Speaking the Language

I’ve shared these thoughts elsewhere in the past but I thought I’d post them here since I’ve all but forsaken my former blogs to contribute to the Outhouse. Who knows, someone other than Zrim might read it this time. I thought this would be a good follow-up to Zrim’s last post too.

Some have heard others in our congregation say that they would never dream of taking an unbelieving or un-Reformed neighbor to our worship services at Trinity URC because they would never understand what is going on in them. I guess some feel that we are not seeker-sensitive enough. In my opinion, our worship services could use some tweaking in the other direction to better follow Michael Horton’s prescription in A Better Way. At any rate, responding to the concern that our worship services aren’t outsider-friendly, our pastor has offered the following “football analogy.” I’m not sure if this is original, and I’ve added a few things of my own to it:

If you’ve never been to an American football game and don’t know the rules or how it’s played, should you expect to understand everything right away? Should everything going on down on the field, on the sidelines, and in the stadium be explained for your benefit? Should the PA announcer describe all the action in detail, tell you what role the linebacker plays, what those numbers they keep flipping over on the poles mean, why they stopped throwing the ball to kick it, or what the player did wrong with his hands to get the “holding” penalty? Should the coaches hold up signs detailing what will happen on the next play and why they’re going to do it that way? Not at all. If you’re new to football you won’t understand it right away, but if you keep going to games, keep studying the rules, and make an effort to understand why things happen when they happen, over time you’ll get it. Furthermore, if they were to start dumbing-down football for all first-timers, how many loyal fans would they alienate?”

It’s a crude analogy but I think it works. Should an unbeliever, or one who is not a Reformed believer, expect to understand everything that goes on in the Reformed worship service the first time he or she sits in the pew? Should the church change things so that the visitor will understand, not feel remotely out-of-place, and not think we’re all a bit strange? Not at all. Worship is for the Church. When we water things down and start speaking the language of the world in our worship, we risk losing our worshippers to the world. To borrow some of Horton’s thoughts from A Better Way, if an outsider complains about feeling out-of-place, we should tell them that our worship is not about making them feel comfortable; they “have to make an effort to understand it, to live in its world, and to breathe its air.” We should not be willing to risk losing the rest of our congregation for their comfort.

To quote more experts:

Of course, visitors to our churches should receive help in finding Joel in the Bible or knowing when to sit or stand. No one objects to this kind of sensitivity. But the world is predisposed to misunderstand the church. Christians cannot expect unbelievers to be comfortable in services of worship that are alien to the ways of the world. “User-friendly” or “seeker-sensitive” worship is not an option for the people of God. In fact, worship that demonstrates the separateness of the church is what Machen called “merciful unkindness” because it testifies to the world of the hope that is within us. If the world mocks us, so be it. True worship is for the church, not for the world.

Hart and Muether. With Reverence and Awe (Phillipsburg, N.J. P&R, 2002) p. 35

Later on in the same book:

The church that properly worships will be peculiar to the world. Its ways will seem odd and irrelevant, and its language will sound strange. In a word, God’s holy pilgrims will appear to be sectarians. This is because the church, saved by God in order to worship him, sees itself in light of God’s purposes, not the world’s expectations. God has elected us by his good pleasure, delivered us from the bondage of sin, and set us apart from the world, where, like the Israelites in exile, we are to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land.

p. 60

We not only risk losing our own people when we let the world and evangelicalism shape our worship, we also, as Dr. Clark has pointed out, disappoint people seeking true Reformed worship. People are coming to our Reformed churches expecting to hear us speaking the language of the Reformation in our worship because they listen to the White Horse Inn, read Modern Reformation, and have read Horton, Clark, Hart, Hyde and others on worship, and have left dismayed because we seem to be trying to speak the language of American evangelicalism, the very language they’ve grown tired of.

May the outsider find our worship peculiar, our ways odd, and our language strange when attending our services, but may he also confess that the Lord is truly among us. And may those seeking true Reformed worship feel right at home at our services, also confessing that the Lord is among us.

