Monday, September 1, 2008

Getting informal worship right

Sitting in a service yesterday which was informal in general character, it was pleasant to notice the form and structure of the service which were right. Ministry of the sacrament succeeded rather than preceded the ministry of the word. There were public intercessions which concluded with the Lord's Prayer. There was a confession (which involved the congregation praying the confession together). The sermon attended to the readings (and the prayers picked up on the major theme of the sermon).

At a superficial level one could participate in such a service and conclude that it passed muster on form and content on the basis of its conformity to the form and content of Anglican worship according to the prayer book. But I am also interested in the way in which Anglican worship patterns conform to Scripture!

When Jesus went to church (i.e. the synagogue) he read from the Scriptures and expounded them. Paul commands us in 1 Timothy 2 to pray publicly in our services. Jesus commanded us to pray the Lord's Prayer (if you do not think he did, look again at what Jesus says)! Jesus also commanded us to reenact the Last Supper - which itself was an event occurring after Jesus' ministry of the word (e.g. in the days preceding), to say nothing of our presumption that, being the Passover, the Scriptures had been recited priort to Jesus taking the bread and the cup. Confession of sin is not only biblically appropriate in worship (think of what happened in Old Testament temple worship etc) but also crucial to our healing (James 5).

Yesterday's service also had singing of songs of praise (of course!) and that feature of biblical worship permeates the Old Testament, and is enjoined by Paul.

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