As I near the end of grading by wading through student papers on worship, I have enjoyed learning or re-learning as well. Here are a few gleanings to share with you.
On communion, one student emphasized the importance of being physically present ourselves at communion, as taking part of the sacrament in the flesh with other believers can bring healing not only to souls but bodies. After all, if Biblical warnings against sickness and death are given if we take the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner, might there not be positive benefits of wellness and peace if we honor Christ at the table with our brothers and sisters in unity as His body? This is a "re-membering" of His work in a whole different sense.
Another student traced the liturgy development of Calvin in his different ministry posts, and showed what is referred to as the "dialogical nature" of worship as Calvin viewed it. In other words, clearly Calvin saw that as we worship, our covenantal relationship with God is expressed in the church hearing from His word then responding to it. Each declaration by God, from the call to worship to the sermon, is followed by a response by the people in prayer, song, or obedience. As the Scriptures themselves show us, we need to remember that as we worship we are conversing with the living Lord.
I was interested in reading the research in a well-written paper on New Covenant Theology (NCT) and its teaching regarding the Sabbath Day. In response to NCT's position, which denies the binding obligation of honoring a Christian Sabbath, I liked hearing of the "trans-covenantal" nature of God's Law. In other words, as we progress from the Old to New Covenants in the Scriptures through Christ's completed work, the moral obligations of _all _Ten Commandments remain. So though some of the ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath have passed away, the ongoing obligation to honor the day Christ arose has not.
Another paper, worth a blog post all its own, was on the need of a prayer of confession in public worship, which seems to have been lost in many evangelical and even reformed services today. Calvin was again referenced as one who saw confession of sin as an essential part of every Sunday morning service. For how can the gospel be viewed as central and essential to worship if those coming before God do not have a sense of its need? The _Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God _agrees, as evidenced by this suggestion for prayer before the sermon takes place. So ask yourself this weekend, "Has my minister led the congregation in a prayer of confession of sin?" If not, this is a further sin that needs to be confessed.
Now not everything I read was quite so heavy. One student encouraged me regarding the importance of preaching in worship. Yet his paper became a little "unraveled" at the end when he said, "The preached word serves as a lifeline that slowly unravels over the years..." I think he meant "uncoils"!