Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Artists, Worship, and the Church

For the past decade, or so, there has been much said about art and worship.  You can see this reflected in different ways, for example, artists are now often employed to lead worship, some churches now refer to worship as the "Ministry of the Worship Arts," and one of the major trends is for congregations to take over old abandoned theaters in order to use them for worship.  You can read about this in an article that was recently published, "Artists Build the Church," which is centered on Jon Guerra, the "artist-in-residence," not worship pastor, who leads worship at a church called The Line, and Aaron Youngren, the lead pastor, who together
have formed a "determination to tear down the walls between church art and city art so that music can freely flow between the venues."

They both had what they call the frustrating experience of the lack of art in their church backgrounds, and desire to see that changed.  Youngren says that his frustration has been summed up well by an essay written by another artist, Makoto Fujimura, "A Letter to North American Churches."  And what is this frustration, exactly? 
An artist’s relationship with you has not been easy; we are often in the margins of your communities, being the misfits that we are. . . . Instead of having quality artists at the core of your worship, we were forced to operate as extras; as in ‘if-we-can-afford-it-good-but-otherwise-please-volunteer,’ Extras.
What do you think about this?  Have artists been unlovingly marginalized in the Church?

See what Carl Trueman has to say here.  In his typical British whit, he is spot on.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quakertown Regional Conference on Reformed Theology: Our Glorious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is excited to offer live webcasting of the Quakertown Regional Conference on Reformed Theology. Don't miss out on this opportunity to hear excellent, biblical teaching from well-known pastor-theologians.
November 12-13, 2010
Joel Beeke
D.A. Carson
Iain Duguid
Steven Nichols 
The webcast will start Friday, November 12, 2010, at 7:00 p.m. and will run through Saturday afternoon, November 13, 2010. Visit AllianceLive.org to register and watch the free webcast. 

“…and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father….” John 1:14 

Who is Jesus? The pages of Scripture shout out the answer. Son of Man and Son of God. The Way, the Truth and the Life. Prophet, Priest and King. The Bread of Life. The Good Shepherd. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Redeemer. Savior.

And yet we live in a world that prefers to see Jesus as a gifted teacher, or as a revolutionary, and nothing more. Jesus has been marginalized, stereotyped, and often ignored, to the eternal peril of millions upon millions.

Again, who is Jesus? What has He done for His people? Is He just, as H.G. Wells once said, "the most dominant figure in all history"? Or is he, as the Reformers taught, the Jesus of solus Christus, the one-and-only means by which sinners are saved, the One who claimed, "no one comes unto the Father except through me"?

The 2010 Quakertown Regional Conference on Reformed Theology is devoted to the subject of Our Glorious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our desire is to present Christ as the Scriptures present Him. This year’s conference will focus on the glory of Christ, His wondrous incarnation, His life and ministry, His cross and His resurrection.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Eucharistic Prayer

Recently I had the joy of attending the first annual Reformation Worship Conference where I got to hear Hughes Oliphint Old, T. David Gordon, Terry Johnson, Jon Payne, Mark Ross, Paul Jones, and David Hall speak on a whole host of different topics concerning worship.  My favorite lectures were those by Dr. Old on the reformation of worship in the 16th century.

One of the themes that was developed through all the lectures was the importance of prayer in the reformers' worship.  He noted that as the reformers recovered the truth of scripture, they used the scripture to reshape how they worshiped.  The reform of liturgy was centered on ministering the word of God to the church and this included using prayer as a means of the ministry of the word.  In their prayers, then, the reformers sought to fill their prayers with scripture.  In their recovery of biblical worship and prayer, they noted that the Bible contained different kinds of prayer and sought to institute these different types of prayer throughout the liturgy in appropriate places.

