Each Sunday we have a unique opportunity to gather as God’s people to hear from his Word, be reminded of his Story, sing his praise, and enjoy his presence. As a church family, we gather around Jesus and his remarkable grace. Over the course of ninety minutes we have an order of worship: readings, prayers, songs, sermons, announcements, and sometimes a potluck meal. All those parts make up a Liturgy. Liturgy has been described as ‘embodied worship’; worship expressed through a certain visible order or structure (thus the phrase “order of worship”).
Liturgy simply means “the work of the people.” In one sense ‘liturgy’ is what we do together as we gather to worship God. But in a much deeper sense, liturgy isn’t at all about what we do; its about what God does. Each Sunday, we believe that we encounter God through song, scripture, sacrament (communion and baptism) and the fellowship of the saints. In other words, we gather around the Word and the Table, singing and praying together as the family of God, listening to the Spirit of God along the way. In our liturgy, we draw from the rich treasury of the Church's historic worship practices while being attentive to the fresh work of the Spirit in our day. Our worship at Missio is rooted in history with room for mystery.
Many think of liturgy in terms of something churches did in the past or what more formal churches do today. We’ve found that instead of thinking in terms of “Formal/Informal,” it is more helpful to think in terms of “Intentional/Unintentional.” We want to be intentional with our Sunday gatherings. Our liturgy is not put together haphazardly. The repetition, the structure, and the communal nature of the liturgy is all done on purpose with the prayer that the Spirit draws us into God’s Story again and again. So much of our lives are lived out hearing other stories with other saviors. In the ninety minutes we have week after week, month after month, year after year, we are drawn anew into God’s story. We are formed to be a community shaped by the Gospel and sent out on God’s mission.
WHY LITURGY IS IMPORTANT
We could give a ton of reasons, but here are a few:
Liturgy tells the True Story of God. Each day we are bombarded with false stories that prompt individualism, promote consumerism and push hyped-up emotionalism. We need to fight these idols with the good news of the gospel. Our liturgy draws us back each week into God’s true story (we’ll talk more this week about the elements of our liturgy and how they do just that!)
Liturgy helps form a missional people. We are called to declare and demonstrate the good news of Jesus Christ in all of life. We are a missional people who must have our desires, our vision, our very selves reordered out of the ways we have been trained in consumerist America and ‘re-gospelled’ into the Missio Dei. Liturgy that is Scriptural, historical, theological, accessible and organic (part of everyday life) helps form us as God’s servant missionaries who are equipped and sent out, energized and empowered by the Spirit to bring good news to our neighborhoods, workplaces, communities and homes.
Liturgy teaches us how to worship. Liturgy teaches us to reorient our lives in complete devotion to God. Liturgy calls us to repentance and faith as we acknowledge God as King of all creation; as we confess our sins; as we embrace the promise and reality of forgiveness; as we hear God’s Word preached and read it together; as we celebrate the gospel in the Lord’s Supper. Liturgy helps us to rehearse Christ-centered worship and allows engagement with the Holy Spirit to be sent out on mission.
Liturgy creates much-needed habits. James K.A. Smith’s work has been influential in teaching how all of us have liturgies in life that shape and form what we love (read his book, “You Are What You Love”). We know by knowledge and experience that doing something as a regular rhythm of life can be powerful. Our habits form what we love, and we are shaped by what we love. Each Sunday we come back to something familiar to us. We are shaped and formed by Christ-saturated liturgy. We stand together and acknowledge God’s power and sovereignty. We confess our sins together. We hear the God-breathed word of scripture. We sing praises to our King. We partake in the Lord’s Supper, having our faith nourished once again in a tangible and visible representation of God’s grace. These rhythms and habits are powerful and life changing.
May the Holy Spirit shape and guide our Sunday liturgy, using it to form us as Jesus’ disciples and to send us out as faithful missional communities. To God be the glory!