Parental Horse Sense: Lesson 2 — A Living Liturgy

For our second installment of parental horse sense, I’d like to talk about a living liturgy. Not a monotonous one. Not a dead one. Not one that everyone in the home hates. It will require energy, of course. And therein lies the rub. This home marked by a living liturgy banishes laziness so the lazy will be more than little uncomfortable with it. But a living liturgy mustn’t be like the first day at boot camp with Sargent steel-face scowling down at you. 

Fathers and mothers must follow the liturgical gladness of their Father in heaven which G. K. channels here in his typical Chestertonian fashion—

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Now, we all know that this bar is set quite high. You’re already tired and you want to hasten to remind me that you are no child with “abounding vitality.” Ah, yes, but your Father is younger than you. And the same power that conquered the grave now resides in you. And I didn’t title this series of posts “7 quick and easy fixes to your parenting challenges” so I manifestly cannot be charged with click bait. That said, where do we begin to implement this liturgy that aims to be a light yoke like our Master’s?

Start with family worship. Do it when it works for you family. With several children in the house, I have found right after a meal to work well. The table is still full of plates and lasagna smears. Often the children are still eating. Baths are in our future and there’s only 45 minutes until heads in beds, so I’m killing two birds (the finish up what’s on your plate bird and the let’s sing a psalm together bird) with one stone. Nothing in the Bible against that. I dare say it has a ring of wisdom to it. 

Don’t be long-winded if you’re leading this family worship. Read a short passage of Scripture, sing a psalm or hymn (two if the kids and momma are enjoying themselves), ask a catechism question (and if you have one set to music this part goes much better), and pray. Often, we go around the table with each child praying a one or two sentence prayer of thanksgiving. We know how easy it is to get out of sorts after a long day. Nothing like being reminded that God has given us all sorts of undeserved gifts. The thanksgiving prayers are often blessed by God to increase thanksgiving—remember this is a living liturgy.

Add to your family worship times, a solid bed time routine. In general, make it a practice that the kids hit the hay at the same time every night. Read them a book. Pray for them. And bless them. Our children go to bed with father’s hand on their head and something like “The Lord bless you and keep you and make his face shine upon you” or “The Lord crush Satan under your feet” or “May your children possess the gates of their enemies.” 

Work an education and sports liturgy. It is your God-given duty to educate your children. This responsibility is yours and not the state’s. So we must not begrudge sitting down after dinner and helping with homework. Make it a comfy chair if that helps. Go all the way and make it a comfy recliner. But be there for the kids when they’re not sure what the next step is on that math problem. 

Sports is a world of training hard work, self-control (especially emotional self-control), teamwork, physical strength (and mental), and overall character. Sport takes time. Some families certainly make sports an idol. Don’t do that. But do step back and notice all that your children are getting if the athletics are done right. For one, they learn authority and how to respect coaches. They also learn how to lose and not chunk their Gatorade like a fitsy toddler. They learn how to crucify their pride when they are the best on the court. The list of lessons could go on. Don’t let the sports control your liturgy. You will need to be flexible with your family rhythm of course. But if you’re home liturgy is going haywire and looking like some hit and miss wild Methodist revival camp meetings with you as a traveling itinerant minister missing church for travel baseball tournaments, then just pull the plug and get back to the family fundamentals.

Sabbath well. God has given us one day in seven to keep holy to the Lord. That means call the sabbath a delight. Create a culture in the home where everyone is looking forward to Sunday. It is the day, let the earth rejoice(!), when no one may do laundry or school work. It is the day we appear before the Lord as a family to rejoice with the saints. 

As you establish and maintain a living liturgy in the home, make small tweaks as necessary, not large ones. If you know that things have gotten away from you in the home, don’t institute 17 laws of the Medes and the Persians right away. Don’t make the mistake of Rehoboam and go to talking about your thighs being as thick as your father’s finger and what not. Nobody wants it. You’re in the new covenant. The family has been set free. The family has be Pentecosted.

The Apostle Paul is very clear that fathers must bring up their children. But notice that is the nurture and admonition of the Lord, not of that schoolmaster that ruled the church in the wilderness. You are to raise up your children through this happy and vibrant liturgy without provoking them to wrath. 

The secret to the whole thing is that your soul be right before the Lord. If father and mother have the joy of the Lord, if they are trusting God for their children, then that gladness spills over. It is just down right hard to remain a grump when others in the family are having a wholesome and good time. Laughter feeds laughter. Self-control nurtures self-control. Gloom and laziness breed themselves as well. 

So make a plan, a liturgy of grace, rooted in the forgiveness of Christ’s cross, a plan that is full of good things that doesn’t ride anyone into the ground; then execute that plan by grace through faith looking for energy from the God who says to the sun every morning, “Do it again.”