Covenant Renewal (“High Presbyterian”) worship

This profound writing on worship by Pastor Jeffrey Meyers is one of the most thought-provoking I’ve read in some time. Among other things, it:

Recommends a specific order of worship following the OT steps of cleansing (confession of sin), consecration (hearing of the Word), and communion. The last half of the article recommends a specific liturgy similar to this one (note, btw, a similar pattern in the Lutheran service).

Even though this dimension of biblical worship has been almost totally neglected in our own tradition (the emphasis instead being on the ‘elements’ of worship), I believe that discovering the biblical order or sequence of man’s approach to God in the service may be the key to resurrecting a powerful Bible-based liturgy in our churches. [And speaking of liturgy…] It is no compliment to say that a church is a non-liturgical church. It is the same thing as saying it is a church that gives little thought to how it worships God.

Discusses worship as call and response. As with salvation, God acts and we respond.

We cannot approach God as disinterested, self-sufficient beings. We are created beings. Dependent creatures… Our receptive posture is as ineradicable as our nature as dependent creatures. We must be served by Him. Recognizing this is true spirituality… We come as those who receive first and then, second, only in reciprocal exchange do we give back what is appropriate as grateful praise and adoration…Much of what goes by contemporary worship has evacuated the Sunday service of God’s service to man! It’s all about what we do. The reduction of Christian worship to “praise” and “giving worth to God” by well-intentioned pastors desirous of purging the church of superficial worship forms will only continue to feed the very thing that they oppose…

Notes the importance of congregational participation.

The reformers to a man, especially Luther and Calvin, sought to correct the late medieval distortions of worship by restoring congregational participation… The principle manifestation… takes place…as the congregation prays, praises, and communes with God.The pastor does not worship for them as a proxy; the people worship as the pastor leads them…

Recommends weekly communion (it is, after all, a means of grace!).

The Reformers…all sought to reintroduce weekly Communion at every Lord’s Day service.

Defends composed prayers, noting also that hymns are “pre-composed prayers.”

When the Apostle John was privileged to observe heavenly worship…he saw an orderly, formal service performed by angels, living beings, and the twenty-four elders…They repeated various rituals and ritual responses (Rev 4:9-11). They alternated responses antiphonally. They sang hymns in unison. The fell down together… and they jointly receited prayers…that must have been pre-composed and memorized. How else would they have all prayed (or sun) simultaneously?… I believe, practically speaking, that it is easier to prayer sincerely when one actually takes up a written prayer on one’s lips, than when one merely listens to another person pray. Surely it is easier to daydream when one is listening- eyes closed- to another pray than when one concentrates on praying a printed prayer.

Defends practices like kneeling.

I always chuckle a little inside whenever I call the congregation to worship on Sunday morning using Psalm 95:6, “Oh, come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” And then, what do we do after I read those words? We stand up!

After initially reading this article, my wife and I attended a Christmas concert at a Greek Orthodox church. As we listened I paged through their liturgy book, noting with interest the similarities between its liturgy and those in “high” Reformational churches. There are serious differences between the Orthodox and Protestants (e.g. iconoclasm, sola Scriptura), but would one find more Biblical elements residing in the Eastern Orthodox liturgy than in the service at your average evangelical church? How many evangelical churches even have a weekly, corporate confession of sin? Or a regular Bible reading?

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