In his lecture on John Knox, he emphasized Knox's contribution to the reform of liturgy and the use of prayer in Knox's directory for public worship, the Book of Common Order (1560).  Old noted that with this directory, Knox developed "several master strokes," one of which was his attempt to develop a good and true Eucharistic prayer.  During medieval Roman Catholic worship, magic and superstition had worked its way into the mass, which led the church to believe that by the performance of certain rites or repeating certain formulas one could avail himself to the power of supernatural forces.  In the mass, then, blessing the elements was a magical and superstitious act where the priest would act in changing the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus.  The blessing in the mass was done by the priest to the elements.

The Reformers, however, sought to rid the celebration of the Lord's Table of this influence by beginning communion with a prayer that made it clear that one was not commanding God's grace or controlling God's grace with the rite, but was dependent on God's grace.  They saw that it was God who needed to act, not the priest.  And they understood that God needed to act in the lives of the believers, not in changing the metaphysical make up of the elements.  This emphasis did not diminish the elements, but rather put them in the proper place as means that God used in working in his people.  This prayer became known as the Eucharistic prayer--a prayer that included an invocation, thanksgiving, and vow of the covenant.

At the heart of the Eucharistic prayer is thanksgiving, hence, its name.  Knox saw that in the last supper celebrated by Christ with his disciples, that Christ blessed the elemtnts and gave thanks.  The words eulogeo and eucharisto, translated "bless" and "give thanks" are synonyms that at their heart convey gratitude and thanks.  Knox saw that the Lord's Table was a place to celebrate communion with Christ and the church as an act of gratitude.  Hence, thanksgiving became the focus, rather than a time of mourning and confession.  The Table was a time to celebrate and give thanks to God for his acts of creation and redemption.  John Calvin also emphasized the importance of seeing the Table as a place for giving thanks as Christ himself did at the last supper:
Whatever gift we receive from the hand of God is sanctified throught the word and prayer, . . . For nowhere do we read that our Lord ate with his disciples unless it is also mentioned that he gave thanks.  By this example we are certainly taught to do the same.  This thanksgiving however has to do with somethig highter: for Christ gives thanks to his Father for his works of mercy to man and his gracious gift of redemption: and we are invited by his example, that as often as we come to this sacred table we be stirred up and aroused to recognize God's great works of love to us and that we enter into true gratitude, (cited by Old in The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship, 300).
By remembering God's gracious works of creation and redemption in prayer, we express thanksgiving for his grace in the past, while at the same time, call upon his grace for the present and the future.

As the Lord's Supper is a time of thanksgiving (a eucharist), we are to follow Christ's example by beginning with a prayer of thanksgiving, where we explicitly ground our thanks in the acts of God in Christ for his church, appealing to him to continue to work in us by his grace that we might walk in the obedience of the newness of life in Christ.  Old, shows the importance of this understanding of the Table and the ministry of prayer before it is received in his book Leading in Prayer, "The Lord's Supper should be a feast of praise and thanksgiving.  It is here above all that the minister should give attention to leading the congregation in prayer," (225).

To this end, then, I have written the following Eucharistic prayer for this coming Lord's Day:

Blessed are you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are the triune God of all creation, the maker of heaven and earth, of all things, both visible and invisible.  And to our King, Jesus Christ, as you are the host of this table, you are the coeternal and cobeginningless Son of the beginningless Father, who in the abundance of your goodness was in the last days clothed in flesh, humbled under the law, crucified on the cross and buried for us, your church, who at the time of your great sacrifice hated and loathed you and your rule.  But by your completed work of salvation, you have refashioned our nature that had been corrupted by sin.  And now, by your resurrection, you are our source of resurrection life and eternal fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit; you always live now before the Father as a visible representation of our righteousness, and to intercede on our behalf. 
Blessed Savior, incline your ear, then, to us, hear our words and help us to lift up our hearts to you and render unto you all praise, thanks and glory.  We are thankful for the gift of your incarnation, ministry, sacrifice, and for its revelation and demonstration of your love for us.  We are thankful that you are risen and have been highly exalted and that you have trampled underfoot the powers of death.  We are thankful that you have burst the gates of hell and lead us forth to eternal life and light.  We are thankful that you are the firstborn of many from the dead and the first fruits of them that sleep.  We are thankful that now you have filled us with your Holy Spirit that we might be joined together with you, our triune God, and with one another in a true mystical body as those united to you both in your death and your resurrection.  And we thank you for the promise of your coming again, to finally establish your Kingdom in its consummation.  We are thankful that you will raise us up in glory, and that you will openly acknowledge us and vindicate us.  We are thankful that you will wipe away our tears and make us perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of our God and one another unto all eternity.
As we rejoice in your completed work on our behalf, glorify yourself in writing these truths upon our hearts through this communion meal.  As you are the true bread that came down from heaven, strengthen our faith to see your body and blood in these elements of the bread and cup; and through our eating your flesh, which is true food, and drinking your blood, which is true drink, draw us unto yourself, that we should not hunger or thirst.  And as you are the living bread that gives life, help our faith to be confident that you share your life with us who receive you by faith, believing that death has lost its victory, that we will be raised up on the last day, and that we will live forever with you.  And let this precious gift of Holy Communion be unto our healing, enlightenment, protection, purification, sanctification and salvation; and that of our whole spirit, and soul, and body.  May you use it to divert us away from evil thoughts, words and deeds, unto a righteous life with increased virtue, stability of faith, living in obedience to your commandments, in the joy of the Holy Spirit.  For from you and through you and to you are all things.  To you Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be glory both now and forever. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reformation Liturgy for Evening Service October 31, 2010

On Sunday evening, we remembered the 493rd anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the doors of All Saints' Church in Whittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, which created the spark that would become the blaze known as the Protestant Reformation. To try and help the church see our Reformation roots in worship, we utilized one of the first Reformed liturgies that was developed for providing distinctively Reformed worship. I put together a liturgy that was based on the initial reforms instituted by Martin Bucer in Strasbourg, which have been recorded in his work Grund und Ursach from 1524, together with later insights from his reforms in his 1537 and 1539 liturgies.

To maintain some semblance with our normal service we included an explicit call to worship and response at the beginning of the service. So in the liturgy below, Bucer's liturgy begins at "Confession of Sin, Pardon, and Thanksgiving." Bucer began with the Confession of Sin because he believed that Reformed worship was premised on the recovery of the ministry of the Word of God. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ's ministry was built on the ministry of John the Baptist, which was a ministry calling sinners to repent. If Christ's ministry was built on calling for repentance, and Reformed worship was a continuation of Christ's ministry of the Word, then the worship service should be built on repentance and confession of sin.

Throughout the liturgy, we used prayers written by Bucer. We used his confession of sin, his assurance of pardon (with minor variation), his prayer of thanksgiving, his prayer of illumination and his prayer of intercession. Since we were worshipping in the evening, we also followed his pattern for Lord's Day evening services in doing a scripture reading from a Gospel passage and preaching from the epistles. Also, one of the particular features of the early Reformers was there emphasis on the law—not for pointing out sin from which one should repent (first use of the law), but they used it to set forth positive instruction for teaching the church to express thanksgiving to God by leading a holy life (third use of the law). We did this by singing the Decalogue. The arrangement we used was used in Strasbourg by Bucer and can be found in the Genevan Psalter. Another Reformed distinctive we did was praying the intercessory prayer after the sermon. By praying it at this point, it allowed the minister to apply the sermon passage in a specific way to the congregation. A final distinct feature of early Reformed worship was using a creed for corporate confession after the sermon in response to the Word. We did this by singing the Apostles' Creed, which Bucer typically would do.

Although it was different than the worship we typically offer on the Lord's Day, it was quite a blessing and very helpful for showing us our roots. It can be very easy to take worship for granted, but these men were recovering worship without having a direct example to follow. They had the scripture and the early church to help them, but none of them had ever worshipped in any other way than Medieval Roman Catholicism. In fact, at the beginning of the Reformation, typically what they did was translate the Catholic Mass into the common tongue, only discarding the most obvious features of the mass. What Bucer put together, with the help of Capito and Zell, was later picked up by Calvin and would eventually form the archetype of Reformed worship which has followed even to this day. We owe much to those early Reformers who risked their lives to do what we often complain about. May we recapture their Reformed ethos as we continue to stand on their shoulders seeking to reform the church's worship according to the Word of God.