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About Rick

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54 Responses to Speaking the Language

  1. Zrim says:

    Rick,

    Great post.

    I think what is behind a lot of the seeker stuff is this form of Americanism that is “afraid to grow into that which it doesn’t understand.” I think this is an implication of what Clark talks about in his dogma of the QIRC. We live in an age that, when it’s not busy chasing one form or another of mysticism (QIRE), it is bust trying to figure everything out beyond a reasonable doubt.

    When I first came to Reformed confessionalism I had, just like so many other “Bapterians,” trouble with paedobaptism. But somehow I understood that this was part of the whole enchilada and that I had to “grow into my understanding of it.” After all, the Gospel itself is offensive and not the most comfortable thing in the world. Somehow I knew that I had to jump in with both feet or leave the pool altogether.

    I know he is on the absolute wrong side of FV, but Jeff Meyers is helpful here (so much for the Outhouse being about bad parochialism); most of these words are mine from another place, Meyers is quoted:

    Pastor Jeffery Meyers, in his book The Lord’s Service, observes that while this reversal of sorts may be attributed to host of things, one of the reasons can be found in oft-cited problem by the contemporary. The contemporary wants the church to acquiesce to the culture in order to make its “text” accessible to the modern man. Rather than alienate, almost frighten, the so-called “seeker,” the contemporary wants to make him feel at home. Thus he joins with contemporary man in saying that the categories of religion, ritual and rite are to be vanquished. But while making the “alien within our gates” feel welcome is certainly one thing, changing the text of the Church is quite another. Instead of resisting the alien who comes to the gate demanding the Church change to meet his “felt needs” by demanding that the alien learn the language of the Church, the contemporary lets him in and scribbles down all the suggestions the alien gives, promising to make the necessary changes.

    And one of the reasons is that “none of it makes any sense to me.” The contemporary completely agrees and continues to promise changes. This instead of saying, “of course it doesn’t. You are new here. But there is something to learn. You have entered the Church now. It’s supposed to be alien to you. Now sit down and listen.” One of the ways this culminates is in the actual worship of God.

    As Meyers points out, there is a difference between unintelligible and unfamiliar:

    “Should an unbeliever be able to walk into a Christian service and participate without any training or explanation? I think an a priori case can be made for the idea that biblical worship will appear strange to the modern American pagan. Surely someone unfamiliar with the Bible and the Christian faith will need to be trained in biblical worship. He or she will need to learn how to approach God.” Page 323.

    Meyers goes on to offer an insightful anecdote with one of his parishioners (which he paraphrases) who was new to the faith and how that related to the worship experience:

    “It takes a lot of work to know where we are and why we are doing what we are doing…I realize that I am a very new Christian. I know that I don’t know my Bible. I don’t know very many of the hymns that you sing. The music is not familiar to me, since I didn’t grow up in a church. But that doesn’t bother me, because I also know that I have a lot to learn. I shouldn’t expect to know how to worship God after two weeks of church, should I?” page 324.

    This woman had the proper approach to the faith, using worship as that reference point. She had something to learn, to change, to which to acquiesce—not the Church. Instead of demanding that the Church morph herself into yet another corollary of the world, she understood her rightful place as a catechumen. Instead of demanding that there be absolutely no discernible difference between the Church and the world, that there be no wrinkle and an absolute straight arrow shot from the world to the Church, she submitted to the authority of the Church. I have no idea who this woman was, but what she and I share in this scenario is the sense that, even though we were aliens to the Church, somehow we knew that something different must go on there. John Calvin said that we all go our deaths being some measure still an unbeliever. I still have my foot in the unbelieving world in my nature. We were not present to merely to hear, see, and experience things we already knew, so to speak. We don’t approach the Church to be told to be good people—we know that. That’s natural. Everyone knows that. Everyone has access to that knowledge in our common creation. Pursuing what we know to be good and right is hard-wired into all of us. We know how to raise our children, how to manage our money, how to turn the other cheek, how to watch out for others. Tell us something we don’t know. Tell us the Gospel. Don’t moralize it, don’t spiritualize it, don’t make it practical—just tell us the Gospel.

