Why Is Our Liturgy The Way It Is?

There has to be a better way to say that, but that’s what you get for now… I had someone suggest I give a brief explanation of our liturgy before we worship Sunday, so I prepared some thoughts and it, well, it turned out to be not so brief. The results of those thoughts are below.

*Why is our liturgy the way it is?  1. It follows the pattern of the Christian’s life in Christ (God calls us, we realize our sinfulness and repent, he pardons, we respond in coming closer–growing in faith/approaching in worship, God directs us with his word, we affirm our faith in him, he blesses us with his promise of steadfast love)  2.  It is reflected in scripture, see Isaiah 6.  3.  Worship is first and foremost for God, so we do our best to worship God as he has commanded.  4.  Using God’s form of worship from his Word helps us to remember we’re here to give God his due—worship, honor, praise, thanksgiving, and expressing our dependence on him is all we can ever give him, so in corporate worship we have the opportunity to give it to the best of our ability.

Some specific aspects of the liturgy may be unfamiliar to you, or maybe familiar in form but different than you’ve used in the past in their specifics. 

Like the Corporate confession:  why are some of the prayers so hard on us?  Or what if I’m praying this but don’t really believe it, not that I disbelieve it per se, but haven’t considered it for myself, should I really be saying something I don’t agree with?

  •  First, the prayer of confession can be hard on us, for sure,  most of the language in the prayers is from the Bible and all of it matches what the Bible teaches, so you don’t have to be concerned that you are affirming something you shouldn’t believe.
  • Secondly, the prayers are useful not just in helping us to confess our sins today, but to teach us about our sinfulness, especially our original corruption, which is often unconsidered in our lives.  We are sinners and doomed to hell without Jesus, but even with Jesus our corruption remains and everything we touch is tainted with sin.  Some of our prayers bring that out, plus maybe some other areas of sin that I hadn’t already considered.
  • Third, the fact we haven’t considered what these prayers cover might point to an area of growth for us, to examine ourselves all the more.

The other side of confessing our sins is the Assurance of Pardon.

  • This is the gospel!  “you’re worse than you thought!  But Jesus is greater than you can imagine.”
  • “the Cross is at one time the highest judgment and the richest grace”—we should glory and exult and praise God in our pardon through Christ!  But we will only do that as much as we have understood and felt the depth of our sin. 
  • The Liberal Christian churches give all pardon with not reason for it, because they’ve left the truth of sin and judgment behind a logn time ago.  The gospel, our pardon, is only meaningful in light of our sin.
  • It’s important to note here that the elders don’t pronounce it from their own authority, but read it from God’s word.  No one is able to forgive sin, except God alone.

Scripture reading

  • It’s used throughout a Reformed service as we understand that the Church’s power is in ministering the word, so our worship reflects a dependence on God through his word.
  • In similar fashion, a Reformed service has many different prayers, too.  Everything a Christian does should express faith, so we pray a lot in the service, faithfully seeking God to work and God to be glorified.
  • Well rounded believers need both testaments—preach from one and the reading is from the other.

The Approach

  • We took off the phrase “to worship” because some asked the question, “weren’t we already worshipping?”  which is true, we were already worshipping so the phrase was removed to hopefully remove any confusion.
  • The idea behind the “the approach” is that after God called us into his presence we come closer to him liturgically, not really or even theologically, and the only way we can do this surely and safely is by repeating his word back to him
    • By depending on his word in the liturgy we emphasize God’s holiness (only his word is good enough), our dependence on him and his word.

The Hymns and Praise Songs

  • We sing because God commands us to sing in his presence—psalm 100:1 “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!”

The Sermon

  • Your pastor is ordained by God, confirmed by you and the wider church, installed by the Presbytery in this congregation to faithfully preach God’s word to you.
  • As far as the sermon is faithful to the truth of God’s word, it is God speaking to you, God directing you, God comforting you and showing his grace to you.
  • Unlike God, the preacher can say things incorrectly or mess it up, or make it boring and hard to follow.  In those times, the best thing a believer can do is be patient and pray for the preacher, and pray for the sermon.
  • At the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, while Charles Spurgeon was preaching there was always a group of dedicated believers praying in the basement, Spurgeon called them “the boiler room”.
  • The Ruling Elders are elected by the congregation to be your spiritual shepherds, your guides, your confidantes, and friends, so it is appropriate they sometimes fill the pulpit.  Since they are ordained to be “ruling elders” instead of “teaching elders” their role is more focused on shepherding, and when they speak it is called an “exhortation” in the Reformed tradition.  All believers can exhort one another, but only one ordained for the task of preaching preaches.

The Affirmation of Faith

  • We’ve used five different creeds to affirm what we believe about Christ, some of them also affirm beliefs concerning the Trinity, the incarnation, the life and death of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the mystery of Jesus dual nature.
  • After hearing God’s word preached and on the first Lord’s day of the month when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we respond to God’s gracious word by liturgically saying we believe it.

The benediction

  • Don’t leave early!  The benediction is the spoken fulfilment of Christ’s gracious work for you.
  • It’s latin for “word of blessing” and the only reason a sinner receives it is because Jesus fulfilled the covenant of works for us.
  • In the benediction, God speaks his steadfast love which endures forever over his people, who, because of Jesus, are now the apple of his eye.  We need this, it affirms God’s care for us, his desire to keep us