Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why We Worship the Way we Do: Part Four

From the very beginning of the New Testament church, worship was always expressed corporately as a liturgy, which comes from the Greek “leitourgeia” meaning, “work of the people.” This work involves a specific structure for worship and takes the church on a journey to the throne room of God, and there in His presence, allows us to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. This discipline of liturgy with scripted and non-scripted prayers opened the people to the move of the Holy Spirit while preventing the whims of the worshipper to take precedence. Thus, the major focus is on the one God in three persons, the God of creation and order. God’s people benefit from this work of adoration as the bonds between each other and with God are strengthened. This four-part liturgy, includes, The Gathering (hymns and prayers), The Service of the Word (Scripture and preaching), The Service of the Table (bread and wine shared) and the Departure (Going Forth to Serve God).

We have already talked about the particulars of the Procession and the Reading of Holy Scripture. After we have heard God’s Word read, those who have been called by God and appointed by the Church are to explain and expound upon this Word. We call this person by many names. Some call this person the preacher, the pastor, the minister, the priest, the teaching elder, or even, from the original language of the Bible, the “presbyter.” Most of these names reflect various functions of the office, but the job of the preacher is to speak God’s Truth from Holy Scripture. This is a frightening task. In the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), to be an ordained preacher “with standing,” which means that whole Church has approved or ordained this person to preach, is a long process and can be very difficult. The sign of ordination is the stole, the long piece of cloth worn around the preacher’s neck. The preacher does not work alone. The Holy Spirit, the Bible and the prayers of the people who are listening all play apart in the proclamation of God’s Word. At the conclusion of the sermon, an invitation for people to respond is offered. This is where the Church declares the faith by a creed or, most commonly in the Disciples Church, we make the invitation for those present to affirm the greatest creed: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Lord and Savior of the world.

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