C. S. Lewis says that good church services shouldn’t try to entertain us – because then our focus becomes on the ‘change’ or on the novelty. Rather, he says that a good church service
"...works best when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God."
You’ll notice a few things about our church service: we follow a pattern of prayers and scripted words. This is called our ‘liturgy’ which literally means the work of the people. We stand, we sit, we kneel, we offer our whole selves and our whole bodies to God. This is our ‘gospel aerobics’ and it doesn’t change much. At first, it might feel uncomfortable, like a new pair of shoes.
Why do we lean into ancient traditions?
So in the liturgy, even if the words are 2000 years old, we are dancing. Even ‘spontaneous’ churches have a liturgy –
a set pattern of how they do things and phrases they repeat. So we need to face this and do it well, having our words and actions informed by Scripture and history right up to the present. Rest assured that no one is grading you on your participation. We are all students here – learning to live the liturgy takes a lifetime.
Why do we sing the Psalms?
Why do we say the Lord’s Prayer & Creed?
Is the pastor forgiving sins? Is that right?
Why do we take Communion
How do I take Communion? Can children?
Ancient words remind us that our worship is part of something historic and bigger than ourselves. While we enjoy spontaneous prayer, scripted prayers can lend us words to pray when we have trouble articulating what is in our hearts. But of course, we pray them with the same sincerity and urgency!
We sing the Psalms because this was the prayer book of the Bible. The Psalms taught Jesus to pray. They now teach us to pray by giving us a range of words and emotions to speak to God – praise, lament, request – all these are sanctified in the Psalms.
It is hard to say the ‘our Father’ by ourselves! Saying the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are important things that we cannot do by ourselves, for ourselves. You’ll notice that the Creed is not abstract, but the concrete life and death of Jesus. It is this story that shapes our own, and which we have been affirming since the early church first bore witness to it.
Only God can forgive sin. And God charges his ministers with pronouncing the forgiveness that he eagerly extends in Christ. For many, it is powerful to audibly hear these words and be reminded that we are indeed forgiven.
We come to church to be with Jesus. This happens in three places: the Word (the Scriptures), the Word-made-flesh (Communion), and the Body of Christ (your neighbor). When Jesus left earth, he didn’t leave us a book to read but a meal. We come to church to be nourished by Jesus and be reoriented toward him.
[Note to historians: during the Reformation, the Protestant Church tried to reform Communion by taking it weekly, as it was only offered to the public once a year!]
Children are part of the body of Christ and when they are baptized, they can receive the food of Christ. At what point do they really know what is happening? At what point do we adults fully know what is happening? Like learning the liturgy, learning to understand the mystery of Communion takes a lifetime. We are always growing in union with Christ, and our understanding continues to grow as we do.
If you are baptized and trust Jesus, desiring to follow him, please join us for Communion. You are welcome to take the bread and wine separately, or to dip the bread in the wine. If you hunger for more of Christ but are not yet certain, please talk to somehow about how to help that hunger grow. If you do not wish to take Communion, you may remain seated – or come forward, arms crossed across your chest, for a prayer of blessing that your hunger may grow. Remember that this is a sacred moment, but also a joyous one!