Liturgy

Posture is Important

Joel Garver writes:

Posture in worship is important. If we don’t permit our teens to slouch, shuffle, and stare at the ground when we are addressing them, how can we say posture is unimportant when we come into the presence of our heavenly Father to be addressed by him?

On Certain Forms of Contemporary Worship…

There is a familiarity, an ease, almost a glibness toward God in this worship that communicates to no one that he is a consuming fire, or that he is angry with the wicked every day, or that his eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, or that he will by no means clear the guilty, or that he dwells in unapproachable light, surrounded by a glory that no man has seen or can see. In this man-centered worship, in this worship that partakes of the atmosphere of a sales convention, the divine grace and love inevitably become mere niceness, almost politeness, not the astonishing stoop down to the unworthy and hell-deserving sinners that the Bible reveals us to be. And in that worship the cross absolutely must become considerably less than the torture and terror and the humiliation and the disgrace and the abasement of the Son of God that was absolutely required to pay the price of our sin and guilt and so satisfy the demands of God’s holiness in order that we might be saved. The cross must be lightened up. You can’t have anything that grim in a meeting whose spirit and atmosphere are so blithe and cheerful, in many ways so secular.–Robert Rayburn

Congregational Participation?

Rev. Robert Rayburn writes:

But, that is true also even in the matter of congregational participation. The new contemporary service of American Protestantism is more a service to be watched by the congregation than even the traditional Protestant service of 30 or 40 years ago. I’ve been in many of those services and there is relatively little that the congregation does except sing some songs. There is music that is sung for the congregation with the singers in the front for us to watch as they perform; there is perhaps a drama sketch for us to watch; there may be a special speaker who gives a report or who is interviewed by the pastor, there will be in some of the more sophisticated services of this kind an elaborate and interesting audio-visual display going on during the music or the message, and there is a sermon. There is little prayer and what there is, is offered by a pastor. There is very little participation by the congregation. They are, by and large, spectators and the fact that more and more of them are sitting in theater style seats only confirms that impression.

On Robes

At Providence the elders wear white robes. This is a shift from the traditional Calvinist black robes used by pastors for hundreds of years. Why the change to white robes? Paquier summarizes well our sentiments:

The Genevan gown, this anti-liturgical, secular vestment, which appears in the color of the shades of darkness, this clothing which is comparable to the sack cloth and ashes of mourning in the old covenant, is the negation of the right of the church to rejoice and be consoled in the presence of the heavenly Bridegroom. Perhaps for the synagogue, in its tribulation, to wear such a vestment would be the normal thing. But in modern Protestantism it is a depressing sign that we are not more aware of the nuptial joy of the Eucharist and that we do not believe in the victorious struggle Christ led against the world (Dynamics of Worship, p. 138).

Ministering to the Dying this Christmas…

CREC minister Toby Sumpter reflects on their labor to the dying this Christmas:

I don’t know her name, but she is barely alive in the shrunken shell of the body God gave her. She lays under blankets and peers out of heavy eyelids in sunken sockets, belabored coughs slowly scrape her ancient throat. I smile and say hello. Her eyes flutter toward my voice. She leans her head slowly toward me. My one year old daughter is where her eyes rest. She doesn’t saying anything, and I cannot even say that I see a change of expression. But she cannot take her eyes off of my daughter like my daughter cannot take her eyes off of her. Death meet Life. Beginning meet End.

Read the Rest…

Liturgical Protestantism

Leithart concludes:

I have a dream: My dream is that Confessional Protestants, having devoted themselves to their rites and hymnals, having assembled for Eucharist and common prayer, having studied to be irrelevant, will find that their trumpets have brought down the walls of a city, and, standing stupefied before the rubble of Jericho, they will stare at the evangelical hoards that surround them, and ask, What next?

Read the entire article.

The Church is our Mother

Paul writes that the Jerusalem above is our Mother. In our Lord’s Day assembly we are invited to the heavenlies. The Church is indeed our Mother, since heaven becomes our Mt. Zion and our New Jerusalem; our abode. This is why the Church has declared– both Catholic and Protestant– that outside her there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.How could there be? All mysteries are in her, and through her, as Paul writes, the wisdom of God flows to the world.

Modern day evangellifish (as Wilson puts it) is plagued by Romaphobia. If Rome does it, it must be wrong. This was certainly the opposite of how the Reformers viewed it. Rituals, high-Church, read prayers, corporate confessions were a necessary part of the early Reformed services. Calvin’s liturgy in Geneva was strikingly rich in liturgy. Yet, modern Reformed churches have abandoned their heritage– trading the blossoming Reformation for blended forms of accomodationism.

