Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Biblical Roots

It is no surprise that Christian worship finds its roots in Scripture. Biblical scholars have long noted many passages that reflect the ancient pattern and practices we see acted out each Sunday.

Two passages commonly held up as models for Christian worship are the Call of Isaiah (Isaiah 6) and the Road to Emmaus Story (Luke 24:13-35).

The pattern for the Service of the Word is laid out in Isaiah 6.

  • Glorious adoration of Almighty God starts the proceedings, and Isaiah is overwhelmed by the power of the praise.
  • All the celebration of the greatness of God serves to remind him of his own smallness, and he moves from adoration to confession. Not only does he blurt out his own personal shortcomings, but those of his society and culture as well.
  • Forgiveness comes in the form of a glowing hot coal on his unclean lips, taking away guilt and blotting out sin. Isaiah is now ready to hear the word of the Lord.
  • God’s word is spoken—with an appeal for a messenger to speak forth for God. Isaiah volunteers. And he receives the message to carry—a word people will not want to hear. It’s going to be a tough job.

The story of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus provides another pattern, bringing together the Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacrament.

  • While on the road, a Stranger preaches to the forlorn disciples, interpreting the Scriptures about himself as the messiah.
  • Stopping for respite and a meal, the Stranger becomes the host and “took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
  • As he broke bread, they instantly recognize Jesus present with them, and reflect on how he opened the Scriptures to them.

Overlay the two passages, and you have a fair outline of basic Christian worship.

Too many people fail to realize the biblical basis of what happens on Sunday morning. When we lose that anchor, the order of worship drifts and turns into an agenda of items to be accomplished, or, even worse, a hodge-podge of random activities.

If we will keep worship’s biblical roots in mind as we plan and lead worship, we have a chance of keeping our liturgical theology in line with the biblical message.

Have you ever thought of having a Bible Study on these two passages as an introduction to understanding worship in your church? How about other biblical passages that inform our liturgy? It’d be worth a try.

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