Why We Worship the Way We Worship
The gospel is a story about God’s creation and re-creation of all things (both human and non-human) in Jesus Christ. This story is not relegated to a few Scriptures here-and-there that can simply be strung together. The gospel encompasses the whole of Scripture. Throughout the Scriptures God gives us various aspects of this story told from different angles, emphasizing different things. One thing remains the same: they are all telling the same story which culminates in Christ and accomplishes God’s purposes for all of creation.
Our liturgical worship, patterned by this story in Scripture, proclaims and brings us into this gospel week-by-week to encounter the living God and be re-created in Christ by the Spirit. The condensed patterns of this story are told in the events that happen at Mt. Sinai and God’s calling out a people for Himself to be the worshipers for which He seeks (John 4:23). This same gospel story is told in the worship of the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple. There, in the sacriﬁcial system--worship established and outlined by God Himself--we see God’s prescribed patterns for worship. Understanding these through their fulﬁllment in Jesus Christ aids us in understanding the shape of our worship and, thus, the shape of the gospel itself. This worship has a distinct pattern and involves man holistically, that is, every aspect of our humanity. For this reason, the worship of God calls us to participate in speaking, thinking, singing, kneeling, raising hands, standing, sitting, eating, and drinking.
The pattern of this singular gospel can be laid out in at least ﬁve distinct aspects. First, there is the call to worship. The gospel is, ﬁrst, God’s call for us to enter His presence. Everything we do is a response to God’s initiative of grace. God Himself comes to serve us ﬁrst and foremost. Our initial response to this call is that we come into His presence, presenting ourselves before Him. God’s presence reveals the fact that we are sinners. Therefore, before we can fellowship or commune with God--the goal of the gospel--we begin with confession. Here we readily acknowledge and confess that we are sinners, deserving of God’s wrath and curse. In Christ God has provided the means for forgiveness. So, believing God’s promise, we confess our sins kneeling humbly as His people. Once we have confessed, we hear God’s promise of forgiveness through His appointed representative in worship, the pastor. The gospel is more than the forgiveness of sins. It is also about conforming us into God’s image. Therefore confession and forgiveness are not the end. God will mold and shape us. He does this through His word read and taught. In this God consecrates us, or sets us apart, telling us what it means to live as His people. We respond to His Word with confessions of loyalty: our confession of our faith (i.e., the creed). Once we confess our loyalty to God, we are drawn near to God in holy communion. In this weekly meal God seals His promises to us in Christ, by His Spirit. Here we offer the fruit of our labor to God (our “firstfruits”), and God then gives it back to us as a true means of grace. This feast in which we become partakers of Christ is a time of celebration, so we sing, rejoicing in the goodness of our God. This is a weekly practice because without it the story of the gospel is not complete. God desires that we draw near to Him. This is the goal of the gospel. Having been renewed by God, we are then commissioned to go back into the world to bring others to God’s feast (Luke 14:16ff); to bring others to participate in God’s wonderful grace.
Much more explanation can and has been given about all of the particulars of our worship. Really, there is no substitute for living in the story of the gospel week-by-week. So, we encourage you to participate with us in the wonderful message of God’s love and grace in Christ Jesus.