  2. My good mate Johnny T has argued that the insistence on the part of the non-believer that he understand everything going on around him at church is the cultic equivalent of the American getting upset when people speak languages other than English, even in their own countries.

    It’s in the first comment in the thread, if you’re interested.

  3. Rick says:

    Wow, JJS,
    your post was better than mine in 300 less words.

    I’m sorry I missed that one. Good stuff from Johnny T too, as always.

    I see Zrim posted the same comment there as he did here. He must have it on file.

  4. Yeah, I think Zrim has a database with paragraphs relating to everything from “Calvin on the Kingdom” to “How to Install Crown Moulding.” And he just sits there with his finger on the cut and paste button, waiting to pounce.

    And for what it’s worth, gents, I would try your hardest to get the text of your posts to fit within a single screen shot. Otherwise they’re too long to read, at least on a blog.

    But what do I know? I’m just a “snob” from “The OC”©.

  5. Rick says:

    No, you’re just catering to the short attention span of “The O.C.” people. Folks in “The K.C.” (kent county) have a lot more time to read posts.

  6. Zrim says:

    “The KC.” You’re funny.

  7. Zrim says:

    Good point, JJS (JT). I think American creaturely comfort is afoot in all of it.

    JJS, re length, “you’re right, you’re right, I know, you’re right.”

    And I only have that bit on file because it’s good. Sheesh, last time I used it, apparently, was in 2006. Have we been doing this that long? I need to get into how to install crown moulding.

  8. Rick,

    You lost me at “catering.”

  9. Zrim says:

    Catering? I love cake. I especially love to have cake and eat it, too. MMMM, cake.

  10. Rick says:

    Why do my threads always veer off course?

  11. Zrim says:

    Rick,

    Probably because you pretty well said it all in the post (?).

  12. Rick says:

    I’m not complaining, I love it when we joke around. I’m just wondering what I do to attract it. Maybe because I do it to others.

    BTW, crown moulding is hard to cut properly – buy extra, you’ll need it.

  13. Zrim says:

    You’e just a fun guy, Rick.

    When it comes to handy-work, whatever suggestions given normal people must be made 3x for idiots like me. So if you suggest extra, that means I must go with extra-extra-extra. Good thing my wife is the handy one. The extra rule applies only once to her.

  14. Echo_ohcE says:

    Yeah, I have nothing to add to your post Rick, except my agreement.

    E

  15. RubeRad says:

    And for what it’s worth, gents, I would try your hardest to get the text of your posts to fit within a single screen shot. Otherwise they’re too long to read, at least on a blog.

    JJS, how “seeker-sensitive” of you to compromise the integrity of your blog by submitting to the whim of the passerby who says “But I want reading about Christianity to be easy!” Whiny bastards — make ’em work for it! We’ll lock you in a chat room with Echo and Zrim for a month, and see how much you can learn about verbosity!

    JK, I’ve actually always admired your talent for brevity. Simplify, always simplify!

  16. Bruce S. says:

    We’ll lock you in a chat room with Echo and Zrim for a month

    Or lock ’em all in the Outhouse and two of ’em will learn to wrap things up as fast as possible!

  17. Zrim says:

    Talk about simma na. I can’t possibly be as verbose as Echo.

  18. RubeRad says:

    Z, what you may lack in quantity, you make up for in grandiloquent phraseology.

