Like most of you, I have been somewhat mesmerized by the current presidential primaries. Both the Republican and Democratic candidates have mostly hurled charges and insults at each other. I personally don’t find that very helpful, but such is the nature of polarized politics in our day and age. Screaming at each other is what passes for passion. Gone, it seems, are the days of statesmen and stateswomen.
The intriguing thing to me in these debates and the hype surrounding these candidates is the notion that we all seem to be wanting someone to swoop in and save us. Save us from exactly what is the basis upon which we will choose one candidate over the rest. There is a sense in which many of us—maybe most of us—appear to feel that we are lost. It’s a flat economy or it’s a failure of foreign policy or it’s a lack of vision for domestic issues or it’s whether to build a wall or not.
Curiously, the same thing can be said of our favorite sports teams. If we can just draft Marcus Mariota, then all our troubles will be over. And it has been a popular belief in the business world (the right CEO), the academic world (the right university president) and the church (the right pastor).
To be sure, a single person in the right place at the right time can make things better. But it never happens in a vacuum. In the end, if our beloved Titans are to be a great football team, it will be because all of the players do their part. If our nation is to make progress, a great President will help, but that will never replace great citizens.
The church has known this for 2000 years. The term “litourgeia” is the Greek word from which we derived our word, “liturgy.” For most of us, liturgy is what we do in the order of worship on Sunday mornings. But the true meaning behind the word was the Greek idea that every citizen had a unique place and function in the city. And furthermore, the city can thrive only when every citizen performs his or her duty effectively. By establishing this value, the city affirmed the importance of every one of its citizens, from the Emperor to the humblest servant.
We can’t afford to wait for “someone” to come and save the day. That has, in fact, already happened in the person of Jesus. But the world is not yet redeemed. There is still hatred and violence and ugliness nearly everywhere you look. The only way it stops—the only way the world gets redeemed—is for each of us to become a partner to Christ and each other. The litourgeia of the church will transform the world.
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.