Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Worship with The Table

Lex Orandi, lex credendi...

That concept is now burned into my brain. There's no getting away from it. Everywhere I turn in church or ministry life I'm confronted with the truth of it. The order/manner/rule of worship determines the order/manner/rule of belief. I've suspected this before now, but did not know that it had been articulated so faithfully throughout the history of the church. I see how we worship in church and I am sobered by the pastoral responsibility to comes to terms with this; to purposefully plan worship that will most likely develop the desired belief in our people.

Much of modern worship, by contrast is not heavily reflective on this principle. Therefore, often worship is arranged in such a manner that acts contrary to the desired results of mature believers growing in community, worshiping in unity. Because modern worship is so often deficient in this, elements of ancient worship must be investigated to offer the necessary depth to contemporary services. This is not to say that "chant" somehow needs to make a comeback. Liturgy of the ancient church, however, can prove quite informative for the conscientious worship leader seeking to help a contemporary congregation "shake hands" with the saints of old.

One of the ways the ancient Church can help the contemporary Church find her way back to significant worship is by means of the Table; specifically The Lord's Table (also called The Lord's Supper, Communion or the Eucharist). The ministry of the Table was a key component of the ancient Church which followed the ministry of the Word ("preaching"). Anyone could be present to hear the Word, but only believers received in the Christian community could remain for the ministry of the Table. The Table was only for those believers who had been fully trained as "catechumens" and baptized, and were not under church disciple for which they needed to refrain from the Table for a time. After the ministry of the Word, all but those who should partake of the Table were dismissed. The remaining worshipers recited the Nicene Creed, then took of the Lord's Supper together.

How unifying! How instructive! How meaningful!

The ministry of the Table was that engaging aspect of worship that required more active participation than simply listening to a sermon. It looked back in time ("Do this in remembrance of Me"). It looked within the community ("you (plural) eat"; "you (plural) drink"; and "you (plural) proclaim"). The Table also looks forward ("you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes"). The Table comes pre-packaged with so many aspects of Christian worship (a historic confession, a present means of unity, a future hope) that modern evangelical churches have avoided its importance to their peril. I'm so thankful to have been called to pastor a church that already comes to The Table each month. The church I grew up in only held it quarterly, and even then during the Sunday evening service.

Our church comes to the Lord's Table the first Sunday of the month during our Sunday morning service. I'm so grateful that this is their practice already. Woodcreek Bible Church is already poised to enjoy the Table as part of her worship in a way more significant than the tradition I grew up in. Praise to the Lord for having arranged these circumstances in advance. This coming Sunday is our next time to approach the Table and share the common union (communion) of worshiping in this way. It's a worship form enjoying 2,000 years of expressing the Christian heart, and we have a chance to be a new generation having its meaning mature us too.

Lex Orandi, lex credendi.

No comments: