Liturgy. It is a word despised. Tradition. Your mom and dad’s Oldsmobile. That stuffy old stodgy worship, filled with the “Thees” and “Thous” of Ye Olde Englishe, days of yore gone by and passed beyond our present contemporary expression. Stiff and wooden, the organ plays, reminding us of the wooden teeth of old George Washington. Days gone by, no longer relevant. We are sleeker. Cutting edge. No longer do multiple melodies reign in music. It is the thumping base… driving rhythms of the bass guitar… the sultry voice… moving…. pulsing… pounding… it is energy…
Liturgy… repetition… you speak, we respond… ordered… formal… stuffy… it does not speak to me. it is hard to understand. “make haste o God to deliver me.” but, i need to experience God, feel His presence… if i do not feel, experience for myself, it is not real… your tradition, i cannot relate to it…. your truth does not speak to my experience… i need it to be relevant.
We fear what we do not know. Reject what is outside of our experience. Yet we seek connection, common understanding…. we look for points where we can come together… do not turn me away from the table of the Lord… we commune together, despite our differences… Leitourgia.
“‘Liturgy’ is the name given ever since the days of the apostles to the act of taking part in the solemn corporate worship of God by the ‘priestly’ society of christians, who are ‘the Body of Christ, the church.’ ‘The Liturgy’ is the term which covers generally all that worship which is officially organised by the church, and which is open to and offered by, or in the name of, all who are members of the church.” Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy.
An interesting Post from Pastor Peters at Grace Lutheran in Clarksville, TN. It dovetails quite nicely with our discussion on the Lord’s Supper and close communion. The main thrust of the post is thinking about how we ought to treat the consecrated elements of the Sacrament. What should you do if there is a spill? What happens to what is left over? What should I do if I drop the host? And what about all those individual cups — do we just throw them out? Just as we need to consider why we practice close communion, we need to consider how we approach and handle the consecrated elements in the Sacrament. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi — How we pray or how we worship, reflects how we believe.
Today the Lutheran Church commemorates one of the great fathers of Lutheran Orthodoxy. Martin Chemnitz (1522–1586) is regarded after Martin Luther as the most important theologian in the history of the Lutheran Church. Chemnitz combined a penetrating intellect and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the church fathers with a genuine love for the church. When various doctrinal disagreements broke out after Luther’s death in 1546, Chemnitz determined to give himself fully to the restoration of unity in the Lutheran Church. He became the leading spirit and principal author of the 1577 Formula of Concord, which settled the doctrinal disputes on the basis of the Scriptures and largely succeeded in restoring unity among Lutherans. Chemnitz also authored the four volume Examination of the Council of Trent (1565–1573), in which he rigorously subjected the teachings of this Roman Catholic Council to the judgment of Scripture and the ancient church fathers. The Examination became the definitive Lutheran answer to the Council of Trent, as well as a thorough exposition of the faith of the Augsburg Confession. A theologian and a churchman, Chemnitz was truly a gift of God to the Church.
In light of our study of the Lord’s Supper in Mark, the following are some comments from Chemnitz on the Eucharist: Continue Reading
The Didache is one of the earliest known manuscripts of Christianity dating to between 70 and 120 AD. It is more commonly known as the Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. It is broken into two parts — (1) instruction about the two ways, and (2) a manual of Church order and practice. Here is what it has to say about the early church’s practice in Holy Communion:
Chapter 9. The Eucharist. Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:
We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever..
And concerning the broken bread:
We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..
But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”
Chapter 10. Prayer after Communion. But after you are filled, give thanks this way:
We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Thou, Master almighty, didst create all things for Thy name’s sake; You gavest food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us You didst freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Thy Servant. Before all things we thank Thee that You are mighty; to Thee be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou have prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.
But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.
Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day. But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: “In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.”
