Friday, February 4, 2011

Was the Early Church "Emergent" or "Liturgical?"


Our Savior Lutheran Church
where I have been attending 



Emergent Church Group

I don't mean to set up a false choice between two types of worship service, but with most Churches becoming progressively more and more informal and focused on man rather than God, I think the contrast is valid. The liturgical order of worship is not only historical, it is Biblical. Recently, when I was discussing with a friend how my heart was being drawn to the Lutheran point of view, he said that all the high church stuff just puts him off (I don't know that he has ever attended a Lutheran service, although he did say his father had been Catholic so that may be his point of reference). He said he believes that the early Christians were not involved in all that, they just got together and encouraged each other, prayed and shared. As he was talking, I was visualizing folks in robes gathered around sitting on the floor, laughing, talking, eating, and generally having a good time. Maybe at one time I would have been persuaded by this idea. Not any more. Rather than thinking the idea of liturgical worship does not match up with the early Church, I think this idea of a highly informal gathering is a projection of our current culture on to the past. His idea sounds more like the Emergent Church - all hanging out, eating junk food, and talking about philosophy and God (not that there isn't a place for that - just don't call it a Christian worship service). The Jewish believers who populated the early Church understood an ordered reverent service of the true and living God. They were already using the Psalms in worship and as Jewish people, they had a background of highly ordered service.  They fully understood Christ as the fulfillment of the sacrificial system - He is the true Lamb of God who takes away our sins through His sacrifice. Thus Communion, as Christ instituted, was central to the service as is apparent in the New Testament. From the beginning to the end, the entire Christian service should focus on Jesus. His death and resurrection is the central message and activity of the service. This is what should be going on in our Churches.

Treasury of Daily Prayer
The Service centers on God's Word. I have come to enjoy the singing/chanting of Psalms, Old Testament reading, Epistle reading, and Gospel reading at every service.  God speaks to us - and that is awesome. Reading Heaven on Earth, I came to realize that my assumptions about what should happen in a Church service should have a foundation, they should be based on a truly historical and Scriptural foundation. There is plenty of historical evidence and support for the Divine liturgy. Communion was a central element in the early Church, as was the singing of Psalms, and reading of Scripture. The preaching of Christ given to us in Word and Sacrament formed the core of what the Church gathered around during their worship. I purchased a copy of the Treasury of Daily Prayer upon hearing about it on Issues Etc. - this really was my first introduction to Lutheran liturgical worship - and I was immediately taken in by the depth and quality of this excellent resource. I thought I was buying a simple prayer book. This book was not what I expected - it was so much more. I highly recommend it. 

The liturgy and music of worship also emphasizes the Holy Trinity. We are not just worshiping a god, we are worshiping the One True God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Throughout the liturgy it is emphasized that we are worshiping the Triune God.  I now look for this in Christian music and services - is it apparent who we are worshiping?  Is the Holy Trinity part of the invocation?  Does the service revolve around Our Savior? These are the questions we should be asking - and refrain from projecting our cultural expectations on what should happen during the service.

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