Dan Harper - Who's Afraid Of Liturgy

Worship Sermon October 14, 2018

Who’s Afraid of Liturgy?

Intro and BIg Idea

  1. My sermon on worship has gone through at least 3 distinct versions

    1. I’m tempted to use PJ’s Big Idea for the sermon as this:

      1. “Be thankful you don’t prepare a sermon every week.”

  2. We have been going through the book Sing! Both during:

    1. The 9 AM class on Sunday

      1. A lot of fun and very practical

        1. A shout out to the Underground Choir!!

    2. Pastor John’s two week mini series on the Getty’s book

      1. Well worth listening to again online!

  3. I want to thank both Laurel Porter and Esther Chan for championing this book and for the Keith and Kristyn Getty for writing it!

  4. I highly recommend reading this book

    1. I think it is still available downstairs or on Kindle

    2. And it is a great reminder that the Church is a singing church.

  5. As I was writing and rewriting this sermon I came across a quote that easily could have been included in the book Sing!

    1. True theology is theology that sings!”  

    2. Listen to  the words of Jesus  in Hebrews 2:12 (ESV): “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

      1. John Calvin makes this comment on this verse:

        1. “Christ is the great Choirmaster who tunes our hearts to sing God’s praise”

  6. So here was my dilemma.

    1. How and what to focus on for this last sermon of this worship sermon series?

      1. I considered taking a hymn apart and putting it back together and singing it with you as the choir.

      2. I considered a sermon that was a quick overview of worship and the comparison of a wedding ceremony to a church service.

      3. But I want to do something a bit different today and discuss something that may seem foreign or strange to some of you but if you bear with me I might say something that makes sense.  

    2. Now that you are completely nervous about this sermon let me make you even more nervous and give the title of the sermon.

Who’s Afraid of Liturgy???

What will be the goal of this sermon?

  1. I’m not going advocate that DPC start worshipping in a dry, dusty, formal liturgical manner and mumble words that we don’t know.

  2. We come from many different backgrounds.  

    1. Most of us are probably from a Free church background or what I might call broadly evangelical

      1. Though I challenge anyone to define evangelical in today’s world!!  

    2. Some of us may have grown up in a more liturgical church

      1. Either Lutheran or Presbyterian or in the Roman Catholic Church.

    3. Some of us didn’t grow up attending church at all and the word liturgis unknown to you.

  3. My goal is threefold:

    1. Define liturgy and show that every church has a liturgy

    2. Make a case for biblical, Trinitarian liturgy.

    3. Make a case for incorporating liturgy in the life of DPC

What is liturgy?

  1. The English word never appears in scripture

    1. So perhaps I should just stop here.

  2. But in the Greek similar words are in Scripture.

  3. Hebrews 8:1–2 (ESV): ...we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.

    1. That word minister is lietourgos ton hagion. A minister in the holy places.  Another way of saying “a high priest”

    2. leitourgos is a close related to leitourgia

      1. Or liturgy

      2. And the original meaning is: public service or worship of the gods.

    3. leitourgos is used several times in the New Testament

Liturgy and New Testament worship

  1. New Testament worship

    1. Many people think they know exactly what it is

      1. But it is quite difficult to pin down exactly what the early church did in worship.

      2. The early church was Jewish so let’s look at how Jewish synagogues conducted their worship services.

        1. We don’t exactly know for much of what we do know comes from a few centuries after Jesus.

      3. Okay, let’s use Scripture. It should give us a template for worship, right?

        1. Not really.  It gives us what the early churches did but not how they did it.  

          1. Breaking of bread - communion.

          2. Teaching

          3. Singing or chanting

          4. Service to others.

        2. Worship was considered more than just meeting once a week.  

          1. One word for worship means service or ministering.

          2. Another word for worship means adoration.

          3. So in English the phrase Adoration and Action is a more complete definition of worship.

  2. There was some sort of liturgy but we can’t specifically define it.

    1. Early on there is evidence of liturgy or an order to the corporate time of worship.

    2. It may have been a Covenant Renewal service

      1. A symbolic renewal based on that sacrificial system of the Old Testament but in a New Testament setting.

        1. with Jesus as our High Priest

        2. And Jesus as the Lamb of God

      2. A quote from Jeffrey Meyers:

“In response to God’s covenantal initiative—His drawing near to us—we submit to His sacrificial work; that is, we confess, thank, praise, and pray as we are renewed through the Spirit and enabled to give unto our Covenant Lord the glory due His Name. And it all culminates with a meal. The Lord serves us bread and wine at the Table, where we experience as a community His shalom.” (The Lord’s Service)

