Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Liturgy - Good or Bad? - Part 1

Liturgy…Good or Bad?: Part 1

One of the scariest words for people to hear in a Baptist church is the work liturgy. As soon as you mention the word people start to imagine priests walking around in solemnity—with all their pomp and circumstance—waving around a thurible filled with incense and speaking in Latin. This is what we associate with a liturgical church. Our disposition might lead us to suppose that liturgical churches are wrong. We might think they are just concerned with outward appearances and not concerned with changing the heart. You might even hear someone say that a liturgy is all about what we do and it leads us to believe in salvation through our works. Even though we associate liturgy with services that are full of ornate symbols and tradition, the truth is that every church whether Catholic, Episcopal, Non-denominational or Baptist uses a liturgy. No matter how hard churches try to escape from being labeled as a liturgical they will always use a liturgy because liturgy does not dictate what is done in a service, but is merely the order things will happen. Liturgy is just a formal way of saying “the service order”. Let’s look at a couple examples of liturgical services.

Generally speaking, a stereotypical Baptist liturgy might start off a service with a rousing congregational hymn. They might follow this with a time of hand shaking to welcome each other before someone comes and gives the announcements for the following week and says a prayer for the offering. After this they might sing a couple more songs before having some special music. Next the pastor comes up on stage and begins his message by telling everyone a joke that will hopefully relate to the message and make people laugh. He will end his message by giving people an
emotional appeal to come to the altar while the congregation sings all 10 verses of “Just As I Am”.

Contrastingly, a Non-denominational church typically seeks to make a comfortable environment for all people to walk into, and many times they try to stay away from typical church stereotypes. When you enter the building you might see the band or praise playing on the stage. As the service starts they will sing a couple songs that create an exciting atmosphere. After this the pastor, dressed in torn jeans and a T-shirt, might come up and give announcements and welcome people. They may even play a video that tries to explain “churchy things” for people who have never been to the church. A second section of songs that is typically moving and personal will be sung
before the message is preached. After the message (or some pastors may call it a talk) there will be a couple of songs sung before the people are sent off by a pastor. The church service is designed to have moments of high energy, levity to release tense moments with humor, and worshipful moments that make people feel the presence of God. In both of the above examples there was an order and purpose to how they did their service—or you could say there was a liturgy to help them accomplish their goals. I am not saying that one service order is better that the other—I am simply giving
examples of a liturgy.

Liturgies can be either good or bad because a liturgy is our ordered response to the truth we believe about God. In fact, the Bible God has given us has many examples of worship that was pleasing to God and examples of worship that was offensive to the Lord. Let’s look at a few examples of worship that pleased God. In Nehemiah 8, we see all the people gather to hear the Book of the Law read aloud, and they fall down and worship God. The Psalms are filled with examples of worship to the Lord (Ps. 3; 5; 75; 95…etc.). The epistles also help us see what should be included in our church worship (Acts 2; I Cor 11,14; Eph. 6:18). Also, in the book of Revelation we see get a glimpse of what worship will look like in the future (Rev. 4-5; 19). There is many more example of what Worship should look like, but let’s also see some examples of worship that was not pleasing to God
All through the Old Testament, God is concerned that his name be Holy and that Israel does not worship Him in the same way pagan nations worship their gods (Lev. 20:22-23; Deut.12:31; Jer. 10:2-4; Ex. 32). In second Samuel 6, we learn about a worship service with good intentions that ended in the death of Uzzah because he reached out and touched the Ark of the Covenant. In the New Testament, Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for the way they are taking the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11). 

The scripture is filled with examples of good and bad worship, but my
intention in writing today is not to give you an in-depth look at worship practices in the scripture—I want you to see that worship is important to God and our liturgy (the order we use) matters. I am not saying that there is only one good way to order a service because the Scripture does not say that; however, Scripture does present us with patterns that we can follow as we approach God in worship. Next month, I plan to write on the patterns we see in scripture, and I hope that it will stir conversation and give you insight into the way I choose to order our service.

- Pastor Seth Peterson

Thinking About Justice

 The recent brutal murder of George Floyd while onlookers cried out for him to let the man up so he could breathe and vainly entreated the other officers (who have now been charged with aiding and abetting the hideous crime) to step in and help Mr.  Floyd get up so he could breathe leads me to share some thoughts about justice.

  First of all, justice is part of God’s character. Isaiah says, “For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 30:18) In a judgment against Jerusalem for evil within that city Zephaniah says, “The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust know no shame.” (Zephaniah 3:5)

   Next, since justice is part of our Lord’s character, we know He loves justice. Since He loves justice we can be certain that He hates injustice in any form. David writes, “For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.” (Psalm 37: 28) One of the joys of our Lord’s justice is to know that He preserves us forever. We are not preserved through any of our merit, because we have no merit apart from Jesus Christ dying for us on the cross and raising from the dead to be our living Savior

  Next, a pagan king saw that God is just and characterized by justice. After a sleepless night Nebuchadnezzar came to the lions’ den and cried out asking Daniel if his God had protected him. When King Nebuchadnezzar saw Daniel was not harmed by the lions he said, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4: 37) Since our Lord is just and justice is part of His character any injustice is evil.

   Next, since God is just, loves justice and is righteous, He expects the same from His people. Amos delivered God’s warning that He was not pleased with the Israelites’ solemn assemblies and offerings while they dealt unjustly with others. He said God called for them to “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) Micah expressed that warning in these words: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) This involves not only helping the powerless and exploited find justice, but to show them mercy and to walk humbly with God. That leaves absolutely no room for pride.

    Finally, when justice is done it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. Solomon expressed it in these words: “When justice is done it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” (Proverbs 21: 15) Justice is joy to us as His saints whom He has declared righteous because in justice we see one more wonderful aspect of His character for which we give Him praise. Justice is a terror to evildoers who receive the just punishment for their deeds.

    We must always remember that God’s justice and God’s mercy met on Calvary. Had we received justice without Jesus going to Calvary we would have no eternal hope. But since God met us mercifully that day on Calvary we have eternal life from the moment we trust Jesus as our Savior and forevermore!

David Oldfather

Liturgy - Good or Bad? - Part 1

Liturgy…Good or Bad?: Part 1 One of the scariest words for people to hear in a Baptist church is the work liturgy. As soon as you mention...