Gospel-Shaped Worship: On Liturgy

October 7, 2013 — 4 Comments

Matt O’Reilly has a good reflection on why he loves liturgy in the church services. He gives three reasons for liturgy.

First is that liturgy presents the order of worship in the form of the gospel.

Perhaps the most striking thing I’ve discovered about liturgical worship has to do with the structure of the service itself. As a self-described evangelical, I was excited to learn that the very form and progression of the liturgy is designed to proclaim the gospel…As we progress through the order of worship: Adoration, Confession, Pardon and Assurance, Thanksgiving, Petition, Intercession, Word, Table, and Sending Forth, we tell the story of the gospel and the work of God’s grace in our lives.

Second habits like liturgy shape us.

Another concern that those of us with limited experience of the liturgy have voiced is that doing the same acts of worship in the same way week after week has a tendency to weaken them by making them common, casual, and a matter of rote memorization. My perspective on this has changed quite a bit through the years, due not least to the influence of James K. A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies project. Smith recognizes that the world is full of liturgies, both secular and sacred, and these liturgies are deeply formational. They shape our desires. They shape our habits. They make us certain kinds of people because they define what we love. In truth, there are lots of important things we do repetitiously. We do them because they are important, and they grow in importance because we do them with regularity. Repetition makes something part of who we are, whether it’s exercise, work, shopping, social media, or even worship.

Finally liturgy points to the endless beauty and glory of God.

One of the most exciting aspects of this journey of ever deepening appreciation for liturgical worship is the knowledge that the path will always lead to a deeper and deeper experience of God, because the infinite depths of his mysteriously matchless beauty are inexhaustible. The journey of worship to behold the glory of God is always forward moving, and even when we see him face to face and worship in the full light of the glory of the presence of the Lamb, the invitation shall always be: come further up and further in.


Patrick Schreiner

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I teach New Testament at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. I am married with three children. This blog, against all wisdom, includes anything I am interested in. That includes movies, music, theology, culture, hermeneutics, the Gospels, and politics. Feel free to comment and let me know you are reading or that you have found something helpful. I reserve the right to delete unhelpful or rude comments. Many of these posts are simply things I find interesting and therefore I am not asserting I agree with everything I link to.

4 responses to Gospel-Shaped Worship: On Liturgy

  1. Jonathan Anderson October 10, 2013 at 10:14 am

    You should check out the following book by Jeff Meyers on liturgy and covenant renewal worship: The Lord’s Service. It is a great introduction to the five fold liturgical model of call, cleansing, consecration, communion, and commission. I think you can read it for free on Google books. He is actually going to be in Louisville the 1st weekend of Nov at a conference called Solomon Among the Postmoderns with Peter Leithart. You should come out to it. Here is a link to the event.


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