Saturday, January 09, 2010

Our Liturgy - 2 (Jubilee Bulletin)

Our Liturgy – 2

   The “handshake” before and after the service is a symbolic and public indication that the minister is acting on the instruction of the consistory and under its authority. The consistory, in the Name of Christ, governs the worship service. It calls the congregation together and charges the minister to perform his task for the upbuilding of the congregation.

   The worship service proper begins with the votum, the last verse of Psalm 124, “Our help is in the Name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Essentially, it is a confession, and so we call it that in our order of worship.

   The votum, or confession, is more than the rap of a gavel that calls a meeting to order. It is transformative. Before it, we were a gathering of people whom the Lord had called to worship, but once we have confessed that we are helpless, were it not for the help of God who created all things, we enter into the high and awesome state of corporate worship. The votum can turn a casual get-together of individuals into a united assembly of people gathered before the face of God. Karel Deddens, in Where Everything Points to Him (Inheritance, 1993), says that the custom of beginning the service with this votum stems from the Middle Ages. So we are well in line, here, with the ancient church.

   It is very fitting to take words from Psalm 124 which speaks powerfully about God rescuing His people from every evil and attack–from angry men, engulfing floods. raging waters, snarling beasts and fowlers’ snares. God is our Creator and Saviour in whom we confess our trust.

   Some Canadian Reformed congregations have begun the practice of the congregation reciting the votum together. I think that is a good custom for it makes very clear that the votum belongs to the congregation. The people of God, assembled together, with one voice express their corporate and personal dependence upon God. Let’s think about that.

    If you have any questions that you would like me to address under this rubric, please ask. I have already received one: “Would it not be good for the minister to participate in the collection?” Great question! Stay tuned!


Unknown said...

Ancaster's deacons "stop" by the pulpit now too. They "warn" a visiting minister beforehand. Very good example for children.

John said...

George, given that the Lord's service is dialogical in character and given that it is covenantal and that God initiates the covenant, might it not be better to begin with a call to worship, that is, with a summons from God to draw near to Him?

To put it another way, doesn't beginning the worship service with the votum, which is our declaration of trust in the Lord, make it seem as if we are the ones who initiate the service?

In the liturgy that we use in the congregation I'm serving, the service starts with the congregation singing a call to worship (usually from the Psalms), during which time I am walking up to the front of the church.

When the song is done, I then call the church to worship, often quoting a verse or two from the psalm they've just sung or perhaps from another passage.

Then I say, "Let us worship God in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," and the congregation responds: "Amen."

Next, I greet the congregation with blessing and they respond -- with the words taken from Boaz's greeting of his workers in Ruth: "The Lord be with you" and the response: "The Lord bless you." During those blessings, I bow to the congregation and they bow back, as an indication of mutual respect. (In the Bible, you bow to people, but never to things.)

After that, we have the votum and some other appropriate Scripture verses, before proceeding with the corporate confession of sin.


George van Popta said...

John, you describe a beautiful opening liturgy. As I wrote in my first instalment, I'm ambivelant about a liturgical call to worship. I could be convinced of the point you make that starting with the votum could give the idea that we start the conversation, whereas the LORD always does.