Reflections of Rich
by Jimmy Abegg
CCM Magazine September 15, 2017
“This is what liturgy offers that all the razzmatazz
of our modern worship can’t touch. You don’t go home from church going, “Oh I am just moved to tears.” You go home from church going, ‘Wow, I just took communion and you know what? If Augustine were alive today, he would have had it with me and maybe he is and maybe he did.’” — Rich Mullins
We are a product of what we live. One of the things that I loved most about Rich was he was literally a product of what he lived.
In any good story, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. Liturgy is profound because it paints a pattern— it becomes a compass in a person’s life. Whether daily, weekly, or monthly, hopefully there is enough frequency that it will evoke habits that inspire the people that you are with, and it will invoke personal traits that are more like the fruit of the spirit.
Agitators could say liturgy is just the church inventing a way to keep everybody under control. I have heard people argue that with great ability, and they might win the debate with me, but the same could be said for the Stations of the Cross, which is a historic invention to inspire faithfulness and regularity among Christians—to not just practice their faith, but to come to church and do the Stations of the Cross. It is a physical evidence of something that’s supposed to be taking place internally.
To me, the liturgy is just fundamental instructional ideas. You don’t have to follow it—there are people who love to walk barefooted in the snow. There are people that love to go in the rain without a raincoat. There are many ways to live, but the liturgy can function as a kind of baseline for living as a believer. If we can subscribe to even a small portion of it, liturgy brings something unnoticed to light in your inner life. The way I understand and practice the liturgy is to remind myself of what it must be like to be saintly, or to be humble, or to be meek, or to be righteous.
In my stronger Catholic days, I went to mass every day. The beauty of attending any kind of denomination that expresses its worship through a tried and true liturgical year—if you and I live in different parts of the world, you live in Calcutta and I live in Colorado, through the liturgy we hear a similar message in our daily life. We are unified. If we could execute some level of liturgy in our existence as a community, wouldn’t life be different? It’s an unattainable goal, but if we don’t aim high, how can we hit higher?
What I have come to discover, what Rich helped me discover, is the things that are most important in life are invisible, like the idea of friendship. What is real friend- ship? Well, real friendship is that you would lay down your life for another. That’s strong. I can’t even get my mind around that.
This is part of why I believe that liturgical living can create in us the kind of atmosphere that can be contagious for spiritual evolvement and for birth and rebirth of all kinds. It is heaven. If we practice a routine, a silent pursuit of a God who cares for us, then we will find him. Knock and the door will be opened. These are simple concepts and I don’t think it is that hard to be semi-obedient where they are concerned.
Liturgy is a life-changing mechanism in the world for our benefit. It helps define the highway for living. I’m still on that highway.
*Excerpted from the new book, Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth: Spiritual Conversations Inspired by the Life and Lyrics of Rich Mullins, authored by Andrew Greer.