October 22, 2012

Five Marks of a Good Liturgy Over the past three years or so, our community-- first at NewLifeSundayNight, now at new life DOWNTOWN-- have said the Nicene Creed, participated weekly in both silent confession and corporate confession (using Psalm 51 and the Book of Common Prayer), taken communion, and listened to Old Testament and New Testament readings. I have had a few people ask why we integrated liturgy in our "non-denominational" church. Many have appreciated it as a welcome change to what they describe as "rootless Evangelicalism"...and a few have wondered if we're "going Catholic!" But the truth is, every gathering of the people of God involves a liturgy of sorts. The question is, is it a good one! But that, of course, begs a broader question: What makes a liturgy good? 1. A Good Liturgy Invites People to Participate. The word "liturgy" literally means, "the work of the people." It is often used in "secular" Greek to describe a civic project, like a bridge or a community square. It's what a community builds for a community's good. A liturgy is simply a corporate expression of worship. It allows the whole community to join in. Israel's liturgy involved Psalm-singing and praying and a sacrificial system. The early church, shaped by Jewish worship, also used Psalm-singing and praying along with hymns to Christ as they gathered to celebrate "the Lord's Supper." Our weekly liturgy, then, is meant to invite others in. This is why, though people complain about musically simple, "vanilla" worship songs, congregational songs must be simple enough for the masses to join in. There is a place for art and artists to push the envelope and be amibiguous in their lyrics and interpretation of themes. But I believe that if corporate worship is to be corporate-- to truly be a liturgy-- then the people have...
Highlights from Luther's 95 Theses It's been almost 500 years since Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church. Yet, there are many misconceptions about what he was trying to do and what he was upset about. First of all, Luther posted these as an invitation to debate and discussion (they were "disputations"), not as a declaration of war or separation from the Church. (His harshest words for the Pope would come later!) But secondly, what Luther objected most to were the expanded powers the Medieval Church had claimed, exploiting the ignorance and superstition of the people. For example, Luther argued that while repentance is indeed part of the whole of Christian life, the pope doesn't offer anything other than what God offers us in Christ. Moreover, it was not the sale of "indulgences" that got Luther riled up; it was the sale of plenary indulgences. What's the difference? Plenary indulgences offered blanket forgiveness from all penalties for all sins-- even for the dead. Read Disputations 1, 6, 20-21, and 27: 1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. 6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven. 20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all penalties," does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by himself. 21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences. 27. They preach only human doctrines who...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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