Monday, April 27, 2015

Intentional Liturgy

A friend asked me recently whether Mission Street Church was a liturgical or non-liturgical church.  By this question, I think my friend meant, whether each week we go through a long proscribed pattern of worship structure which stems back to the time of Alexander the Great (312AD), and which some churches to this day follow assiduously and ritualistically every single week:

Call To Worship
Prayer of the Day
Assurance of Pardon
Peace of Christ
Prayer for Illumination
Old Testament Reading
New Testament Reading
Gospel Reading
Prayers of the People/Lord's Prayer
Invitation to the Table
Great Thanksgiving

I grew up in a church that had a liturgical tradition like this one.  I can still remember, like it was yesterday, having one of the most senior elders of the church get up in front and start the worship service, while bending a screeching microphone closer to his three piece suite and pocket watch, through a gravely smokers voice:  "This is the Day the Lord Has Made, Let Us REEEJOYCE and be Glad In It.  Now Let us Worship God."

And I can remember like it was yesterday the confession that the whole church read each week, week in and week out as a group, in a somewhat monotoned voice: "Merciful God, We confess that we have not loved one another with our whole heart.  We have failed to be an obedient church."  And I wondered as a 6 year old what it meant to be an "Obedient Church".  I had a hard enough time being an "Obedient Kid"

And I can still remember saying the Lord's Prayer each week, with gelatinous little legs swinging from the wooden pew where I was sitting: "Our Father Who Art In Heaven, Hallowed Be Your Name."  One time I heard someone mix the words up to the Lord's Prayer in a somewhat touching way, "Our Father, Who Art in Heaven, I know You know My Name."

Mission Street seeks to do everything that we do with intentionality and purpose.  To this end, we have chosen not to follow a rote liturgical outline like the one I grew up with (though, of course there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such worship traditions).  Rather, we seek to do what we call:

Intentional Liturgy

Intentional Liturgy is a very precise focus on one aspect of the entire liturgical tradition throughout an entire message series.  Throughout the year, we will take sections of the ancient liturgical tradition and focus the entirety of the service on that one element.  For example, we are right in the middle of a sermon series we are calling, "Creed" about "The Apostle's Creed".  Each week we are intentionally parsing this ancient document down, word by word, and pondering the meaning of each syllibant.  And after the message we are saying, "The Apostle's Creed".  We feel that there is intentionality and meaning behind this approach.

One of the things we are mortally afraid of developing in our new church, is what happens in some church traditions with the repeated recitation of the ancient liturgy, week in and week out - ritualism and mantra.  The same way that driving a car is not, perhaps, as exciting or meaningful as it was when we first sat behind the steering wheel when we were 16 years old, liturgy can sometime lose it's excitement, meaning, purpose and relevancy, if recited week in and week out without thought or intentionality.

This coming Fall, we will do a series on Prayer in which we say the Lord's Prayer together during that series.  In the Spring of 2016 we will do a message series called, "Confession", and focus on personal confessions.  Who knows, one Sunday I might even pull out my old pulpit robe....

Or Not:-)

All For Now,

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