Constantly Radical Liturgy

We from the 21st century aren’t that special. Really. No, really. I mean, we live in exciting times of crisis, and it’s a very interesting time to be alive, and the world is changing fast, but when it comes down to fundamentals, we’re the same humanity as ever. This brings me again to worship patterns: we don’t need fast and dramatic change in liturgies, because the liturgy is always new, always radically other to us, whether now or centuries ago. Why? Because God himself is radically Other.

There’s something silly about trying to do things to draw crowds and making a likable liturgy. If you want to be like Jesus and Paul, challenge the system – because of its incoherence – so vigorously that the Ephesians riot against you and the Jews get you crucified for destabilizing their practical arrangements with the Romans. Having been born from above, don’t try to be from this world, or you will betray the Kingdom. Thankfully, we have basic patterns from the early days of the Church, which the Church has retained from generation to generation, each being renewed and reformed by God’s holy Word. The general outlines of the order of worship in the Anglican, Lutheran, Byzantine, Roman and Oriental churches (and even in the churches that John Calvin pastored) are strikingly similar, pointing to the existence of something both original and universal.

This is radical because it pulls us up from the roots of sin, of the first Adam, and puts us into the roots of Christ, the second Adam who conquered corruption and brought us into the life, the communion, of the Godhead.

For many, this is old news. For the free-church tradition, though, the concept is alien, that there should be a God-given, tried and true order of worship (as worked out historically by the Holy Spirit’s continual guidance) that, rather than being the mere tradition of man, has been used biblically to sustain the Church through the centuries, through the ravages of heresy and schism. God’s mercies are new every morning; the Holy Spirit moves upon the face of the waters from time to time, and we learn gradually and critically how to submit to the authority of holy Scripture. When we do, we allow God’s Word in the Spirit to conform the liturgy to the Father’s will. So we grow.

In fast-changing times, the Church has an apocalyptic message for the world: Christ has died; Christ has been raised; Christ will come again. This is where we live, having been called out of our worldly homes into the Kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.

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