Our Liturgy – 1
The consistory asked me to start a short column in the bulletin in which the various elements of “our liturgy” are explained. I am no expert in liturgical matters, but I have been leading congregations through the various elements of the Sunday liturgy for some years, and I have a few books on Reformed liturgy. So, thus begins a new column.
I have used the word “liturgy" a few times already. The word simply means “public worship.” When we talk about “our liturgy” we mean the various parts of our public worship on the Lord’s day.
When we gather for worship, we are meeting with the Lord God, the Maker of heaven and earth, and his Son Jesus Christ, with whom we have fellowship through the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 12:22ff indicates what is happening when we are in church: 22But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
We meet with God, and we meet with God’s people. Our gathering together on Sunday has a vertical aspect to it and a horizontal. Hebrews 10:25 emphasizes the latter: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We meet with God as His covenant people. Our worship is “covenantal.” It is a dialogue of God speaking to us upon which we respond to Him in one way or another.
We are called to worship. Some churches begin the service with a “call to worship.” Usually an appropriate Psalm or some other passage of scripture is read in which the congregation is “called to worship.” Many North American churches have such a call upon which the congregation then responds with the “votum”, “Our help is in the Name of the Lord, etc.” More and more Canadian Reformed Churches are now beginning their services with such a “call.”
I must admit that I am somewhat ambivalent about it. On the one hand, who can saying anything ill about reading a Psalm (e.g., 95, 113, 122, etc.) before the votum? On the other hand, I am not convinced that it is necessary. When I enter the pulpit and see you, I see you as people who have been called and who have responded to the call. That’s why you are here! You heard the call. The Lord has called you out of your homes to come to church. You got into your car and drove to church because the Lord called you.
I am willing to think more about whether we need to include a “call to worship” at the outset of our liturgy, but at the moment, I do not think something is missing because we do not include it.
God has called you to worship. Keep responding to the call!