A Few Odds and Ends on Theology or .....
What Are We Doing Sunday Morning?
I remember when an unbelieving friend of mine told me about his first visit ever to a large church in the Portland area after attending a wedding there for a friend the day before. When I asked him two days later about the Sunday worship service, he said it was “a rocking concert unlike anything I’ve heard in a long time. The only thing that was missing was a coke and a bag of popcorn.” Hiding my deep disappointment, I asked him what he thought about the sermon, and he said, “The sermon? I don’t remember anything about it.”
It is perhaps not too unexpected for an unbeliever to miss the sacred either in preaching or in the liturgy of corporate worship services. But I often wonder if he might have been impacted differently had he walked into a worship service that was first and foremost desiring to be adoring and expectant toward Christ; one that promoted a genuine sense of God’s graciousness to believing sinners rather than simply seeking to entertain; and one that sought ultimately to result in true humility and the fear of God among the congregation, and, perhaps for only a moment, was able to reveal God as Wholly Other.
Our focus in communal worship should be to exalt Christ to the congregation in baptism, communion, prayer, preaching and worship, so that we become more committed to a life of service and gratitude to Christ. In Baptism: we have a sign for the remission of sins, and a promise that for all who believe, Jesus Christ is washing and cleansing us from heaven by his blood, and is renewing us by His Spirit. In Communion: we have a visible sign of the promises that Christ has given himself to us in his body and blood, our spiritual food and drink. In these sacraments we maintain the faith of believers and aid them in sanctification.
In the preached Word: we have the ordinary means by which the proclamation of the Gospel is communicated to us to awaken and renew our faith toward God. In the preached Word we experience the truth and the conviction of our need for Christ, and the Spirit’s calling for obedience. In worship: we have music, by which we articulate the theological truths of the Gospel with our hearts, voices and instruments; we have the reading of the word, where we hear, agree and validate its truth as a congregation; and where we seek to assist the congregation in believing that God exists exactly as he has said he does in his revelation of Himself as Father, Son and Spirit.
We have prayer, where, in an attitude of trust, we openly call for God’s mercies, blessings and favor as a means to further glorify God and advance His kingdom; where we confess our faults; and where we plead for His forgiveness, favor and direction; and where we acknowledge His sovereign right to be glorified among His people.
A worship service should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” It should encourage the congregation to struggle well with life as they walk in faith. A worship service should be interesting, musical, educating, engaging, uplifting, thought-provoking, challenging, harmonious and humbling. It should be spontaneous enough to leave room for the Spirit of God to work in the worship team and in the hearts of the congregation more than was planned or anticipated.
It should attempt to unify the body by acknowledging God’s presence in their midst, recognizing His sovereignty in all of life so that we together bring glory to God as we worship Him in humility. A worship service should cause a congregation to ‘polish its Ebenezers,’ where it recollects the past mercies and victories that God has brought to pass in its midst. A worship service should be a place where the congregation seeks to be refreshed and invigorated to meet the challenges that come into everyday life.
1620s, "a fly which bites cattle," probably from gad = "goad, metal rod;" an early meaning of gadfly was also "someone who irritates another.”