  19. Chris says:

    I don’t like the football analogy, I suppose if attending a church service is a game then it might makes sense. I see it more like going to dinner at someone else’s house in a foreign land and observing their strange traditions and habits. Once you realize the objective is to get the food into your mouth, chew it and swallow it so it will nourish your body , it doesn’t seem so strange anymore. Coming from (and still waiting for a Reformed church to park itself nearby) an evangelical™ background, the Reformed™ service does seem a bit stale at first glance, but it’s like a chicken pot pie, kinda boring on the outside, but full of meat once you dig in.

    ok now tear me apart gently

  20. Rick says:

    Chris, Thanks for commenting

    an analogy is an analogy – yours works too.

    Click on the word “argued” in the second comment (the one from Pastor Stellman) he too used sports lingo to make the same point. I think the message is clear. Things might be strange and unfamiliar to someone new to Reformed worship – but if they give it time they’ll understand (and perhaps reject it). On the flip side, if everthing were dumbed down or always explained in detail, that would get kind of annoying to the person who already knows what’s going on.

  21. RubeRad says:

    As good as this post is, I wanted to make somewhat of a counterpoint. There is a certain level of liturgical/terminological explanation/accomodation that I believe is appropriate. If we go so far as to make a point of our apartness (aboveness!) we risk becoming as rude and arrogant as any clique of self-congratulatory separatists, keeping outsiders at bay with shibboleths and in-jokes.

    Ours is no gnostic (secret, mystical) religion; visitors should perceive our peculiarities not as obstacles, but as excellencies that we are glad to teach and share.

    And beyond visitors, we have congregations full of children who are learning to be Presbyterian (not to mention Z’s favorite “Evangelicals learning to be Presbyterian”). Just as (well not quite as much as) we need to keep preaching the gospel to the converted, it can only help to continually remind the congregation of what the liturgy is, what are the meanings and purposes of the various elements, what is the interplay between “proclamation” and “worship”. This could be as simple as saying “And since God calls us to worship, we respond in song, from #xxx” rather than “Please rise for the call to worship…; Please turn to our opening hymn, #xxx…”

    My point is that, in a truly living liturgy, the ebb and flow of God speaking, us responding, and all of us communing, will be self-apparent — and inherently explanatory in nature.

  22. Chris says:

    Rick,

    Forgive me. My comment and analogy were born out of my dislike of sports and my enjoyment of food. Just a personal thing. Suppose I should have kept it to myself then.

  23. Rick says:

    No worries, Chris. I like food too. And, I’m not a football fan. I really don’t like it all that much. Baseball is the only sport I really like.

    Rube, cool man – I agree and don’t see how it’s a counterpoint.

  24. Brad Lenzner says:

    Rube,

    I think you couldn’t be more right on. And I think Rick is right too, what you posited doesn’t seem to really make a counterpoint.

    I think there really is a healthy balance that can be reached between the appropriate explanation of the liturgy and the execution of it.

    As a pastoral intern in my church, when I lead the liturgy there is a certain majestic sense of satisfaction that comes along with helping people understand why we are worshiping the way we are during the service.

    When I explain things during the liturgy, if you’ll allow me to continue speaking anecdotally for a moment, I also feel a sense of united joy that is difficult to put into words.

    I think of appropriate, liturgical winsomeness as another way of worshiping God through loving my neighbor as myself. It seems, at least to me, that liturgical winsomeness is a kind of fruit of the Spirit that is manifested right then and there during worship.

    I hope that doesn’t sound weird to state it that way.

  25. Rick says:

    I hear you, Brad. Some explanation does seem appropriate at certain times. And it can be very edifying. Sometimes we who are familiar with the language still need to be reminded of why we are doing what we are doing.

    My answer to Rube’s last comment, and what the post is getting at, is something like this; someone who is used to a non-denominational evangelical worship service might be used to some “worship leader” jumping up on stage and greeting everyone informally and then leading the congregation in 4 or 5 songs followed by a prayer then introducing the preacher who concludes the service with a prayer, a song and a “see ya’ll next week.” Such a fellow might find it strange that we have a formal “call to worship” followed by a “votum” and a salutation given with raised hands by the same guy who introduces songs, reads the law, leads us in a prayer of confession, declares pardon, preaches a sermon from a scripture text, concluding the service with raised hands once again. If he feels uncomfortable because of these things there is no need to apologize to him or change things around for the next time he might visit – but if he’s wondering why we do things like this, every member of that Church should have an answer for him.

