Guest / Limited Access /

Worship looks forward. Together we pray, "Thy kingdom come." In the earliest recorded post-Communion prayer, first-century Jesus-followers prayed, "Gather [your church] from the four winds, sanctified for your kingdom which you have prepared for it …. Let grace come, and let this world pass away …. Maranatha"—"O Lord, come."

Worship must also look back. Since early days, Christians gathered for worship have been, as Justin Martyr described it, reading "the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets," and afterward listening to the presider "instruct and exhort to the imitation of these good things."

Christian self-understanding has from the beginning been illumined both by what Jesus' closest followers wrote and by the Hebrew Scriptures that foreshadowed Jesus' work.

It is one of my pet peeves that orchestras at major Independence Day celebrations play only the final few minutes of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. I understand the need to keep the program moving, but without the rest of Tchaikovsky's music, the finale is "sound and fury, signifying nothing." It is only the climax.

The same is true of the Christian message. Without paying attention to what has gone before, the great final act may be thrilling, but incomprehensible. We are actors in a great drama, but we don't know how to play our roles unless we study the earlier acts the Playwright has written.

A recent news item disturbed me. The Church of England Synod voted to simplify its baptismal service to make it more understandable to the unchurched friends who attend baptisms. The Diocese of Liverpool clergyman who proposed the revisions complained that people just didn't understand references like this: "Through water you led the children ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Recommended5 Reasons Why the Gospel of Jesus' Wife Is a Fake
5 Reasons Why the Gospel of Jesus' Wife Is a Fake
How other scholars and I verified the fragment's inauthenticity.
TrendingAn Embarrassing Week for Christians Sharing Fake News
An Embarrassing Week for Christians Sharing Fake News
Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. You embarrass us all when you do.
Editor's PickMelinda Gates: ‘I’m Living Out My Faith in Action’
Melinda Gates: ‘I’m Living Out My Faith in Action’
One of the wealthiest and most controversial women in the world believes that all lives have equal value. She’s willing to spend $3.6 billion a year to prove her point.
Comments
Christianity Today
Remember the Red Sea
hide thisMay May

In the Magazine

May 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.