(A review of the book, “With Reverence and Awe, Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship” by D. G. Hart and John R. Muether. In conjunction with our Wednesday night study, I am using this book and the principles taught in it to aid us in a study of worship.)
Chapter 6: Reformed Liturgy
“A service of public worship is not merely a gathering of God’s children with each other but before all else a meeting of the triune God with his people.
God is present in public worship not only by virtue of the divine omniscience but, much more intimately, as the faithful covenant savior. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (The Directory for Worship of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church)
Do we truly consider worship as a meeting of God with His people? Or is it merely a gathering of God’s people together? How we view worship will determine our attitude before, after and during worship. Worship is a solemn assembly. How should this change our thoughts and behaviors at 11am and 6pm on Sunday?
“Liturgy is what people do when they worship…Every church has a liturgy, whether it worships with set forms inherited from the ages or whether it worships in the freedom of the moment. The only question is whether we have the best possible liturgy: it is never whether we have a liturgy.”(1968 report on worship from the Christian Reformed Church)
Reformed liturgy is a liturgy that orders worship in a way that fits in with Reformed doctrine. This is why Reformed worship will not look like the worship of charismatics or Anglicans. Worship should adhere to our theological convictions.
“God is our God and we are his people. God promises, and his people respond to his mercy in obedience and consecration. God acts in redemption, and we respond in gratitude and service. God speaks to us and we respond in praise. Following this pattern, Christian worship is inherently covenantal.” (Hart and Meuther)
Following the pattern of Scripture, our worship is a dialogue. God speaks and His people respond. This is called the “Dialogical Principle” of worship. In some parts of worship the people of God are receptive and they hear from God in things such as the call to worship and the reading and the proclamation of God’s Word. In other parts of worship God’s people are active, as in singing praise to God and in the corporate confession of faith. These various parts of worship alternate to form that dialogue pattern.
“…all of worship is vertical. It is a holy transaction or conversation between God and his people. It is not a conversation among God’s people. When we greet our neighbors in the next pew or when we listen to testimonies, we are not worshipping God. As edifying as these activities may be, and as encouraging as they are in the appropriate setting, corporate worship is a time when the dialogue goes back and forth between God and his people. It is a time — and one of the rare times during our busy weeks — when we need to hear that God is faithful and continues to be our God, and when we reaffirm our vows to be his faithful people.” (Hart and Meuther)
This dialogue aspect of worship limits us to seeing worship as a meeting of only two parties: God and His people. The minister of the Word speaks for God and His people respond. The reason you will not see items like a testimony time, children’s sermons, or special music in Reformed worship is that individual expressions are not in keeping with the corporate character of public worship.
As you look at your bulletin next Sunday, pay attention to the pattern and pace of the service. Look for the parts of worship where God speaks to us and the parts where we respond to Him. May this brief look at Reformed Liturgy help us appreciate God’s gift of worship as we gather in solemn assembly each and every Lord’s Day.