February 08, 2011

harmony in worship

the sermon this Sunday at Grace will be the first of three on unity in the church. this always seems to be a relevant topic, especially when we look around and see a lack of unity throughout the body played out in the existence of denominations, within churches, and around the dinner table.

in my small group last night, we studied the last part of John 17, where Jesus is praying that we would be one in the same way that he and the Father are one. part of our discussion centered on the fact that we fail to individually to pray for unity in the church.

I was reminded that worship is one of the major dividing lines that display our disunity: music, liturgy, prayer, and preaching all reflect how we might disagree with what someone else thinks we should be doing in worship. in fact, the Protestant Reformation was sparked largely due to reasons of worship.

big or small, disputes in the church seem inevitable. rather than getting discouraged about the state of disunity in worship, let's take a look at a few areas in our worship that draw us together with the Body of Christ:

you may not realize it, but the hymns that we sing reflect a wide diversity historically and theologically. open nearly any hymnal and you will find hymns written by Charles Wesley, Robert Lowry, and Horatius Bonar, or a Methodist, a Baptist, and Scottish Presbyterian, repectively. theologically, each of these devout Christians may find points of disagreement, but we can still sing their hymns in the same service of worship because they all share the same faith in Christ's death and resurrection for us. somehow the text of the hymns that we sing are able to transcend theological boundaries.

the form of our liturgy at Grace has many elements in common with many western church traditions other than our own, including Lutherans, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics. the parts may not all be in the same order, but you will find Scripture readings, congregational prayers, preaching, and the Lord's Supper in many Christian worship services.

one specific area that is perhaps the most explicit call to unity in a worship service is the use of creeds and confessions. every time we recite the Apostles' Creed in worship, we profess the same Orthodox truths of the faith that have been held since the early church. the Nicene Creed was written as a result of the first ecumenical church council in AD 325 in response to heresies that were causing disunity in the church. in fact, any creed or confession that you come across was written for the purpose of declaring the unity of belief shared by a large group of Christians.

so as we gather this Sunday and every Sunday to come, let us be encouraged by the fact that we gather to sing, pray, and speak with One Voice on account of our redemption in Christ.

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