The Liturgy of Veritas: A Gospel Rhythm
The Glorious Gospel
The gospel of Jesus. A glorious and magnificent proclamation! The good news that those of us who believe in Jesus, by faith, will be saved from and forgiven of our sins! Instead of our deserved death, we are given the righteousness and eternal life of Jesus! It is through Jesus–His life, His death, and His resurrection–that the glory of God has been revealed to us. It is through this gospel that we are transformed. It is the pinnacle of God’s love flowing out to us.
In light of this truth, how should those who are redeemed respond to the love and glory of God? We respond with worship. This worship should be nothing less than a holistic, all-of-life response to the glory of God as it transforms every aspect of our lives. This work of transformation takes us from a place of separation, both from God and people, and brings us into a glorious adopted union as the sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in His family, united as God’s church. And so we respond in worship to God as individuals, but more completely, we respond in worship as a church.
Our Continuous Outpouring
Worship isn’t something that begins as we are saved, rather, it is our broken worship that is redeemed and restored by Jesus. Humans are worshipping beings. We don’t start and stop worshipping. We are constantly outpouring in worship to something or someone. Sin is the result of us worshipping anything other than God–who we were created to worship. So for the church, our response is a celebration that our broken worship has been restored with the perfect worship of our Savior, Jesus.
In this continuous outpouring, God has ordained–and scripture commands–that the church gather together regularly to consciously and actively continue to worship God. Historically, it has been easy for the church to slip into the misconception that this gathering, and more specifically, that the singing portion of the gathering, is the apex of worship. While the worship of God certainly includes this, it is so much more than just gathering or singing and must be seen as part of this much bigger picture of continuous outpouring.
What is Liturgy?
However, in the midst of this larger picture, we shouldn’t undermine the importance of the church gathering to worship through song and prayer. Gathering together and what we do when we gather is essential to the health of the church body.
What the church does as it gathers to worship is known as a liturgy. Liturgy simply means ’the work of the people’; it’s what the people do or accomplish together as they gather. Some churches have a very structured liturgy with corporate readings and prayers, (these readings are sometimes referred to as ‘liturgies’) other churches have a very unstructured, spontaneous liturgy.
Our liturgy is very important because it reflects what matters to us and at the same time, it shapes what matters to us. (Desiring the Kingdom, James K. A. Smith) Here’s what I mean. How we approach God in gathered worship, our liturgy, is a result of who we know God to be–His character and His glory. Furthermore, the rhythms of our liturgy communicate an understanding and knowledge of God that shapes and teaches us. This shaping and teaching effect of liturgy, which happens no matter how structured or unstructured the liturgy may be, is why we must be very thoughtful and intentional with what the church does as it gathers.
The Gospel Rhythms in Liturgy
Because God has revealed himself to us through the gospel of Jesus, it is only natural for our response to God to be shaped by the same rhythms of this Gospel story. Bryan Chapell puts it this way in his book, Christ-Centered Worship: “Worship is our love response to his loving provision, so nothing is more honoring of his grace than making its themes your own.” (p.117)
For Veritas, our gathering liturgy walks us–very purposefully–through the gospel story every week! It is this glorious story, the rhythms of God’s love revealed, that guide and shape our corporate response to God. In turn, this same liturgy shapes, teaches and forms in us, both in content and in structure, the rhythms of the Gospel of Jesus.
– God Is Holy
This story starts with God. God initiated this good news by displaying His glory to us and calling us to worship Him. For those who have been saved, there was a moment in our journey where we began to see God’s glory and the need to respond to it.
In our liturgy, we start with a call from scripture to see and remember the holiness and glory of God. We start by recognizing that He alone is worthy of our worship. Our action in this is adoration–songs and prayers of praise and thanksgiving that acknowledge and declare His glory.
– We are Sinners
As our knowledge and understanding of God’s holiness and glory increased, there came a point in our lives where we began to see what we don’t measure up to what God has called us to. A point where, in light of God’s perfection, we became very aware of our sin and brokenness. Scripture calls us to confess and repent of our sins and believe in Jesus–a call that those who are saved have responded to.
Liturgically, we go through this rhythm of confession every week, not to grovel in our sins, not be “re-saved”, not to receive forgiveness of the sins we committed this past week, but rather so that we can be reminded of our continual need for the saving grace of Jesus. When we believed in Jesus, all of our sins–past, present and future–were forgiven. But we are called to live in ongoing repentance as believers because in repentance, we remember our dependence upon the work of Jesus. Our prayers, songs of lament and confession, and corporate confessions give us a language of repentance and confession that continually point us to Jesus.
– Jesus Saves Us
The glorious fact of the gospel is that we are not left in our sin and brokenness, but by the grace of God we are saved by the work of Jesus! Jesus’ righteousness is given to us and we are welcomed into the family and presence of God as his beloved children! (Can I get an AMEN?!?) In our journey as believers, we experience the grace of Jesus as the weight and guilt of our sins are lifted from us. Rather than separation from God, we now have peace with God our Father through Jesus.
In our liturgical rhythms, each week after the confession, we celebrate the assurance of our salvation! We celebrate the grace and forgiveness that we have received and live in. Our songs and music give us as space to express and respond with praise and thanksgiving. We also demonstrate it through our peace with each other and with God. In our gatherings, we take time to visibly demonstrate this by greeting and welcoming each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
– Jesus Sends Us
The continuation of our gospel story leads us to learning and growing in what it means to follow Jesus. As the Spirit works in our hearts, our lives and actions are transformed. We read and learn from Scripture as it informs and teaches us and in all things, it points us back to Jesus, back to his saving grace, back to his work, not ours. Growing in maturity as a believer is simply growing deeper in our understanding and dependence upon the work of Jesus. It is because of God’s grace in our lives that we live in a way that honors him, not the other way around. (It’s not ‘living in obedience to be accepted by God’.)
Scripture is the foundation upon which the content of our liturgy is based. The core of this is the sermon, a proclamation of the truth of God from scripture. We open God’s Word to us and are fed and nourished by it. All of scripture points back to Jesus and His saving work for us, so it’s no surprise that the sermon ends with a celebration of the Lord’s Supper! In breaking the bread–the body of Christ–and dipping it in the cup–the blood of Christ–we visually and physically remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. We then spend a few moments responding with songs of worship, with songs of rejoicing; uniting our voices as the redeemed sons and daughters of God. We allow our hearts, minds, emotions, affections and entire beings to be shaped by God’s glory as the Spirit leads us.
Our gatherings conclude with an affirmation of faith and a sending out into the world to continue worshipping God in all we do. The rhythms of our liturgy are in sync with the rhythms of the Gospel working in our lives as we are sent out as the people of God, living in the mission of God, declaring and demonstrating the glory and love of God to all around us.
May our weekly gatherings be a place for us to come together, broken and weary, wounded from sin and unbelief, being led by the Spirit of God, that together as the family of God we may remember, respond to, and experience again the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ that has given us new life.
by Pastor Joe Byler