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
RecommendedIs Your Worship Music Driven by Complaints or Mission in Context?
Is Your Worship Music Driven by Complaints or Mission in Context?
The motivation behind having different worship services is key.
TrendingFive Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
If you want to help people see Holy Week with fresh eyes, start by dropping these familiar fallacies.
Editor's PickWatch and Wait
Watch and Wait
Tarrying with Christ and the fearful dying.
Leave a Comment

Use your Christianity Today login to leave a comment on this article. Not part of the community? Subscribe now, or register for a free account.

hide thisMay May

In the Magazine

May 2011

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