    Just because the visitor will not understand everything the first time doesn’t mean the pastor should feel obliged to say “This is why I’m raising my hands right now…” every single time he gives God’s greeting (for example).

    But this doesn’t mean the pastor shouldn’t announce the song numbers, tell people when to stand and sit, or tell them what page the scripture passage is on in the pew Bibles. This is the sensitivity Hart says is appropriate in one of the quotes of the post proper. And, it is helpful if the pastor does go into detail about an element of the liturgy once and a while.

  26. Brad Lenzner says:

    Yup, that’s pretty much what I mean and what I try to do.

  27. Zrim says:

    “Or lock ‘em all in the Outhouse and two of ‘em will learn to wrap things up as fast as possible!”

    Here’s the thing. Whenever I make short, sharp, shocked comments that I think might speak for themselves (“I love NYC and wouldn’t change a thing,” “Public schools should be thoroughly secularized and Christian kids ought to be in them,” “Abortion is politically irrelevant,” “Fundies/Evangies learning to be Presbyterian”), somebody goes relatively ape and demands an unpacking. I unpack and am told I am long-winded. Oh, the ongoing weird-i-osity of blogdom. I still haven’t figured it out.

    Anyway, all good stuff, people. For my part, I tend to think this is all rather common sense what Rick, Rube and Brad are saying: the alien should feel at once alienated and welcome. Uh-oh, I feel some ape coming…do I have to unpack that?

  28. Bruce S. says:

    So, is

    The LORD bless you and keep you;The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.

    actually any better than

    See ya next week. Have a great week everybody!

    I need to know.

  29. Rick says:

    Bruce, the difference is subtle to be sure. 😉

  30. Echo_ohcE says:

    Bruce,

    When God commanded Aaron to pronounce that blessing on the people, did he give a reason?

    E

  31. Echo_ohcE says:

    PS Bruce, how come only the ordained minister can pronounce the blessing?

  32. Echo_ohcE says:

    Someone give me credit for brevity.

  33. Rick says:

    Echo, you do understand that Bruce was joking, right?

  34. Mike Brown says:

    Brad,

    You lost me at “liturgical winsomeness.” I remember gagging and then I blacked out.

    Seriously, though, I hear what you are saying, but what we have to be careful of is not losing beauty. Mike Horton has reminded me several times that the Reformed are great on wordiness, but short on beauty (just look at our cumbersome forms!). If we make it a point to be didactic during our services, explaining one element of the liturgy every Lord’s Day, the Divine Service easily loses its beauty.

    In the past four years, I have found it very helpful to write up little pamphlets/booklets that explain everything in the service: “What is the Benediction?” “Why Pray the Lord’s Prayer?” etc. For the first two years of our church, we had a monthly newsletter in which I explained one part of the service each month. Those little articles later became the booklets we use. I think that is the appropriate place to do the explanation, not the Divine Service.

  35. RubeRad says:

    Someone give me credit for brevity.

    You mean like in this thread?

  36. Sorry. I wasn’t joking. I may in fact know the answer, but there may be many who don’t see the difference. And there are thousands who never hear the former and likely if they did just roll it up into being more of the same dead orthodoxy or mere outdated formalism that modern evangelicalism is railing against.

  37. Rick says:

    Oh, not joking. I just assumed and made an a@# out of you and me.

    I wish I had some reference material with me like Horton’s A Better Way or Hyde’s What to Expect in Reformed Worship but I’ll wing it:

    1. The Benediction doesn’t always have to be Aaron’s blessing IMHO (we have moved beyond the O.T. era) but Aaron’s blessing is probably the most fitting blessing as long as we regard it in light of the new covenant.

