Sunday, September 14, 2014

The procuring of Reverence, and exciting of Piety and Devotion in the publick Worship of God

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end; your right hand is full of justice. Psalm 48:9

At last, Chris gave us his answer to the question that I think each of us wrestles with in our Christian walk, or, at least we should: Why do we gather as a body? 

We gather for expression and formation.

Our services are formative, over the long haul, we are formed into His image. We are created for relationship and impact. And then He established the pattern of the Sabbath, given to us as a gift, a reminder that we are not in control, that we can’t do it, that He is the One at work. A gift to refresh, a gift to realign, a gift to reshape. All week, the world works very hard to reshape us in its image, but once a week we gather together to be restored, to stop and cease and gather around the Gospel, and we are transformed, and then we are sent out as scattered worshipers to share His truth and love.

Our gathering reorients us, a dialogue of His word with His people. Our corporate gathering is a representation of the Gospel in the presence of God and His people for His glory and our transformation. It is a weekly invitation to re-step into the rhythm of His grace. Rehearsed regularly, it becomes part of our way of thinking and feeling, a way of feeling the heartbeat of God, immersing us in the rhythms of a Gospel-centered life.

And Matt O’Reilly addresses this gospel-centered liturgy as well: When we recognize that the form of the liturgy is gospel-shaped, we find that the regular praying of the liturgy will result in gospel-shaped loves, gospel-shaped habits, and gospel-shaped lives. So, giving our hearts to the reading of the liturgy week-in and week-out is not going to undermine its importance by making it a matter of rote. To the contrary, weekly engagement in the gospel saturated form and content of the liturgy will form our hearts and bodies after the shape of the gospel. The way we pray on the Lord’s Day will work its way out and shape the way we live every other day of the week.

Near the end of C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, as the old Narnia gives way to the new Narnia, the children in the story are invited to come further up and further in to Aslan’s new creation. Those same words well describe the invitation of the liturgy: Come further up and further in to the worship of the triune God, the One who is himself infinite and eternal self-giving love. One of the most exciting aspects of this journey of ever deepening appreciation for liturgical worship is the knowledge that the path will always lead to a deeper and deeper experience of God, because the infinite depths of his mysteriously matchless beauty are inexhaustible. The journey of worship to behold the glory of God is always forward moving, and even when we see him face to face and worship in the full light of the glory of the presence of the Lamb, the invitation shall always be: come further up and further in.

And this liturgy is also a part of each day, not just in our physical gathering. It gives me great joy to lift up my heart into the fixed hours prayers as they move around the globe, hour by hour joining the Church in forming the rhythm of His grace and being reminded what is true and good.

But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Psalm 88:14

And this morning I looked over C. S, Lewis’ shoulder as he writes to his friend Malcolm about his “festoonings,” the private overtones he gives to the Lord’s Prayer. And over the years he has added gradually to Thy will be done. At first Lewis just saw this as a Garden of Gethsemane act of submission, and normally this submission involved pains and disappointments, as such are the miseries of human life.

But then Lewis turned to the be done part of the prayer, and the petition, then, is not merely that I may patiently suffer God’s will but also that I may vigorously do it…I am asking that I may be enabled to do it. In the long run I am asking to be given “the same mind which was also in Christ.

And there is one more festoon. He is beginning to feel that we need a preliminary act of submission not only towards possible future afflictions but also towards possible future blessings: It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because, at that moment, we expected some other good. Do you know what I mean? On every level of our life–in our religious experience, in our gastronomic, erotic, aesthetic, and social experience–we are always harking back to some occasion which seemed to us to reach perfection, setting that up as a norm, and depreciating all other occasions by comparison. But these other occasions, I now suspect, are often full of their own new blessing, if only we would lay ourselves open to it. God shows us a new fact of the glory, and we refuse to look at it because we’re still looking for the old one.

And there I have it. We gather together for expression and formation. And the expression of sharing the word, sharing the table and sharing the piercing melodies lifted up to His Majesty. And this formation which when rehearsed regularly becomes part of our way of thinking and feeling, And this Sabbath renewal has been established from the very beginning. A gift to refresh, a gift to realign, a gift to reshape.

And this gathering together can continue during the week as well, new every morning, as the Body lifts us up and encourages us through the Word to live vigorously in His will.

This is the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:23

Prayer: O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule my heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.