January 2020  
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Lord's Day Worship - Order of Worship

Lord's Day Worship:  Order of Worship

Ozzie P. Osgood

In 1539, Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto wrote to Genevan council pleading for their return to the Roman Catholic Church and arguing, “that there is nothing more pestiferous to the souls than the false worship of God”.  Calvin responded by agreeing “there is nothing more perilous to our salvation than a preposterous and perverse worship of God”(59).  The major portion of Calvin’s response to Sadoleto is a debate over “just what is true worship of God”.  Of all the differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers, differences on such perennial issues of justification, authority, depravity etc, the focus of this debate was over worship.  What’s more, the question is not over the object of worship but rather over the manner of worship.  Neither Calvin nor Sadolato argued that the other was worshipping a different god altogether.  They were not arguing, “There is nothing more disease causing to the soul than worshipping a false god”.  That was a given.  What they argued was that the other worshipped the right God in the wrong manner.  In the reformation debate, the wrong manner (style) of worship was disease causing to the soul.

                John Knox, likewise, saw the manner of worship as a main issue of a proper reformation of the Church.  He preached a sermon in the court of Edward VI that the Book of Common Prayer was an idolatrous book.  Why? Because it taught to worship another god?  No, Knox objected to the use of vestments and kneeling at communion.  According to Knox, vestments and kneeling at communion were wrong ways to worship the right God.  For the reformers the manner of worship mattered. 

                Today, we find a very different attitude toward worship.  Though there are still some distinctives in worship between congregations and denominations, those distinctions have been relegated to the equivalence of just preferring a different flavor ice cream.  Some people like chocolate, some like vanilla.  Some people like sermons in service, some just prefer to praise God in music.  Like the Reese’s commercial that would say, “there is no wrong way to eat a Reese’s”, “There is no wrong way to worship God”.  All that really matters is that we all love Jesus.  Why is there such a difference between reformers’ generation and our own?  Perhaps it is due to the fact that we live in the post Great Awakening era of the church where the emphasis is on evangelism and all that matters is getting people to worship the right god.  Perhaps it is due to the fact that we live in a post-modern era of history and the manner of worship is something that is surrendered to the cultural onslaught of relativism and tolerance.  More important than “Why” is the question of what are we to do?  Is worship up for grabs in the current wave of relativism?  Is there a right way to worship God?  Is there a wrong way?  Does Scripture direct us to any particular order in worship?

                In the survey of worship in Scripture and in the history of the church we find that there does seem to be a pattern for worship.  The pattern consists of Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending.  Though many other elements are intertwined (a subject for another study) this bare pattern seems to be a consist structure for worship.

Exodus 19-24

                Exodus 19-24 is the goal of the Exodus “to serve” God and to make sacrifice to him.

God is the initiator of Worship as he delivers His people from Egypt through the sea and calls the assembly to meet Him.  In chapter 19 we see that Moses assembles the people at the foot of the mountain.  In chapters 20-23 the Word of God comes to them.  In chapter 24 it says, “they beheld God, and ate and drank” (24.11).  Finally, in chapter 33, the Lord charges them to “Depart; go up from here…”.  It is in these chapters that we begin to see the pattern in which God meets with his people and His people worship him.  In these chapters, the beginning of the Mosaic covenant, we see the beginning of an ordo to worship.  There is 1.) The assembly, 2.) The word, 3.) The meal, and 4.) The sending.

Isaiah 2.2-4, 25.1-13.

                In Isaiah, we see that God calls another assembly to His mountain, an assembly of “all nations” (2.2) and “all peoples” (25.6).  They will gather in order that “he may teach his ways”… and that “word of the Lord” should go out (2.6).  Also, there will be “a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine well refined” (25.6).  Here again we see that worship consists in an Assembly of God’s people in His presence around the word and meal.

Nehemiah 8.

                In Nehemiah, when Israel returns from exile, the same pattern of assembly, word, meal and sending is present in Israel’s worship with the addition of congregational praise and alms giving.

                8.1 Gathering “And all the people gathered as one      man…”

8.2-8 Reading of the Word of God “They read from the book, from the law of God, clearly”.

8.8 Explanation of the Word of God “and they gave the sense, so that the people could understand the reading”.

                8.10 Sending and Meal “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink the sweet wine…”

                8.10b Sending and alms“…and send portions to anyone who has nothing”.

Matthew. 5-7, 14.15-21, 15.32-38

                Matthew presents another assembly at another mountain, and Jesus as the lawgiver who speaks with authority.  Matthew invokes the themes of Sinai to demonstrate the beginning of the New Covenant where we see the dwelling of God with His people.  Gathering:  “great crowds followed him…”(4.25) and “seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain…(5.1).  Then Jesus delivered the Law to them in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Word).  Throughout Christ’s ministry he fed those who gathered:  The feeding of the 5,000 (14.15-21), the feeding of 4,000 (15.32-38), and the institution of the Lord’s Supper (26.26-29).  The book of Matthew concludes with the so-called “Great Commission”.  So in the book of Matthew the “One greater than Moses” brings the presence of God to his people and does so in the structure of assembly, word, meal, and sending.

Acts 2.42

The New Testament church likewise followed this model.  “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching (Word), and fellowship (Gathering and Sharing), to the breaking of bread (Meal) and to the prayers”.

Justin Martyr, Apology.

                The same skeletal structure of worship found in Scripture was also the structure of (at least some of) the early church’s worship.  Justin Martyr describes the practice of the Christians as “Gathering in one place” (Gathering), Reading and Preaching Scriptures (Word), a meal of bread and wine (Meal), and deacons distributing food to those who are absent and a collection for the poor (Sending).

John Calvin

                Calvin likewise structured the worship at Geneva according to the same model as he saw it in Acts 2.42.  There was the gathering, singing of Ten Commandments then a Psalm and then the sermon (Word).  Then there was the participation in the Lord’s Supper (Meal).  Following the meal,  there was the offering for the poor and the blessing (Sending).  Prayers were interwoven throughout the service somewhat linked to each of these structural linchpins.

Worship at Troy and East Troy Baptist Church

                The East Troy and Troy Baptist churches follow the same Scriptural pattern as the early church and the reformers. 

Assembly: Following the pattern of Scripture, Troy and East Troy Baptist Churches gathers for worship on the Lord's Day, Sunday.  The service begins with a call to worship followed by an invocation.  The call to worship calls for believers to gather themselves; physically, mentally and spiritually for the purpose of worship.  The invocation (from Latin meaning, "call upon")is prayer that the LORD Himself might gather with His people and be present in their worship.

Word:  God's word is present throughout the service in prayer, in song, in the Call to Worship, and in the Bendedicition,  but it is particularly emphasized in the reading and preaching.  The expository preaching model respects the manner in which God gave us His Word by unpacking the meaning of Scriptural passage and having the text determine the message.  This model stands in contrast to a topical model that strings together surface level meanings of many texts in order to provide "proof texts" for the minister preconceived message.

Meal:  On the first Lord's Day of each month, the Troy and East Troy Baptist churches celebrate the Lord's Supper.  All are invited to participate who confess Jesus as Lord and who have examined themselves before God's Word.

Sending: The service conclude with a benediction (from the Latin meaning, "to speak well").  It is a prayer of God's commissioning and God's blessing as the worshipers disperse from the corporate worship and return to their lives of individual service and worship.