Worship as Rhythms of Grace: The Family Gathered
“Worship may, and ought to, appear in modern garb, but she ought also to reflect the essential characteristics of her mother from whom she claims to have come.” - Reformation Worship
As we move closer to starting regular public worship gatherings. We discussed what the worship of the church actually is. There is a difference between the private worship of individual Christians and the public gathered worship of the church. Here are some notes from our launch team gathering in our home. Footnotes are below.
Remember that Reformed worship is neither Prescribed (with a required detailed liturgy, such as Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, or Lutheran), nor FreeStyle (with no binding parameters, such as Quaker, charismatic, or Baptist), but rather Directed (bound by biblical and theological principles, yet allowing freedom within those biblical and theological parameters). The biblical-theological parameters are:
- Worship is biblical (obeying biblical commands, obeying biblical prohibitions, following biblical principles, considering biblical precedents).
- Worship is God-centered. Worship is the adoration of God, by the people of God, in accordance with the word of God. God is the audience.
- Worship is participatory. The congregation is to participate in worship, not merely observe the “worship leaders.” Participation may be in many forms such as congregational singing, common prayer, corporate confession of faith, responsive readings, unison readings, corporate confession of sin, giving offerings, or receiving communion.
- Worship is historically informed. We are not bound by historical worship practices, nor are we altogether dismissive of them. We filter all of the history of the Church through the grid of Scripture.
- Worship is culturally appropriate. The first four principles (above) may be legitimately and differently expressed in various cultural settings and at different times.
“A church that does not say the historic Creeds on a regular basis is like a nation that does not remember her “War of Independence” or her “Fight for Freedom.” she has forgotten where she has come from. She has forgotten who she is. She has despised her mother (Prov 15:20). For the great historic Creeds are the wisdom of her mother passed down through the centuries and across the millennia…Our Mother Church, has left us with a rich inheritance, and we would do well to guard the good deposit, with thanksgiving.” -Reformation Worship
Every church has a liturgy, an order of worship. Some churches just don't write it down. The liturgy of our worship service not only invites us to hear about God and the good news, but to actually partake of God and to do the gospel. The movements in worship (as described below) are based upon the foundation of the apostles with Christ as the cornerstone and illustrated in Revelation 4-5. In our worship, we anticipate that God in Christ by the Holy Spirit will actually show up in this particular place with us as a particular people.
The style of our services is reflected in their musical diversity and degree of formality. While each service is biblically based and theologically rich, following the same liturgy, they are equally distinct in their experience of grace-centered worship. We believe that the gospel is a message of all-transforming grace and we enact that every week through each service's unique style of praise, confession, preaching, and sacraments.
The Rediscovery of God's Glory in Praise
God’s desire for us is illustrated in Movement One by His taking the initiative to invite us into His presence by the call to worship. In His presence, we rediscover the holy otherness of God in His glory revealed through creation and salvation.
The Rediscovery of God's Grace in Confession and Absolution
Set free from the fear of God’s condemnation and rejection through faith alone in Christ’s work on our behalf, the Second Movement in worship through “confession and absolution” allows us to rediscover God’s grace, which makes it safe to be honest, real, and transparent about our moral failures and brokenness. We have nothing to prove or hide in Christ.
Entering the New Song of Renewal in Christ's Presence as Prophet, Priest, and King
By the metaphor of “song” in Revelation, more is envisioned in worship than just “singing,” but also “dancing.” In our Third Movement of worship, we “dance” with Christ in salvation by our participation in the sermon, Lord’s Supper, and Doxology. We “dance” with Christ in salvation, even as we are made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) that is being mediated to us by the Holy Spirit in the midst of us.
The Celebration of Benediction
A benediction is not a doxology (statement of praise). Neither is it a commissioning. It isn’t even a prayer. But, as symbolized by the pastor’s hands reached out toward the congregation, it is a decree made by God as our divine king to bless us in Christ. Throughout the bible it is something people would literally die for. A benediction both declares God’s intention and effects this blessing into our lives. To receive the benediction is to receive the certain hope in Christ that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).