Some Final Thoughts on Liturgy
I’ve enjoyed thinking about liturgy this week. It feels good to talk about it because liturgy is often neglected, or even badmouthed, in my circles.
Some final thoughts:
We can learn from each other. It says something that I love attending services with liturgy, while friends who grew up with liturgy love the freedom of extemporaneous worship. Both have strengths and corresponding weaknesses. Maybe we need each other more than we realize. Maybe Baptists can learn from their liturgical cousins.
There’s no excuse for being trite. If we’re going to reject liturgy, we at least work on having something worth saying. It’s part of why I’m attracted to liturgy. There’s a depth of meaning in what’s been written. We may not measure up when we’re extemporaneous, but we should at least avoid mindless rambling upon penalty of, I don’t know, being pelted with large-print copies of The Book of Common Prayer.
We need to continue developing new liturgies. As John Frame argues, theology must be communicated in new ways and in new settings using the best of our artistic skills. We need new liturgies written in new styles. I get excited thinking about this.
Our services should reflect the gospel. Bryan Chapell’s new book Christ-Centered Worship observes that Liturgies have a common sequence: Adoration, Confession, Assurance, Thanksgiving, Petition, Instruction, Charge, and Blessing. He writes:
Through the ages, the common pattern of the order of worship in the church reflects the pattern of the progress of the gospel in the heart. The gospel first affects the heart by enabling us to realize who God is. When we truly understand the glory of his holiness, then we also recognize who we are and confess our need of him. The gospel then assures us of the grace that he provides, and our hearts respond in both thanksgiving and humble petition for his aid so we can give proper devotion to him. In response to our desire for his aid, God provides his Word. We heed his instruction, knowing that we are both charged to do so and have the promise of his blessing as we live for him. The common liturgy of the church through the ages reflects this sequential flow of the gospel in our hearts.
The order of worship of the Liturgy of the Word is actually a re-presentation of the gospel.
I love this. It’s much more thoughtful than music followed by sermon followed by dismissal. There are ebbs and flows. We say something when we don’t include key elements like Confession and Assurance. Those who aren’t liturgical could probably benefit by thinking about how the elements of congregational worship re-present the gospel.