    2. The Benediction is God’s blessing upon his people. As we depart the worship service we are assured that we leave under God’s blessing. The raised arms are symbolic of God’s (wing-like) sheltering protection over us, as it was with Aaron.

    3. We use words of blessing from scripture because it is God Himself speaking through his minister pronouncing the blessing upon us. Thusly, the final word in the worship service is not the word of man, but the word of God assuring those who have heard the law and Gospel and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ that we have God’s blessing with us as we enter the week.

  38. RubeRad says:

    The Benediction doesn’t always have to be Aaron’s blessing

    Most N.T. Epistles close with benedictory words, so there are plenty of options!

  39. Brad Lenzner says:

    Mike,

    “Liturgical winsomeness” made you gag, eh? lol.

    I have taught my church’s children and young people about our worship service during Sunday school. And currently I’m in the process of taking those lessons and compiling a booklet for the whole church (for later this year). Actually, the idea to do so came from you and Pastor Hyde. I’ve read some of your and his booklets. They were quite helpful.

    My pastor and I have been reassessing our church’s liturgy and our execution of it since this past fall. So, this discussion is timely

    In an effort to make sure I understand your point from above, let me try to put it into a sentence: Its better to explain things outside of the divine service and never during it.

    Is that a fair summary?

    I definitely don’t think its a good idea to explain everything every Sunday…or even only one element per Sunday…but does it ruin the beauty of the divine service to explain something even if only done once in a while?

    I’m just starting out in ministry and you’ve already been around the block a bit…so I’m listening with open ears.

  40. Bruce S. says:

    So, how does the benediction fit into the RPW – not as to whether it is commanded but as to how it should be done, or what it should look like? Must the words of the benediction be those of scripture only? If not (sort hearkens to the exclusive Psalmody debate, no?) then must the hands of the benedictor be raised? If not, then what’s the problem with “See ya next week, have a great week everybody!”?

    I’m gonna remain in the rhetorical devil’s advocate mode until somebody can elucidate. Or until someone writes a new post about it.

  41. Zrim says:

    Bruce,

    I’ll leave questions about how things fit into the RPW to others.

    But I’m not so sure that if we say that the benediction does not have to be from Scripture it means we should be comfortable with the flippant language of the vernacular. I mean, the intercessory prayer, hymns and even the Creed (the sermon!) are not inspired texts. But does that really mean the form and content of these things may be vernacularized?

    I think your inquiry might lose some of its credibility to assume that vernacular is somehow acceptable, which is too bad since it’s a good inquiry.

    For my part, it does seem that wisdom might teach that for those for whom proclamation is important that to retain biblical proclamation in things such as the call to worship and benediction is just plain sensible and right. But, then again, I am really un-Modern and have little trouble in inheriting a well-distilled tradition which has already wrestled with much of this.

  42. Mike Brown says:

    Here is a little article on the Benediction that I wrote a few years ago.

    Brad,

    Yes, I think it is better to do explanation outside of the Divine Service. I would not say that we should never do any explanation. I think there are places in the life of a particular congregation in which it might be helpful to make a few instructional comments about a part of the liturgy, but this requires great wisdom so as not to lose the beauty of the service.

    What I adamantly oppose is the idea that we should do explanation of the liturgy each week. That just kills everything.

    I say things once in while such as (before the reading of the law): “Loved ones, God’s law is an announcement of his righteousness and his revealed will for our lives. Let hear God’s will for our lives…”

    Or (before the Apostles’ Creed [yes, we say it in worship]), “People of God, we are not united as a church in cultural practices or political parties, but by one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Let us confess our faith together…”

    So, I think there are ways in which we can do give a reminder/explanation without losing the beauty of the service. But we must work on doing that well. I once attended a PCA in central CA that spent so much time explaining why we did this and why we did that, that not only was the beauty of the service marred, but it came across to me and my family as, “We’re a little ashamed of being Reformed. Please don’t leave. There are good reasons why we do this. Please don’t leave, the band will come out later.” Which they did. (Then I gagged and blacked out!) 😉

  43. Rick says:

    Thanks for the link, Rev. Brown. Nice article.

