Last summer we began something relatively new for Trinity Community Church. We began to practice liturgy. It is not as though we had never done responsive readings or recited confessions or creeds, but they had always been ad hoc, a little added spice to our normal diet. Now they are reliable fixtures in our worship. The reasons for this decision are listed in a previous blog post but can be summarized with the maxim: “You become what you do.”
In the months since we added liturgy, I have been encouraged to hear our body of believers lift up our voices together to read Scripture responsively, affirm the creeds that have been embraced by the church for centuries, and ask the Lord's forgiveness and help. I appreciate the encouraging feedback I have received from several of you and how the people of TCC have embraced these liturgical ways of worshipping the Lord together. As the elders of TCC continue to work to guide our body of believers, I want to use this blog to introduce you to two new ways we want to worship the Lord in our services in the coming weeks. But first, a theological soap-box! Allow me a second to don my A-frame and find my megaphone.
What God wants of his people is that we should be worshippers, through and through. Worship is more than a sensation. It is certainly more than a style of music. It is not this emotion over against that emotion. It is not just something we do for an hour and fifteen minutes on a Sunday ( or an hour and a half if the preacher doesn’t watch the clock).
Worship is a way of life. It is, in fact, the only lasting way of life. It is what happens when the Christians place themselves under the rule of the Triune God (All of God), and subjects heart, soul, mind and strength to that rule (All of Life), and does it as part of a local community of believers (All of Us). Worship is the ultimate calling of every Christian. It is what summarizes the Christian life. We and the demons agree on our theology (James 2:19). What sets us apart is our worship.
It sets us apart from more than the demons though. We are in the age in which Christ is conquering with the Gospel and bringing human history to its conclusion under him. We’ve been in this age since the Ascension. It will feel, often, like wartime, especially as our culture secularizes. When the idols of our age are most tempting, when the faith is scorned, when we are blind to Christ’s Kingdom and his Gospel, the heavy artillery by which God’s people return fire is our worship.
This isn’t just for Sunday morning; it’s for Monday too. But that’s not to say that what happens on Sunday is no different than what we wake up to do on Monday.
You can’t be a baseball player without showing up in the dugout. You can’t say you’re in a choir just because you sing. You must be counted among the players. You must stand with the altos and belt. In the same way, you can’t say you’re a part of the church and never stand with her, present pandemic conditions being a rare exception (Thank God for the technology we have!). When we gather on Sundays, we are announcing who we are. What brings us together on Sunday mornings is that, while we may be politically, ethnically, generationally, insert-adverb-here different, we join together to worship the Trinity.
And this brings me to my point. We want to worship well, because it expresses who we are. No, it makes us who we are. We incorporated liturgy, which joins us to the ancient faith and builds what you might call habitus, habits which form virtue. But there are other elements that the church through the ages emphasized, and we’d like to do the same. Specifically, I’m talking about prayer and about exhortation. Prayer, because we are a praying people and must respond to God not only alone but together. Exhortation, because the Spirit is at work in his church and has gifted the Church to encourage its own. This exhortation, which helps motivate and challenge us as we follow the Lord, may look like something more mystical, like someone getting “a word,” or it can simply be a thoughtful and conscientious Christian reflecting on what God may desire to say to his people in the local congregation. We will share more details on this soon.
Here’s what you can expect:
Adding all these elements into each and every service would be overwhelming, so you’re going to start noticing a rotation. On two weeks out of the month, we'll continue with services as we have been doing them since the summer. On the other weeks of the month, we will begin either putting an emphasis on prayer or on the church encouraging the church. These elements will replace most of the liturgy on those weeks. The service run-time will remain the same, though the staff, elders, and deacons will count on your grace as we work out the kinks.
We are excited about how God will form us and work through us as we continue to worship him.
Now if you’d indulge a final pastoral note...
Own the worship at Trinity. We all know that going through the motions doesn’t mean much. None of these practices have value unto themselves; they have value insofar as we own them. We must take part. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that we must take responsibility. If you want to see what God may do through true worship, then the right place to start is by truly worshipping, not just for your sake, but for the sake of your brother and sister beside you who needs to hear you recite the creeds, respond to the Word, sing hymns, take Communion, and pray.
God has been at work among us. He is up to something in the world. It is by worship that we will join in. It is by worship that we will be prepared for it. It is by worship that we will know the true, good, and beautiful One, and become like him.
Lift up your hearts.