The Liturgy Trap by James B. Jordan; Review and Some Additional Thoughts

The Liturgy Trap is a helpful introduction to Biblical worship. But it accomplishes more than a basic premise for Christian worship, it is also a helpful refutation to Roman, Orthodox and Anglo-Catholic forms of liturgy.  Though Jim criticizes the abusive trap of three of the major Christian traditions, he also finds plenty of reason to criticize modern evangelical sloppiness in worship. According to Jordan “Christian worship…is not a technique for obtaining grace, but is a response to truth.” (xiii)

Jim sees the following practices as serious corruptions to the gospel:

a) veneration of the ’saints’, b) bowing down to created things other than human beings, c) confirmation as a second work of grace, d) exaltation of virginity and celibacy and e) the misuse of the doctrine of real presence. (xvi)

The primary question that seeks to be answered is: “Are these practices Biblical and are they healthy for the life of the people?” Consider the practice of venerating the saints. The Catholic and Orthodox traditions both deny that the acts of veneration becomes an act of worship. The argument is that veneration is simply a form of “prayer” in the mild sense. There is no worship taking place nor are they placing the saints gone before us in a place equivalent to Jesus Christ. Whether this seems harmless or not is not the real question, the question is the one Jim Jordan has already raised: “is this Biblical?” Further, is it a healthy practice for the church? The central error of venerating saints stems from its unbiblical foundation. “The Old Testament forbade consulting the dead.” (18).  Even if this were an Old Testament law with no permanent validity to New Covenant saints (even if such faulty logic had any significance) still one would not find any example of a New Testament saint consulting the departed. Therefore any form of revelation either from Mary or any departed saint cannot be authoritative in any sense.

To be continued…

White or Black Robe?

In light of my ordination next Wednesday evening (25th), our church is considering changing from the black academic robe to the white robe. In studying the issue I came across this quote from Harry Boonstra:

White seems more appropriate than black (at least in most cultures), because in Scripture white is often associated with celebration and black with mourning. In addition, one can accentuate the liturgical season by wearing a stole with liturgical colors and symbols.

Concerning the black robe, French Reformed liturgical scholar Richard Paquier:

The Genevan gown, this anti-liturgical, secular vestment, which appears in the color of the shades of darkness, this clothing which is comparable to the sack cloth and ashes of mourning in the old covenant, is the negation of the right of the church to rejoice and be consoled in the presence of the heavenly Bridegroom. Perhaps for the synagogue, in its tribulation, to wear such a vestment would be the normal thing. But in modern Protestantism it is a depressing sign that we are not more aware of the nuptial joy of the Eucharist and that we do not believe in the victorious struggle Christ led against the world. (Dynamics of Worship: Foundations and Uses of Liturgy [Fortress Press, 1967], p. 142).

Liturgical Advice from Jeff Meyers

Meyers has started a series of liturgical advices. I have never heard background music during the pastoral prayer, but I have head long pastoral prayers before.  I have a friend who was hired by a Presbyterian church and one of the requirements of the session was that every Lord’s Day he took 15-20 minutes in his pastoral prayer. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Jeff’s advice is valuable. The church has provided powerful pastoral prayers, or pastors can spend their time crafting their own prayers so that they are Biblically rich. We need to be intentional about how we pray during the worship service. If liturgical reformation is to occur, we need to consider every detail of our liturgy.

So here is my first piece of advice: don’t play background music during the long pastoral prayer. You know what I mean. The piano or synthesizer is playing some slow, nondescript muzak as the pastor begins to pray. The soft, simple music continues throughout the prayer. Sometimes the music is meant to conjure up “heavenly” thoughts or even “outer space.” Oh yes, I’ve heard synthesized “space music” played as the prayer is being made. I don’t know what else to call it. It’s the kind of music you might hear during a presentation at your local planetarium.

This practice is pure cheese. It is so incredibly annoying and ridiculous. I suspect that it comes directly from televised church services and other televangelistic “ministries.” Don’t do it. Just pray. If people are having a hard time following your prayers, pastors, then shorten them. That’s right. Most pastoral prayers are way too long. Better yet, use a form of prayer—a litany or a bidding prayer—that actually incorporates the congregation in the act of prayer. Now, there’s a novel idea. No, actually, it’s an ancient practice that treats the congregation as participants in the liturgy rather than simply as an audience that is being manipulated by emotive music.