Liturgy as script, communion as dress rehearsal

Some people are not big fans of written liturgy. You know the sort of stuff is said as a group in one voice as everyone reads the same words written on the page. Those who have shared their dislike of written liturgy with me, tell me that having the pastor or the people read something feels not genuine or from the heart. They are just words on the page that don't have any meaning - it is empty.


Now I am not here to say that all written liturgy is great. I have encountered very bad written liturgy (as I have encountered very bad 'words from the heart'). There are times when a written liturgy is more appropriate than others. I can also argue that words themselves are just symbols and meaning is established by people and if you encounter something that is not meaningful, you hold a large part of the responsibility of making meaning. 

I want to submit that liturgy is much like a script in a play or a movie. In that it is a set of words that are prescribed for a certain situation in order to act out a specific reality. No one who watches a play or movie a dozen times gets angry that the actors are saying the same thing all the time, or that they are just reading words from a page that have no meaning. No, we understand the role of a movie or play - to transport us and show us a picture of something else. 

Liturgy is the script we hold to. We have lines that we refer to in worship that are designed to act out a reality in worship so that it would inform our lives outside of worship. When the UMC celebrates communion, we do so with a script (a liturgy) that guides us to recall a specific story. We live out that story time and time again. And we act it out time and time again not for kicks but as a dress rehearsal.

So the next time you find yourself in the middle of the communion liturgy, ask yourself, what are we rehearsing at this moment? For instance, what is the communion liturgy a rehearsal for outside the worship?