"Desire 03: Liturgy"
by Cole McGee
Our sermon series for the past two weeks has been based on the book by James KA Smith “You Are What You Love.” And we have been walking through it chapter by chapter.
Before we get into this chapter let’s do some catching up…
In week 1 we discussed that we as human beings we are not primarily thinking things. We are not just feeling things… we are loving things. Smith says we at our cores are loving creatures.
In every loving creature … you and I… we have a desire… a yearning… a longing for something. As the our students said recently in class… everyone has a yearning for breakfast burritos… it is what we all secretly desire.
But in all seriousness … we all of have this deep deep yearning in our bones.
We also have in us a sort of compass…
This compass is like a guidance system that guides us to what we want… what we desire…
The Bible gives language to the place where this happens. The Bible calls this the heart, or the spirit, or the will.
The heart determines where we go and what we actually become. It determines who we are.
I am or I become what I love.
I want to settle in to that for a second.
I work with teenagers, and one of the messages I see teachers, parents, youth pastors, and media sending to students is this idea of being yourself. Just be yourself… just be you… you just be you and I’ll be me. It’s a nice sentiment, but I am becoming aware of how dangerous that message is for students… and for us.
This idea of you… your identity… your essence…. Existing in you, and this idea of the you having to discover who you are… does not come from christian tradition, the bible, or even modern philosophy… it seems to only come from greek philosophy.
The idea that your essence existed before your body existed, and the gods placed your essence in your body. This communicates this idea that you and your body are two different things, and then when you die… your essence… your identity… will depart from your body back into the clouds and float around for eternity.
The Bible does not seem to teach this at all.
Scripture teaches the body exists and you have no predetermined identity.
You actually make who you are.
This is why I have had teenagers cry in my office saying, “who am I?” I just don’t know who I am… or maybe you have had someone you know take a year off to discover their identity. The reason they are crying and the reason they are constantly searching… is because there is no you in there… YOU ARE WHAT YOU LOVE
You are what you are faithful to
You are what you are committed to.
That is your identity… God gives you the dignity of co creating the meaning and purpose of your life, and you only get that meaning and purpose when you love something, faithful to something, or are committed to something.
Tim introduced us to this strange idea. This totally terrifying idea. You may not love what you think you love.
The heart is a deceptive thing….
How are we supposed to know what we actually love? How can we sess out the truth of what we love?
… we know what we love by what we consistently do.
What we do reveals what we really desire… what we really want.
In other words… I may say, “I love reading” but in reality… most nights I watch Netflix.
But what is crazy is that what we do has two aspects to it…
There are things that we consciously do.
But there are also things that we unconsciously do.
And what we are consciously choosing to do is MASSIVELY outweighed by what we are unconsciously choosing to do.
There is another way of talking about what we do in life…
There is first nature actions: Things we do that we are born with.
And there are second nature actions: Things we do that are so natural it’s as if we were born with it.
Like being amazingly funny and likable… I do it so naturally it’s as if I was just born to be hilarious.
It’s actually kind of like driving car. You first are super aware of everything you are doing… nothing comes natural, but slowly driving becomes automatic…
It’s always hilarious to talk to teenagers after they have been driving for about a year or so… you can always play this trick on them… like you are in there head… and it’s funny because they don’t like it….
… teenagers do not want you to know that they sometimes are driving home from a friend’s house or a football game… and as they are driving… they kind of blank out… and then wake up at their house. They literally drove home in autopilot. They don’t want to ever admit this because they think that somehow this means that they are a bad driver and parents could therefore have a reason to take their car away.
… so of course I ask them about it… and they look at me like… how did you know that? Don’t tell anyone that happens to me all the time.
Driving has become so natural that it’s as if we were born with the skill. Like it’s a first nature actions, but it isn’t it’s a second nature action.
So remember… we are loving creatures… we all have hearts burning within us… and the ability to love exists in our first nature… we are born with it. Our desire, our ability to want, is natural and a part of our design.
Now remember the ability to love is in our first nature…
We have the ability to desire… to be faithful… to commit
but the object of our love… our passions… our desires… are all learned.
So the fact that I love breakfast burritos is not something I was born with. I learned this. The fact that I love… is something I was born with.
I didn’t know I loved breakfast burritos until someone brought me to Panchos and I ordered what they ordered… and I tried it for the first time. Now I love breakfast burritos.
Because this is the other counter-intuitive truth of us… What we do… shapes what we desire.
Our repeated habits and behaviors over time create what we love…. What we are faithful to… what we are committed to.
There is a name for these repeated habits and behaviors. They are called liturgies.
What are some repeated habits, events, or behaviors in your families?
What are some repeated habits, events, or behaviors around sports in this country?
What are some repeated habits, events, or behaviors around your job in this country?
What are some repeated habits, events, or behaviors around education in this country?
Around movie going?
… everything has repeated habits and behaviors… because this is what shapes our desire…it is what shapes what we love… it is what shapes what we are committed to.
Families, sports, job, country, education, shopping, movie going, apple, google… they don’t care about your opinions and thoughts… they don’t even care about how you FEEL about them… they care about what we DO… because what we do with them… determines our commitment…
What we do… determines our desire… our love… our commitment.
Watch this video… and as you watch this video I want you to think of church, religion, worship, and practice. Look at the messages they are sending us.