    Also, I think that if the text allows it, some explanation of the liturgy might be appropriate during the sermon. If you’re preaching from II Cor 13:14 you might want to pause and briefly explain the benediction.

  44. Brad Lenzner says:

    Mike,

    I can totally see how explaining things too much could lead some to the conclusion that we’re insecure over our liturgical practices. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

    As I think about this, I’m realizing that I’ve been prone to explaining when it isn’t necessary.

    Thanks. I think you are right.

  45. Zrim says:

    More good stuff, Mike Brown.

    I wonder if explaining everything might also be a a way for former non-confessionalists to be teaching themselves.

    Nevertheless, common sense sure does seem to teach that when there is the phenomenon of a peculiar people coming into contact with an outsider that there is some measure of expecting the latter to be at something of a loss. Everything from the new kid on the block to a convert to any religion to the cliche about being in Rome, human beings understand that there is something constructive to this whole process…not destructive.

    This resistence to “being at a loss” seems to be a function of the creaturely comfortness resident within Americana. Isn’t “being at a loss” something Gospel-oriented people should nurture instead of resist?

  46. Mike Brown says:

    Rick,

    I think you are exactly right.

    Zrim,

    When people ask me if I speak their language, I just smile and give them a vegemite sandwich. 😉

  47. Zrim says:

    Mike,

    You sell bread in Brussels, are six foot tall and full of muscles?

    Grade 7, Mr. Maxbauer’s geography class, brutal hayfever, Travis what’s-his-name cracking me up and someone slipping me a pen that revealed a naked woman when you tipped it upside-down as a birthday gift. Sometimes I wish I could replace certain things in my brain cells with more constructive and noble things. Sometimes I don’t.

  48. RubeRad says:

    Pr Brown, your examples of transitional sentences (leading into Reading of the Law, or confessing Apostle’s Creed) are exactly along the lines I was thinking. “Explanations” which are any longer should be rare. If there is a congregation whose members truly “need” more explanation, should set up a forum outside of the worship service to teach “How to Worship”.

  49. RubeRad says:

    And yet, what I give with one hand, I passive-aggressively take away with the other. One thing we (Reformed churches — at least mine) do well is to properly fence the table. The need concisely and charitably explain to visitors why they can’t partake, is, well, a necessary explanation. And usually the fencing-speech includes a declaration of the drama of the doctrine of communion, which seems to me (a) a very good thing, and (b) completely analogous to a weekly explanation of Benediction that we all seem to agree would be a bad thing.

  50. Mike Brown says:

    Rube,

    I agree with you about a lengthier form for fencing the Table, but even this has to be done concisely. Mike Horton has written a beautiful (there’s that word again) form that we use every week in our church. It received synodical approval last summer (loud applause in the background).

    Zrim,

    Preach it, brother!

  51. Zrim says:

    Mike,

    See, that’s why Horton is the patron saint of my Reformed conversion. I know a good thing when I see it. My wife tells me I am way too picky and have impossibly high standards, but she doesn’t realize she’s paying herself a compliment.

  52. Echo_ohcE says:

    Mike Brown’s article seems to indicate that my two questions about the reason for the blessing and why only a minister can do it are important questions to ask. They both are answered well in his article.

    But just for fun, I might add that a fuller expounding of the Lord’s name is found in Ex 34:6-7. There we are told that God’s name is the one who forgives sin on the one hand, but refuses to clear the guilty on the other. This paradox finds its resolution in the cross.

    In the benediction, it is the cross that is applied to us, and thus our sins are declared forgiven because they have been punished on the cross.

    Therefore his name is given to us, and we are called, “Holy to the Lord.”

    E

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