This past Sunday we remembered the Reformation, triggered by Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. At certain times in history, God has intervened in tremendous ways to accomplish His purposes on earth. In no way is this more clearly demonstrated to us than in the person and work of Jesus Christ. For in Him, God became man. He lived with us, walked with us, talked with us. In some ways God became our friend in and through Christ. But from what we have seen He was much more than a friend. Christ is the LEADER — there was none other like Him before, and none have been like Him since. He is COMPASSIONATE. Always taking time to speak with those around Him; healing the sick, the lame, and the blind. He is SELFLESS SERVANT. Always concerned with the well-being of His flock, our Lord takes the time to prepare a meal. He feeds His children with the bread of life. None go away hungry. All are satisfied. And the baskets that are collected are overflowing with the abundant blessings He bestows on His people. Christ is the TEACHER of TRUTH. Never missing a moment to teach, Jesus enters the synagogues to read and expound upon Scripture. Each moment with His disciples is a moment in which He is constantly molding and shaping their faith. Time and time again, people walk away from Jesus, marveling at His teaching. No matter how hard they tried, His enemies could not argue with His doctrine. He taught what was unpopular, and challenged his people’s notions of love, mercy, compassion, and ethics. No one was spared, not even His family or His closest disciples. Jesus is COURAGE. In the face of fierce opposition from the ruling priests, the scribes, the pharisees, and the supporters of Herod, Christ took His Gospel, the Gospel of God, directly to all people — to Jews, pharisees, tax collectors, Samaritans, and to Gentiles. He took the Gospel into the heart of Israel, the Temple, to cleanse us and to make us holy. We sought ways to kill Him, to put out the fire of the Gospel. Jesus did not stop preaching, teaching, and healing. The devil sought to tempt him. He sent demons to confront Christ. Yet our Savior did not stop preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus continued to do that which He had been sent to do by the Father. He forgave sins. He became angry and drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. He ate in the homes of tax collectors. He spoke with women. In public. He touched lepers, and was touched by unclean women. All of these things Jesus did until the very end. Until He was arrested. Betrayed. Beaten. Tried and convicted. Beaten again. And then nailed to a tree, to die the death of a common criminal. And while all these things happened, Jesus continued to serve us. Taking the time to arrange for a room to meet with His disciples one last time. A meal was prepared and He fed His disciples in a way that would change our lives forever. For it was their that Christ gifted to us forgiveness and life which He sealed with His death.
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” (Luther’s Works. Weimar Edition. Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81f.). This statement speaks of COURAGE. And yet, as Dr. Luther points out, we flinch, we blink, we fold, and like the disciples we turn tail and run. Yet, at the appointed time, Christ remained obedient to the Will of the Father which meant His own death. I imagine that Lucifer stood in the courts of Heaven at the time of Christ’s trial, and conviction, accusing Him of not being worthy to sit at the right hand of God. See Jesus was just like us — those sinful creatures. Despicable. So much so that he was betrayed for the price of a slave. The Son of God convicted as a common criminal. Unable to make His own defense. He shows His weakness, does the Savior, by speaking the truth to the end. He cannot even convince the chosen people of God that He is the Son of God! Seeking all the while, Lucifer does, to unseat Christ, and usurp the throne of God. In the face of such audacity, Jesus did not flinch. He did not blink. He did not back down. His weakness, is our strength. His death, our life. His faith He gives to us. And in His death, are we made right before God. Satan is cast down from Heaven and bound in chains. This is a cosmic story, of which we get a glimpse as Chapter 14 of Mark unfolds for us.
It is the Courage of Christ that we need now in this world.
This is the end Beautiful friend This is the end My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end Of everything that stands, the end No safety or surprise, the end I’ll never look into your eyes…again
Can you picture what will be So limitless and free Desperately in need…of some…stranger’s hand In a…desperate land
The Doors, The Best of the Doors, 1985, Copyright, EMI Music Publishing, Sony ATV Music Publishing.
The end of days is one of the most popular areas of theology for many Christians today. So many “theories” have developed about the end times, when they will happen, what will happen, how it will happen. Continue Reading for Wednesday
Last week we continued looking at the Temple in the life of the nation of Israel. It was the center of worship and life for this people of God, and, at one time, the dwelling place of the Living God on earth. God Himself instituted the Divine Service centered around the Temple sacrifices (cf. Exodus 29:38-46; Leviticus ch 8-10) which were given as offerings of thanksgiving and peace to God and to atone for the sins of the people.
The sacrifices were not meant to appease an angry God, but were intended to make the people holy through the cleansing of the unclean congregation and individual sinner, and through the forgiveness of sins by God as the Living God met with His people at the entrance to the sanctuary. They were also to provide food for the priests and express thanksgiving for the peace and blessings enjoyed by the people. He is a holy God and in communing with Him, His people must be holy also for they — and we — participate in the holiness of God (Leviticus ch 17-27 esp. ch 19 for the congregation, and ch 21:1-22:16 for priests). And only God can make us holy. He establishes the manner by which we are made holy, whether our sacrifices and offerings are acceptable to Him.
For the people of Israel, Worship culminated in a feast where the gifts of meat, grain, bread, and/or wine that had been returned to them by God were consumed by the people. That this is so is confirmed by God’s provision for the priests from the sacrifices — they were permitted to eat some of the meat from the sacrifices and the showbread after it had been offered to and accepted by God (Leviticus 7:28-36; 22:1-16; Deuteronomy 12:5-7). God required holy convocations of the people on these days — gathering together of the people for hearing God’s Word and worship. On the day of the feast, the offerings of the people were brought to God and returned to them to be eaten at the feasts. Continue Reading