Liturgy as Contact Sport

People tend to love liturgical worship for different reasons. Some love the pageantry and patterns, while others love what it can do. Some are geometry buffs, while the others are fighters. Some are aesthetes, while the others are warriors.

So in what I am about to say, let me say that I am not against taking the glittering sword of right worship from the scabbard and fighting with it. That is what we are all about. This is what we are seeking to do in our worship at Christ Church, and we are seeking to do it with formal, liturgical worship. We believe this is one of our assigned weapons, and we are engaged in learning how to use it.

That’s all to the good, and nothing said here represents a rejection of liturgical worship as such. I would much rather fight with the biblically assigned sword and buckler than with a makeshift broom handle and garbage can lid. But with that said, I would rather fight alongside a man with a broom handle than to share the mere fact of sword possession with a man who spends all his time at home polishing it. And reading books on the best polishing tools available.

Let me change the metaphor. There is a way of falling in love with an elegant play, the way the coach drew it out on the whiteboard, with all the x’s and o’s doing just what they need to do in order to enable the coach to draw an arrow toward the end zone. And people who love this also love the walk-throughs in practice. “Look at the elegant way the guard pulls, runs left and takes out the blitzing linebacker. In slow motion.”

The problem is that in a real game, the value of the play when run full tilt in real time looks quite a bit different than it did when we all had the leisure to think things through. It is easier to see the reason for everything during the walk-throughs. The only problem is that it is not the game.

The Prussian general von Moltke once said that “no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” And this is probably why Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

We often talk about the worship wars, but these are just quarrels over strategy between coaches in practice. The real worship war is the war that right worship declares — on the devil and all his works. So we should be supportive of every form of Christian worship that engages the enemy effectively. If it does that, we might want to tinker with it to make it more effective, but we would be doing this with a general disposition of support. If it does not do that, it is worthless — no matter how good it is.

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Johnny Simmons
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As a committed Anglican very often working in Baptist worship services, I have to think about this sort of thing all the time. I have to keep that shiny sword put away and keep my mouth shut about the broom handle. I think I’ve told you before that your experience with moving to Communion wine has been very encouraging. So’s this.

georgejones63
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georgejones63

Wait, is Sunday morning covenant renewal worship the practice or the “real game” in your analogy?

J
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J

Ya know what Doug….sometimes when I read credenda or a post like this it feels like I’m listening to someone from another galaxy describing how beautiful their planet’s sunset is. Makes me want to see it someday. That being said I can do a lot of damage with a broomstick and given the right wind I could hit someone in the head with that garbage can lid from at least 30 yards.

Dustin Turner
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Dustin Turner

“The Prussian general von Moltke once said that “no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” And this is probably why Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Or as the poet Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Arnold Rowntree
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Arnold Rowntree

Yes, keep coming Doug, I’m all ears…

Jacob Moya
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Jacob Moya

Double Standards. Could the same be said for the Lord’s Table? Consider two churches: one holding communion quarterly and only in a very strict memorial way, and the other holding it every week with an orthodox understanding of “real presence” but with envy and strife. Or, consider paedobaptism. Can one’s objective view of the covenant be spoiled with a subjective view of love in the home, as in, “Son, it’s not okay for you to stall when I order you about, but it is okay for me to stall when you ask me to help with at your math homework.”?… Read more »

Steve Perry
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Steve Perry

Twenty years an Anglican, and liturgy is far more beautiful as a broom handle.  

Mark L
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Mark L

What would true Biblical liturgical worship look like? 

Arwen B
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Arwen B

Mark L: It’s probably easier to answer what it would not look like. Droning four-note, three-word “praise” choruses that get repeated umpteen times before the worship band gets bored and gives up (which always seems to be about 15 repetitions after the congregation does) might just be first on the list.

Jacob Moya
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Jacob Moya

I agree with Arwen that it is easier to say what worship should not look like. Yet, the regulative principle is only a guide-rail and not a rut (I Cor 1:20). But why do so many reformed and evangelical churches get stuck there?

Andrew Lohr
Member

Regulative principle, as in:  since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple, and the New Testament approves of churches in homes, any group that worships in a building they consider holy are idolaters bound for Hell?   Or:  gotta celebrate the Lord’s Supper upstairs, in a rented facility?  (Meant as reductio ad absurdum of some extremes of the RP, and a little teasing for the edifice complex.)

Tim R.
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Tim R.

Douglas, I find myself a little confused again (perhaps it is just me).  Are you saying that you would rather be associated with vigorous but un-liturgical worship than you would be associated with a dry and lifeless liturgy?  If so, who on earth disagrees with that?  I ask because I can’t help feeling you are shooting at your friends in this post.  Most CREC churches that are more liturgical are anything but dry and lifeless, but they are going to feel that you are dissing them in this post.

Arwen B
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Arwen B

If one stipulates that “liturgy” is the order and practice of the service, whatever the specifics of its content, then perhaps it would be useful to consider this question: What is the purpose of the liturgy we use, and what is its effect?  Once you have established what the purpose is, and what the effect is, then it would be easier to determine if a given part of the liturgy is Biblical. With the praise chorus I mentioned earlier, for example, the purpose (since these are most often found in the liturgy of Charismatic churches) appears to be to open… Read more »

Steve Perry
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Steve Perry

 

The CREC in its infancy displays a simplistic glorious beauty in its liturgies.  It has not adopted a spirituality that believes in breaking out the brasso.  Yet?  

 

Joe Thacker
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Joe Thacker

Pastor Wilson,
Would you mind further expanding on your last few sentences, particularly what is meant by worship that “engages the enemy effectively”? 
Thanks.

Jon
Guest
Jon

It is an odd thing that churches often imagine they are without liturgy.  Worship, it seems to me, is by definition liturgical.  I don’t think that’s something we can get away from.  Some of us choose classic forms of liturgy while others prefer contemporary ones.  But liturgy is inescapable.

RMHarris
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RMHarris

One should not confuse true worship with ‘rites’ or ‘rituals.’   It seems much of the ‘worship wars’ revolve around this and have NOTHING to do with real worship.  Worship is not a ‘service’ one goes to on Sunday or Saturday or mid-week.   Worship is a continual event which focuses on the Godhead, primarily the Father, but also Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  True worship allows one to come into the presence of God at anytime no matter the cultic ‘ritual’ or ‘rite’ is being practiced.  Most of the time, those who focus on the ‘rite’ or ‘ritual’ being ‘proper’ (e.g.… Read more »