Saint Patrick's Church Schola

Lenten 2006 Class -- Classical Spiritual Disciplines

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Why We Worship the Way We Do
Part Two: Communion

There are many individual pieces of the liturgy. But the basic structure is Word and Table. We hear God’s Word read and preached and fellowship with him at his table.

Since the Word part of our worship is familiar to all of us (all Christian traditions practice this), I wanted to jump right in and examine Communion. In this short space we cannot say much about Communion, but here are some key ideas about it.

In the history of Christianity this practice has gone by many names: Holy Communion, Breaking Bread, Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper. Almost all churches follow this practice. But why do we do this every time we gather to worship? Three reasons: what scripture teaches, what Communion does for us, and how it shapes our worship.

From the beginning of Christian history believers shared in Communion when they gathered together. Notice Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” This is description of the first church that was established at Pentecost. From the beginning, breaking bread was part of worship. This was because the church received from the Lord the command to do this “in remembrance” of him. Whenever the church gathered it broke bread to remember him. (cf. Mt. 26:26-28; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:14-20; 1 Cor. 11: 23-26)

The second reason we break bread weekly is that doing so is a means of grace. Somehow, the Lord has chosen to make the bread and the cup a means of spiritual nourishment for us. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17 show this,

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

According to Paul, when we share the bread and cup of the Lord we partake (literally have koinonia with) in the Lord. We do not want to miss any opportunity for the Lord to bless us. We read the Bible expecting the Holy Spirit to minister grace and power for Christian living. We come to the table for the same reason.

Last, we do this weekly because worship is about remembering. Sounds funny, but think back to the Exodus. Ever since the night of Israel’s deliverance, God wanted the nation to remember what he had done for its deliverance. They did this through the Passover feast. This is because worship is about remembering before God his great acts of salvation. When Jesus instituted Holy Communion and commanded us to do it in remembrance of him, he was rooting this practice in the worship tradition of Israel. At the table we remember every week that Jesus is our salvation. We come by faith and we simply receive. It pictures and makes concrete the wondrous grace of God in Jesus. The only reason we can worship God is that Jesus died for us - we only come to the Father through Jesus. Sometimes we can think we are above mundane acts like breaking bread, but the truth is that we need simple reminders like this so we won’t forget that we stand only in Jesus!

Peace, Peter+


Tuesday, December 02, 2003

At Saint Patrick’s we worship in a way that is familiar to some and strange to others. Over the next weeks I plan to write short posts that explain what we do during Sunday worship. Hope everyone finds it helpful!


Why We Worship the Way We Do
Part One: Liturgy

You might have noticed that we use the word liturgy to describe our gathering. Where does this word come from and what does it mean?

Liturgy is the transliteration of a Greek word which literally means “the work of the people.” In ancient Rome, a liturgy was a public act that called the people together to declare something or celebrate something about the emperor or a public official. The New Testament uses the word to refer to the gathering of the church to minister to God in worship. In Acts 13:1, 2 Luke writes:

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And while they were ministering the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

The word for ministering is leitourgeo. You can tell by reading it that it is the word liturgy.

Another important passage where this word is found in is, Hebrews 8:1, 2:

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.

See that word minister again? It too is a translation of leitourgeo. According to this passage Jesus is a minister in the true, heavenly tabernacle. Literally one could say he is the liturgist or he is doing the liturgy in the heavenly tabernacle. Wow!

In both of these passages, the reader is invited to think back to the tabernacle/temple in the Old Testament. In that covenant the priests, and especially the high priest, went into the temple to make offerings that ministered to the Lord and were pleasing to him. In the New Covenant, offerings are no longer made in a tabernacle/temple because Jesus has ascended and stands before the Father in the true tabernacle/temple offering himself on behalf of the world.

Liturgy is our public act by which we enter into the heavenly liturgy. In heaven, Jesus is the lead worshipper. On Sunday’s we want him to be our lead worshipper. When scripture is read we are listening for the voice of Jesus. When we pray we offer our prayers through the intercession of Jesus. When we take the bread and the cup we ask the Holy Spirit to unite us to Jesus’ offering in the heavenly tabernacle/temple. Liturgy is all about us ministering to the Father, through the High Priestly ministry of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.