Part two of two parts; click here to read part one.
But there are no gimmicks. Priestly leadership is not a set of learned theatrical skills. As pastor-priest, we bring to the congregation the glory of our encounter with God. Having spent long, enduring time in the Lord's presence, we speak to our congregations out of those encounters. As I think carefully how I translate the elements of this encounter to my people, I create forms that express where I have been. A friend described to me his experience worshiping at All Souls Church in London when John Stott was preaching. For the entire service until the sermon, Stott was on his knees in prayer. And then when he spoke, he brought to his leadership the freshness of being in God's presence.
Evangelical exhortation and ethics now demand a supplement through worship that facilitates divine encounter. It must evoke deeper mysteries. It must lift us. And as we worship, liturgists and leaders become a priesthood, mediating God, showing the depth of their own experiences, radiating God's glory, pointing weary souls heavenward.
But I think there is another element to this worship experience that cannot be missed. Our evangelical tradition has taught us to champion spontaneity and to make a virtue out of informality. Some of us are sure that God cannot hear written prayers. Corporately spoken creeds, prayers, and liturgies stifle us and the Lord, or so the argument runs.
Here I have again changed my mind. Yes, there are liturgies that are memorized and meaningless. But what I have in mind are repetitive speech-forms that accompany every service. That is, when I introduce worship, when I offer the Eucharist, when I baptize, even when I bury, I employ familiar, dignified forms that evoke ...1