lament, to pray, to see them as image-bearers and listen to a call to action. I need the liturgy of the sculpture to call me back to a faithful life because I forget too easily.