We could talk about all kinds of liturgies and their power over us, but there are two that I want to address for our city. I feel compelled to just say it, and then confess my complicit involvement in perpetuating this liturgy to our kids and families.
Militarism and Consumerism. These are two big words that if you are like me… don’t mean much… I say militarism… and you are probably like… yeah I know… conquest, winning, and dominance are not going to make us safe and happy. I think we know this.
I say consumerism… and you are probably like me… you are like… yeah I know… buying stuff… consuming stuff is not going to make me happy or make me fulfilled.
But I wonder if we named the dominant liturgies of these two forces… if it won’t mean a little more.
I am convinced that the dominant liturgy the dominant behaviors and repeatable practices of militarism… is sports. From kids sports to pro sports. I think it is the dominant method of teaching conquest, winning, and competition as a way of finding purpose, meaning, and happiness.
I am also convinced that the dominate liturgy of consumerism is school. From preschool to grad school the message we send to students over and over again is… achieve, achieve, achieve… because that is what will get you money and good job… which is veiled way of saying… money will help you find, purpose, meaning, and happiness.
And this is not the intention of sports or school… but they hijacked by these two forces that use them to capture our desire and our commitments. Sports is really just play… playing games… and education is about learning and the desire to learn… but they get hijacked… right?
And we as parents, pastors and teachers… we have been scripted by militarism and consumerism… we have allowed these forces to capture us in the liturgies … often without any conscious awareness…
and we have allowed them to shape our desires… and our commitments.
Therefore… we are all unconsciously teaching our children these liturgies, and thus shaping their desires and commitments for something that we all say… does not satisfy our desire for meaning for purpose for happiness.
We may not love the things we think we love.
I was watching a video recently of Andy Root this youth ministry theologian… and some nice youth pastor asked him in a Q&A session… “Why would you say parents always let their kids miss church and youth group for sports or homework?”
That question always makes me cringe and kind of ticks me off honestly.
His response was brilliant… he said… it’s because they love their kids.
It’s because they love their kids, and they want their kids to have lives of meaning, purpose, and happiness.
We have all been scripted by liturgies (by repeated behaviors and practices … since birth) that shape what we believe will give us meaning, purpose, and happiness.
Therefore we value and give weight to the things we believe will help us do that.
And consequently we lighten or give less value to the things we don’t believe will do that.
Parents… this is not your fault.
Students… this is not your fault.
Teachers… this is not your fault.
This is on us… as a nation, city, community, church… we all perpetuate and give energy to the liturgies that are shaping us to desire… to love… to commit to
weak and failed ways of finding purpose, meaning, and happiness.
Because it’s failed right… we all know… we all know… competition and consumerism… don’t work.
But we continue to allow school and sports to shape our commitments. Like I know fast food is bad for me… in fact I know it’s probably killing me… but… who here still eats fast food? Me too… like 4 times a week...
What is that?
It’s deep embedded liturgies that are shaping what we desire… what we are committed to.
And what we are committed to IS WHO WE ARE. Our identities are on the line.
So what are we supposed to do?
We might not love the things we think we love… I think the first thing we need to do is to confess with our mouth… say… or remember out loud… I desire to be committed to the things that Jesus is committed to… to be about the things that Jesus is about… to commit wholeheartedly to the cause of the kingdom.
Then take a liturgical audit of your life.
Maybe sports and school is not a thing for you… maybe you have them in proper place. and that’s it.. You're not drawing identity and meaning from those things. They are just simply play and learning.
If it’s not that… then it is something else.
Nobody is a free agent… we have all made commitments…
and if you think your goal will be to not make ANY commitments… you can’t… it’s impossible we are loving creatures… it’s what we do… we always follow something. You're actually choosing to just be oblivious about your own life and therefore potentially the damage you are causing yourself and others.
So take an audit of your life… ask yourself these questions:
What are the things you do that do something to you?
What vision of the good life is in those practices?
What kind of person do these want you to become?
The second thing comes from Joshua 24: 13-18
“I handed you a land for which you did not work, towns you did not build. And here you are now living in them and eating from vineyards and olive groves you did not plant.
14 “So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side of The River (the Euphrates) and in Egypt. You, worship God.
15 “If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.”
16 The people answered, “We’d never forsake God! Never! We’d never leave God to worship other gods.
17-18 “God is our God! He brought up our ancestors from Egypt and from slave conditions. He did all those great signs while we watched. He has kept his eye on us all along the roads we’ve traveled and among the nations we’ve passed through. Just for us he drove out all the nations, Amorites and all, who lived in the land.
“Count us in: We too are going to worship God. He’s our God.”
Commit to a new liturgy. Church, is not just something your parents drug you to as a kid… youth group is not just fun and games with prayer and worship… classes, meetings, work days… all of the events… they are not just “stuff to do” … these intentional practices and behaviours are the way to actually shape your desire, your love, and your commitment to the cause of Christ. The mission of God.
In when we participate in these liturgies over a long period of time… it literally shifts us at our deepest of levels… it changes who we are. It gives us ultimate meaning and purpose…
This text reveals the heart of God. This sermon is not an in/out equation. It’s not God is mad at you and you are no longer invited to the family gatherings.
… this is God hoping for the things that you parents hope in for your kids… deep down… you love your children… nothing is changing that… but you just don’t want them to waste their life on desires, loves, and commitment that don’t matter.
This is happening… and the rebellion of our young people are leading it.