One of the greatest discoveries of my Christian pilgrimage has come with the realization that the primary importance in worship is not what I do but what God is doing. In worship, God is present, speaking to me, and acting upon me. It is in worship that God feeds, nourishes, and cares for me. And it is in worship that he gives me his grace, surrounds me with his love, lifts me up into his arms, affirms me as a member of his community, and sends me forth into the world with a fresh vision of his work and a new concern to live for him.
Biblical history is rich with signs pointing to God’s purposes. But today, I believe, it is in worship that God gives us signs of his grace. In worship God speaks and acts.
Scripture, history, and theology teach that the common rhythm of the story of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ is fundamental to all Christian worship. It is the framework for free church worship as much as it is the framework for the liturgical churches. There is only one story to be told and acted out.
When I move toward the Table of the Lord, I say yes to all that Jesus Christ has done for me. And, when I stretch forth my hand to receive the broken bread, I confess that I cannot live by bread alone, that I am in great need of my Lord. When the cup is lifted to my lips and I hear the words, “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation,” I say aloud, “Amen.” I affirm Christ with my heart, my mind, and my whole body; and all my senses—touch taste, smell, sight, and hearing—are evoked into worship
God’s goal in history, so to speak, is to win back his world by his own two hands—the incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit—and to unite humanity with the community of God. His original creational purpose will be fulfilled at the end of history.
“I make all things new.” Here is the narrative in its fullness. The world and its history belongs to God, and he has been, is now, and will be making all things new.
God chooses to restore humanity not by a decree of reconciliation, not by a sentimental forgiveness, not by a soft love, but by entering into union with humanity. In Jesus, God comes in human skin to reverse the human condition and reconcile humanity to the Father. . .
The Reformers refocused attention on two central aspects of ancient spirituality: (1) the absolute inability of humanity to choose union with God and (2) the divine initiative in which God is united to humanity through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus by the Spirit.
-Robert E. Webber, The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life
Worship tells and acts out the life, death, resurrection, and coming again of Christ through the proclamation of the Word and the Table/[Thanksgiving]. We order our service after God’s work of love and salvation. Therefore, it is an order that can be adapted to any church.
I think the simplicity of focusing on the life, death, resurrection and coming again of Jesus is a good focus for the church. Simply put, it’s a laser focus on the gospel. Remembering that, I think, helps immensely in service planning. I agree with Webber that it is an order that can be adapted for any church. However, I’ve also found that the regularity of Table is something different denominations disagree on. Connie Cherry offers the idea of a regular “Thanksgiving” at the end of the service in her book “The Worship Architect”. I’ve found this to be really helpful. Communion is the ultimate way of telling the story and thanking God for his answer to our sin, but it’s not an option for all worship pastor’s every week due to history, tradition, theological understandings, etc. Going back to Cherry’s idea, I think combining regular confession and then “Thanksgiving” helps us tell the same story. It might not have the same depth of meaning or experience, but is one way to adapt this gospel shaped order to any church. Thoughts?