Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Today in Church History: The First Reformed Liturgy of the Lord's Supper

On December 7, 1524, the Lord's Supper was observed from a Reformed perspective.  According to Hughes Oliphant Old, it took place at St. Martin's Church in Memmingen (South Germany) under the oversight of Christoph Schappeler.  Under the leadership of this preacher, the imperial free city of Memmingen committed itself to the Reformation early.  Schappeler arrived in 1513, and as early as 1522, he was preaching against the Roman Mass. 

Little is known about that first service other than that it was in the evening.  But what started that night would eventually lead to the development of the Memmingen Service Book of 1529, which was an attempt to arrive at a synthesis of the various existing Reformed liturgies.  The liturgy has been preserved:
Metrical Psalm
Prayer for the Grace of Praise
Epistle, 1 Corinthians 11
Gloria in excelsis
Prayer for Illumination
Gospel, John 6:47-63
Metrical Psalm or Hymn
Sermon or Communion Admonition
Prayer of Intercession
     for the necessities of the Church
     for the magistrate and all men
     Lord's Prayer
Prayer for Faith
Confession of Sin and Absolution
Words of Institution
     Metrical Psalms are sung during communion
Post-communion Admonition
Psalm 113
Ten Commandments
The major influences on this liturgy come from the liturgies from Basel, Zurich, Strasbourg and Constance.  One of the features present in the Memmingen Service Book was the "Dismissals."  This part of the liturgy was one of the few elements that was present in all the different liturgies that were used for developing the MSB.

The dismissal is what we today call "fencing the table."  During the dismissal, there would be an invitation and encouragement of the faithful to approach the Lord's Table, while the unbaptized and unrepentant would be warned to abstain from the holy meal, and often times, leave the service so that only the "faithful" would remain to partake of the Lord's Supper together.  The Reformers did this because they did not want the Lord's Supper degraded by having it offered to those who were not prepared--including covenant children.

The dismissal was an integral element in the Reformation of worship because it was an application of Church discipline within the worship service.  This was one way for the elders to exercise care in reforming more than the liturgy, but also the lives of those worshiping.  So important was this element, that Calvin was ready to leave Geneva rather than not practice it.  The dismissal was not the result of being mean-spirited or controlling, but was pastoral.  It provided an opportunity to call sinners to repentance and to protect those who were not ready from eating and drinking judgment to themselves.

The Reformation was more than just a recovery of theological concepts, but a reformation of worship practice that was based on that theology. It is exciting to remember what happened 486 years ago today. But we need more today than the excitement of a memory, we need the resolve to guard what has been passed along to us. Can we maintain the theology of the Reformation if we don't maintain the worship practices that flesh it out?

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