Continuing from my last post, I want to discuss how Trinity's worship reflects God's Big Story.
Our services are structured around five main pillars: God gathers, cleanses, speaks, strengthens, and sends.
God Gathers Us
God initiates (CREATION) and calls us to Himself through his Word. We read scripture, ask for God's help in worship, and sing songs in praise of his attributes.
God Cleanses Us
The Confession and Assurance sequence (FALL - REDEMPTION) presents one of the many paradoxes in worship. Despite the joyful nature of the material that precedes it - singing, calls to worship, and prayers of adoration - the proper result of praise is a form of sorrow. Sorrow that our lives don't reflect the glorious attributes of our Creator. Sorrow that our hearts have worshipped things other than God. The Confession/Assurance sequence, though reflective in tone, leads us out of sorrow into pardon, relief, and joy through the hope of the gospel, the atoning work of Jesus on the cross.
Repentance and forgiveness is central to the life of the believer. Martin Luther spoke of this in the first of his Ninety-Five Theses: "When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." Confessing corporately reminds us that we must be doing this individually. It unites believers under the promises of the gospel and shows those among us who do not yet believe that our hope is not in ourselves, our self-determination, or our abilities, but in Jesus Christ alone.
God Speaks to Us
Through the preaching of God's Word (CREATION-FALL-REDEMPTION-CONSUMMATION), we hear more of God's loving instruction and exhortation and are further equipped to live as those who has been called out of darkness into his light. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
God Strengthens Us
The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is a simultaneous look back at the cross and our need for the atoning blood of Jesus (FALL-REDEMPTION) and a look forward in anticipation of the marriage supper of the Lamb (CONSUMMATION) .
In his book Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace, James Torrance speaks of the Lord's Supper as the supreme expression of all worship. "It is the act in which the risen and ascended Lord meets us at his table, in the power of the Spirit, to bring his passion to our remembrance and to draw us to himself that we may share his communion with the Father and his intercessions for the world."
God Sends Us
Although we have been reminded of our forgiveness in Christ and have been strengthened through the promises of the gospel preached and enacted in Communion, we are still sojourners in a fallen world. We are reminded that just as we have been the church gathered, we are being sent out to be the church scattered. Our worship and our mission are joined.
I recently finished reading The Stories We Tell, by Mike Cosper, which is a fascinating discussion of literature, TV, and movies. In it, Cosper says that "the Big Story of the Bible--creation, fall, redemption, and consummation--is so pervasive, so all-encompassing of our world, that we can't help but echo it (or movements within it) when we're telling other stories." He provides a diverse media diet and approaches the shows and films with an eye toward the Big Story.
Services of worship tell a story as well. Whether the content of the service is heavily outlined with headings or done with a higher emphasis on continuity and smooth transition, our corporate worship is a story we tell, enact, and embody every time we gather.
The concept of story is central to the third of the four broad characteristics of biblical worship we discussed in my Sunday School class. (Read more about #1 scriptural and #2 triune here.)
"Worship should celebrate and enact the redeeming work of God in the life of his people."
Here are reasons for ensuring that God’s redemption story is present throughout our worship service every week:
What does this look like practically at Trinity?
I'll unpack this in the next post.
Anthony is the Director of Worship and Communications at Arden Presbyterian Church in NC.
Recommended Music for Worship
Keith & Kristyn Getty
The Worship Pastor
With One Voice
Look and Live
Rhythms of Grace
The Worship Architect
The Stories We Tell
Christ Centered Worship