  1. Acts 13:2  (ESV): 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

    1. This could be translated as this: “On one occasion, while they were engaged in the liturgy of the Lord and were fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to them”

      1. The Greek word for worshipping  is leitourgeo or public, congregational service.

  1. There is not nearly enough time or clarity on my part to go into this deeper.  We can talk later if this piques your interest.

  2. But thanks for bearing with me because while the exact word liturgy is not in Scripture it is referenced at least obliquely many times.

So where are we?

  1. Why did I just spend all this time making a case for liturgy when we are not a liturgical church.  

    1. Our Swedish ancestors broke away from a dead, liturgical church to worship God more purely and simply, right?

  2. Because every church has a liturgy.

    1. Even the most charismatic church without any structure

      1. Has structure even in its absence!!

    2. Example of my church and Mr. Elliot

Okay, so every church has liturgy but ours is not dead and formal.

  1. The presence or absence of a formal liturgy is not an indication of the spiritual health of a church.  

    1. It is simplistic to judge a church by how formal or informal their liturgy is.  

      1. Having said that, there are many churches that their only connection to the Bible and to the Father, Son, 5and Holy Spirit is through the words of their liturgy.  They may not believe it but they say the words!

My second goal for this sermon was to make a case for biblical, Trinitarian liturgy.

Let’s discuss the Trinity for just a minute.

  1. The Trinity is another word that is not explicitly found in the Bible.

    1. Some groups have tried to invalidate the concept because of this

      1. Jehovah Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, etc

  2. Many modern Christians only think of the Trinity as a marker of orthodox belief.

    1. A mere factoid of knowledge that is important but sure why.

    2. Dorothy Sayers, the British writer of the 20th century was a strong Christian and ‘suggests that the average churchgoer’s conception of the doctrine of the Trinity is more like a parody of the Athanasian Creed: “The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the whole thing incomprehensible. Something put in by theologians to make it more difficult—nothing to do with daily life or ethics.”’ (Dorothy Sayers, The Dogma is the Drama)

  3. When a church comes together on Sunday

    1. We go to church

    2. We sing our hymns to God

    3. We intercede for the world

    4. We listen to the sermon

    5. We offer our time, talents, and money to God

    6. No doubt we need God’s grace to do this but we do it because Jesus taught us to do it.

    7. But worship is what we do before God.

    8. Here’s the problem with this. It means the only priesthood is our priesthood; the only offering, our offering; and the only intercession is our intercession.

      1. In Hebrews we saw that Christ is our High Priest.

      2. Christ is our offering for sins.

      3. Christ is our intercessor before God the Father.

      4. The Holy Spirit is the one who prays for us when we can’t

    9. The church I described is not fully Trinitarian in practice even though they truly believe intellectually in the the Trinity.

    10. It’s all about what WE do not what the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have done and continue to do for us.

  4. A second type of corporate worship is this:

    1. The gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father.

    2. It means participating in union with Christ, in what he has done for us once and for all, in his self-offering to the Father, in his life and death on the cross.

    3. There is only one offering that is truly acceptable to God’s and it is not ours. It’s is Jesus’ offering.

      1. Hebrews 10:10 (ESV): 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

    4. The meaning of life in the Spirit is expressed in the word, koinonia, which can be translated fellowship, sharing, participation.  

      1. Galatians 4:6(ESV): God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

  5. The difference between our working to satisfy God in corporate worship and our worship being a reflection of the worship between the Trinity is huge.  

