Good Job Church!
At the end of the 11:00 service on Sunday, I was overwhelmed by the congregational participation and before I pronounced the benediction said to everyone, “Good job church!” Not surprisingly, that comment struck a lot of people as odd. So let me explain.
TCPC is known as a “liturgical church.” But what does that even mean? The word liturgy comes from the Greek word leitourgia. This word is the merging of two other words—laos (the people) and ergas (the work). So literally the word means “the work of the people.”
In the ancient world, leitourgia denoted acts of public service. For example, leitourgia was used to describe citizens volunteering their time at their own expense to fix a public road. This word was adopted as the central description of public worship. Stop and think about that. Christian worship, in its truest sense, is the public sacrificial service of God’s people. Is that how you are accustomed to think of worship? Probably not. Worship has morphed into the work of the preacher, the work of the choir, the work of the praise band, the work of the tech people, and the assembled congregants are consuming spectators rather than giving participants. In unintended ways, this vision of worship perverts the aim of worship away from God and onto the people. Sunday morning is for you!
While worship is indeed good for God’s people, incredibly formative, and filled with endless benefits, even still the ultimate aim of worship is our God. If we are thinking rightly, we should view Sunday morning less as an occasion to be edified (though this most certainly happens), and more as an occasion to bring our sacrifice. This paradigm shift shows just how important it is for you to be in worship each week. It’s not an issue of whether you feel like you need worship … we need you! You have a role to play! Each week when you are handed an order of worship, you are handed that week’s script, a carefully constructed drama that we intend to offer up to our God. You are not there to watch a performance, you are there as the actors of a performance. Heaven is our audience.
This is why our liturgy involves so much congregational participation. We responsively proclaim His word, we pray to God corporately, we recite our ancient creeds, we sing, we give, just about the only time you are sitting with nothing to do is the sermon. (By the way, the reason why congregations traditionally shout “amen” during sermons is because this is their way of participation in the preaching of God’s word. You are joining the preaching, affirming the truth of what is being preached. Obviously we Presbyterians need to grow in this liturgical practice!)
This Sunday your participation was glorious. That last response in particular was amazing. I declared, “Christ has come, his renewal is begun, and soon all things shall be new!” And you robustly shouted, “Hallelujah! Lord, hasten the day!” It was thunderous, and I honestly think it brought a smile to Jesus.
And then just like so many of you graciously thank me for the sermon, or thank Ted for the music, I wanted to thank you for your great work in worship. So I said, “Good job church.” And I meant it. Thank you for your serious participation in our liturgy. It is an honor to pastor a congregation that takes their role in worship so seriously.
With that said, I will see you all next Sunday…we have work to do!