The Silent Prayer Upon Entering the Church
O God, who has taught us that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us; Increase and multiply upon us Your mercy; that, with You as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Revised Liturgy of 1689)
*The Call to Worship                                                Psalm 100
    "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" (Psalm 100)         Hymn 1

*The Invocation and Lord's Prayer
Grant unto us, O heavenly Father, that the remembrance of our redemption may never leave our hearts, but that we may walk in Christ, the Light of the world, far removed from our foolish reason and blind wills, which are vain and injurious darkness. Almighty God, heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks that you have been so gracious unto us poor sinners, having drawn us to your Son our Lord Jesus, whom thou hast delivered to death for us and given to be our nourishment and our dwelling unto eternal life. Grant that we may never relinquish these things from our hearts, but ever grow and increase in faith to you, which, through love is effective of all good works. And so may our whole life, and especially our worship tonight, be devoted to your praise and the edification of our neighbor; through the same Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Confession of Sin, Pardon, and Thanksgiving
Make confession to God the Lord, and let everyone acknowledge with me his sin and iniquity.

    Prayer of Confession
Almighty, eternal God and Father, we confess and acknowledge that we, alas, were conceived and born in sin, and are therefore inclined to all evil and slow to all good; that we transgress thy holy commandments without ceasing, and ever more corrupt ourselves. But we are sorry for the same, and beseech thy grace and help. Wherefore have mercy upon us, most gracious and merciful God and Father, through thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant to us and increase in us thy Holy Spirit, that we may recognize our sin and unrighteousness from the bottom of our hearts, attain true repentance and sorrow for them, die to them wholly, and please thee entirely by a new and godly life. Amen.
    Assurance of Pardon                                 Acts 10:42-43
And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Let everyone, with St. Peter, truly acknowledge this in his heart and believe in Christ, and rest assured that you have received the forgiveness of all your sins. They have been loosed on earth that they may also be loosed in heaven, and for all eternity. God have mercy upon us and bless us. Amen.
    Psalms of Thanksgiving                               Psalm 103A
                                                                           *Psalm 46A
*Prayer of Thanksgiving
Almighty, gracious, heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks that, through your holy Gospel, you have again offered and presented to us your most precious treasure: our Lord Jesus Christ. And we heartily beseech you to grant that we may receive Him and partake of Him in true faith now and forever, and be so nourished that we may be set free from all evil and increase daily in all goodness, to thy glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
*Reading from the New Testament Gospel                     Matthew 5
    "Decalogue (Strasbourg)" from the Genevan Psalter See Insert

The Prayer of Illumination & Collection                  Psalm 19B
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. . . Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:14,16

The Lord be with you, let us pray.
Our gracious God, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Help us to be ever thankful for your beneficent providence and make us faithful stewards of your great bounty—for the building up of your Kingdom, for the provision of our necessities and for the relief of those who are in need. And as our needs are not merely physical but also spiritual, we give you thanks for your eternal Word. Almighty, gracious Father, forasmuch as our whole salvation depends upon our true understanding of thy holy Word, grant to all of us that our hearts, being freed from worldly affairs, may hear and apprehend thy holy Word with all diligence and faith, that we may rightly understand thy gracious will, cherish it, and live by it with all earnestness, to thy praise and honor; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Scripture Reading                                                           2 Timothy 3:1-4:5

The Sermon "Desperate Times Call for Divine Measures"
      *"The Apostles' Creed"                                                                  Hymn 742    
                                                   (Tune for: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken)

*Benediction and Response                                                   Numbers 6:24-26
    *Congregation: Amen
    "Give Thanks unto the Lord, Jehovah" (Psalm 118)             Hymn 613 (Verse 1)