    1. When we try to initiate worship it ultimately fails and is unsatisfying

    2. When we our corporate worship as a reaction to what Trinity has and continues to do FOR us, than we truly worship and are satisfied.

  6. In some of the older language of years ago the worship service was called this:

    1. The Lord’s Service.

      1. Where we come and the Lord serves us!!  

      2. We then can be nourished and truly worship Him.

Now liturgy is almost as big a subject as is worship

Let me share you my dream for DPC.  I’m only speaking for myself and no one else.  

  1. This is a bit risky talking out loud without Pastor John being here.

  2. Also, I’m not proposing that ANY of this even be seriously considered

    1. Think of this as an after dinner conversation on the back porch.

A Slightly modified order of worship

Call to Worship/Prayer

Opening Song

Meet and Greet

The Lord’s Prayer (spoken)

(Or occasionally a corporate prayer of confession)

Doxology (sung)

Songs 2-4

Ministry of the Word (sermon)

Ministry of Communion

Pastoral Prayer

Ministry of Giving


Final Song


A Major Change of the order of worship

Announcements on screen before the service,

Call to Worship/Prayer

Sung Response (short)

Corporate Confession

Sung Response


Songs 2-4 (Actually 1-3 or 1-4)

Ministry of the Word (sermon)

Ministry of Communion

Pastoral Prayer ending with the Lord’s Prayer

Ministry of Giving

Final Song

Final Blessing and Encouragement

NOTES on the changes

Announcements on screen before the service,

  1. Where to put the annoucements is alway difficult.

Call to Worship/Prayer

  1. God calls us to worship Him.  

  2. Acknowledgement of why we are here.

  3. Preparing our hearts and minds to worship

Sung response

  1. A very short song or chorus

Corporate Confession

  1. Not a long drawn out time because we should be prepared to worship including private confession beforehand

Sung response

  1. A very short song or chorus reflecting on God’s promise to forgive us.

Doxology and/or the Apostle’s Creed

  1. Either both or alternate

Songs 2-4 (Actually 1-3 or 1-4)

  1. A longer time of singing

Ministry of the Word (sermon)

  1. Including the corporate reading of Scripture

Ministry of Communion

  1. As we do now

Pastoral Prayer ending with the Lord’s Prayer

  1. We could sing or recite the Lord’s Prayer

Ministry of Giving

  1. As we do now

Final Song

  1. As  we do now

Final Blessing and Encouragement

Why even think about changes?

  1. First, this is just a conversation not a proposal in any real sense.

  2. This helps DPC integrate not just the doctrine of the Trinity into our services but learn to appreciate and love the communion that comes from the Trinity.

  3. Help integrate even more truth, beauty, and goodness into our life at DPC.

Nevertheless, a few choice insights from the Orthodox liturgist Alexander Schmemann will help illumine the importance of beauty for “modern” man. “The liturgy is, before everything else, the joyous gathering of those who are to meet the risen Lord and to enter with him into the bridal chamber. And it is this joy of expectation and this expectation of joy that are expressed in singing and ritual, …..in that whole ‘beauty’ of the liturgy which has so often been denounced as unnecessary and even sinful.

Unnecessary it is indeed, for we are beyond the categories of the necessary. Beauty is never necessary,’ functional, or useful. And when, expecting someone we love, we put a beautiful tablecloth on the table and decorate it with candles and flowers, we do all this not out of necessity, but out of love. And the church is love, expectation, and joy. It is heaven on earth, according to our Orthodox tradition; it is the joy of recovered childhood, that free, unconditioned and disinterested joy which alone is capable of transforming the world. In our adult serious piety we ask for definitions and justifications, and they are rooted in fear—fear of corruption, deviation, ‘pagan influences,’ whatnot. But ‘he that feareth is not made perfect in love’ (1 Jn. 4: 18). As long as Christians will love the Kingdom of God, and not only discuss it, they will ‘represent’ it and signify it in art and beauty’ (Alexander Schmemann. For the Life of the World; pp 29-30.  Quoted by Jeffrey Meyers, The Lord’s Service)