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Week 1

Week One: Overview of the Liturgy

 

I. Introduction: A Liturgical Church

The word, Liturgy literally means “the work of the people”. Therefore, a liturgical church is not simply one that uses a formal style of worship on Sunday morning. In fact there are many parishes that use a “liturgy” but remain anything but liturgical in nature. Instead a liturgical church is one that embraces the Biblical principle of worship and sees it extending to the whole life of the church- be it the Sunday morning service, the various programs and ministries of the church, or the daily life and witness of its members.

 

The Biblical principal of worship may be summarized as follows:

·       God determines how God is worshiped.

Leviticus 10:1 Now the sons of Aaron, offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

Why is God so particular about worship?

·       The way we worship is a direct indication of who we worship. In other words, what God requires from His people and what God accepts in worship is based on who God is.

Leviticus 19:2 You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

·       God’s people are called to worship and serve God in all they do

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

·       Each believer is equipped by the Holy Spirit to fulfill His share of the ministry

1 Corinthians 12:7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

·       We need each other to faithfully fulfill the work that God has given us to do

1 Corinthians 12:21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."

 

Therefore, at its heart a liturgical church is one that understands that worship encompasses the whole of life and that it is the work of the whole people of God. The result is that each member comes to church expecting to serve. Such then is a liturgical church. And such lies behind the notion of liturgy as active. Worship then is something you do not something you attend.

 

II. The Basis of an Active of Liturgy

An active Liturgy is based on the active nature of grace and the active nature of our relationship with God. God has called us into a real relationship and His grace really changes us so that we can actively take part in that relationship. As such, worship is not something we attend or something we watch. Rather worship is something each believer does. Therefore, it is vital that you remember this one single governing theme of our study:

At every point in the service you are to be doing something and if you listen, the service will tell you what that something is.

(be it “let us pray”, “let us confess our sins”, or “let us hear and receive the reading of God’s Word”).

 

III. The Framework of the Liturgy

The Prayer Book as a whole forms a spiritual narrative into which our lives fit. It is the story of God’s redemptive love and the way His grace defines each stage of life.  It begins with baptism and continues with instruction, confirmation, marriage, and finally death. At the heart of this story is the weekly gathering of God’s people for worship and to be nourished by the Eucharistic meal.

 

As such, the Liturgy reminds man that our relationship with God is the single defining factor of all life.

 

IV. The Structure of the Eucharist

The Eucharistic service is divided into two portions: the Ministry of God’s Word and the Ministry of the Lord’s Supper. These two sections of our liturgy are inseparable. Notice then, we do not partake of the Lord’s Supper without first hearing God’s Word. Why?

·       The Table is a table for believers. Therefore, it is only for those who have first received the Gospel

·       Believers are called to rightly discern the meal. Scripture teaches and explains the New Covenant in Christ’s blood partaken of at the meal.

·       Finally, believers are called to remember their need for the God’s grace by examining themselves according to God’s Word (verses their own assessment)


Next, just as we do not partake of the Lord’s Supper without first hearing God’s Word, so too we do not gather to hear Scripture without being drawn by its instruction into fellowship and communion with God. Why? The very grace, fellowship and renewal offered in Scripture is enjoyed to its fullest extent at the Table.

 

Note: this twofold Structure then defines the very layout of the Church: We come to the Table by the reading and teaching of God’s Word. Thus, the Table is preceded by both the pulpit and the Lectern -one on each side.

V. The Sacredness of Worship

The word, “sacred”, denotes that which is set apart for and uniquely associated with God and the worship of God. Unfortunately, much of evangelical Christianity has lost a sense of the sacred. The concept of distinction so vital to Christian worship and living has been replaced by notions of the casual, the common, and sameness. The result is that reverence, authority, and individual holiness have all suffered. However, the ideas of the sacred as well as that of reverence and holiness are all fundamental principals taught by both the Old and New Testament.

 

Note: Exodus 3 provides an excellent illustration of what determines sacredness.

Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; 5 Then the LORD said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."

The ground is holy not because of the bush or because of the way the bush makes Moses feel. Rather, the ground is sacred because of God’s presence. Notice then both the Old and New Testaments teach the sacred

·       There is a sacred people (priesthood of all believers) 1 Peter 2:9

·       There are sacred times (times set apart for corporate worship) Exodus 20:8

·       There are sacred places (places set apart for corporate worship). Leviticus 19:30

·       There are sacred offices and duties (things ordained by God whereby He works through His people) Acts 13:2

 

Conclusion: the particular theology of a people defines what you see when you enter a church, including the way those people behave while in God’s house. We are not to approach the worship of God or the celebration of His presences with us in a casual or nonchalant manner. Rather, prior to the service, we are to enter His house with reverence for a time of sacred preparation (be it the Altar Guild or the individual heart). Therefore, before the service begins enter the sanctuary quietly and prepare your heart reverently to worship God.

 


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