Liturgical Spirituality

One of the challenges of the Christian life is to see the integral nature of everything we do, say, and experience. In the U.S. there is a tendency to maintain a “rugged individualism” —“my way, my God, my worship, my life.” But is that consistent with the Biblical picture of discipleship?

Dr. John W. Kleinig offers a more wholesome, Biblical view of these separated existences. In his book Grace upon Grace (CPH, 2008) he challenges much of what passes for spirituality today. The key is his section on “Liturgical Spirituality.” His first paragraph:

There are two domains that provide the context for the spirituality of God’s people. One is the public domain of the congregation that gathers for participation in the Divine Service. The other is the private domain of the faithful who engage in their daily devotions in their homes and go about their daily work. These two domains complement and enrich each other. Thus the practice of our spirituality links our daily routine with the sacrament of Baptism. Our spiritual self-scrutiny in our devotions prepares us for the rite of public Confession and Absolution in the Divine Service. Our personal reading of God’s Word and our meditation on it interacts with the public reading and exposition of the Scriptures. Our personal faith in Christ is included in the common confession of faith by the whole Church in the liturgy. The Prayer of the Church inspires our personal petitions and intercessions. Our family meals are joined with the Lord’s Supper by the saying of grace. The interaction between these two domains produces a healthy liturgical spirituality. The more they intersect and interact, the richer our spiritual growth and the deeper our spiritual maturity. (Grace upon Grace, pp. 68-69)

Profound words that get to the heart of what encompasses our Christian life and discipleship. Liturgy is not some “ritual to endure from past generations.” Liturgy invites us to participate in God’s life through Word and Sacrament—in the Church publicly with others, and in the home individually.

There is no disconnect between the public and private domains. Each is vital to our spirituality, each is essential to our maturing in the faith. If something is dead in the liturgy, then there must be something dead in my private domain too. The solution is God’s work in us through Word and Sacrament, living daily in light of Baptism, living in the strength, comfort, and hope of His Word, and receiving regularly the benefits of the Lord’s Supper.

Thank God that he does work in and through both domains. May we not be so focused on the private that we church shop to find something that only reinforces our private view. We need the perspective of the Church, in history, and in the world today. What a difference that makes—privately and publicly!

Author: exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian

9 thoughts on “Liturgical Spirituality”

  1. “Grace Upon Grace” is one of my favorite books. Absolutely life changing. We studied it together in our women’s group last year- quite an undertaking! There are so many simple yet profound ideas in this book (like the above)- it is one I will visit at least once a year.

    In fact, it was the inspiration for my “steeping in sundays” blog posts. The practice of grabbing something from Sunday and carrying it with me through the week has really transformed my perspective. When the private and public domains are interconnected, the blessings are multiplied!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. PS: “If something is dead in the liturgy, then there must be something dead in my private domain too.”

    What do you mean by this? “Dead” as in not connecting with our emotions? Just curious 🙂


  3. Following Christ is not an either/or… is a totality and when interrupted in any way we are giving less than and unable to receive the fullness of God’s intended benefit of grace. Kind of like the three strands… need each element.


  4. I understand exactly what the book describes. I am struggling right now with a disconnect between my public domain faith and private domain. More like struggling between faith of the head and faith of the heart. I know what I believe. I can articulate what I believe. I can share what I believe. But I feel a little lost right now in the relationship part of my faith. I’ve moved away from God as a daily part of my life.


    1. Thanks for being transparent. It is difficult. In my visitation of congregations and pastors over the past four years one thing I have found across the board: pastors struggle with their daily intake of God’s Word. That seems surprising to many but it should not be. I always ask, “What are you reading?” Most often they will refer to a devotional booklet or book, that has only one verse for each day. I ask again, “What are you reading —in the Bible?” Devotional thoughts from others are fine and helpful many times; but it is engaging the Bible itself at whatever level we can that God uses especially when we face the valley or pit.

      When I struggled the most, I followed a fairly basic approach, one Psalm a day and one chapter (consecutively) through the New Testament (not the old, at this point). For the Psalms, I followed this pattern
      Days 1-30 Psalms 1-30
      Days 31-60 Psalms 31-60

      When I could finally maintain that then I switched to
      Day 1 Psalm 1, 31, 61, 91, 121
      Day 2 Psalm 2, 32, 62, 92, 122

      Day 31 Psalm 119

      Blessings as God draws nearer to you.


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