Desires, Liturgies and the Kingdom: Part 4, Wanted: Liturgies for Loving the Hard to Love

Last post reflecting on the work of James Smith as we processed his books Desiring the Kingdom and You Are What You Love at last fall's Rochester College Streaming conference.

Again, if there was big point I struggled with at Streaming it was the issue I raised in Part 1, that liturgy isn't a magic bullet when it comes to spiritual formation.

So what's missing?

I think what's missing is summed up in what we mean by "kingdom" when we say that liturgy forms us to "desire the kingdom." What is this "kingdom" that we are trying to love?

Most of the time when I hear Smith describe his work kingdom is referring to the transcendent. Rarely does Smith describe liturgies, habits and practices that help us love hard to love human beings.

Basically, I agree with everything Smith describes in his books except his definition of the kingdom. Smith's implicit definition of the kingdom is too spiritual and too transcendent and not tied closely to where most failures of Christlikeness occur, the realm of social psychology and interpersonal relationships.

I love things like liturgy, the liturgical calendar, structured prayer, silence, Sabbath, Lectio Divina and on and on. I'm a huge liturgical nerd. I geek out on this stuff. But none of it is directly forming in me the interpersonal affectional capacities required to help me love hard to love people. It's this interpersonal aspect that is missing in most conversations about liturgical practice and spiritual disciplines.

I agree that we need habits and practices to shape and direct our loves. But what I want to see more of are habits and practices that form and direct our loves toward human beings.

Love, especially for the the hard to love. That's my definition of the kingdom.

So where are we describing the liturgies that help us with that?

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