Friday, August 27, 2010

Every church is liturgical

Every church, however formal or informal it intends its approach to worship to be, develops patterns and behaviors that become habitual. Those that claim to be non-liturgical are kidding themselves. Attempting to clarify various misunderstandings about the "Ancient-Future" movement which has been attractive to some Evangelicals, "Chaplain Mike" at Internet Monk has this to say about liturgy in worship:
Ancient-Future types believe that liturgy is the means by which we worship God. Furthermore, they understand that everyone has a liturgy.

The Baptist pastor of my youth would have been appalled had anyone suggested his church was liturgical. But every week, he simply took the bulletin from the past Sunday, crossed out the specific hymn numbers, texts, and sermon topic, and wrote in new details for the next Sunday. Everything stayed in the same order. Once a month he added communion. We were as strict and standardized as any Mass.

Most “contemporary” churches claim to be “free,” but that has not been my experience. Those on the Ancient-Future path are not seeking liturgy in contrast to non-liturgy. They are seeking better liturgy in contrast to insufficiently thoughtful and purposeful liturgy. ....

As mentioned above, every congregation has a liturgy by which they worship. Evangelical services are known for music designed to stir the emotions followed by preaching/teaching designed to lead listeners to a decision. This is the revivalist liturgy that is about 200 years old.

The basic form of the traditional liturgy is different. Though specific elements may vary in different incarnations of the liturgy, the church’s worship has been defined traditionally as “Word and Sacrament.” Therefore, the liturgy is comprised of two primary sections: the Service of the Word and the Service of the Table. The beginning of the service, prior to the Word, is a time of gathering before God in praise, confession, and prayer. The ending of the service, following the Table, is when we receive God’s blessing and are sent into the world to share the Good News.
  • Gathering: We come before God
  • Service of the Word: We hear his Word and respond with confessions of faith and prayers of intercession
  • Service of the Table: We give thanks and are nourished at his Table
  • Sending: We are sent into the world to serve as God’s blest people
For those on the Ancient-Future path, this order is attractive. Whether it is worked out in an elaborate high-church service with a multitude of elements and formal style, or in simple fashion without a lot of accoutrements, the service focuses on Christ and the drama of redemption. Every Sunday, God’s people are immersed in the Gospel through the liturgy, which begins with acknowledging the worthiness of God, then confessing our sins, then hearing and responding to his Word, then receiving grace afresh at his table, and finally being sent into the world empowered by his Spirit.
Don’t Misunderstand the Ancient-Future Path |

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