Friday, May 4, 2012


Some Christians who visit an Anglican parish find our worship very different from the non-liturgical worship that they are accustomed to. Liturgical worship seems like a novelty to them, and they wonder where it came from. The truth is that non-liturgical worship is the novelty, not liturgical worship. In fact, non-liturgical worship has its roots in the radical Reformation of the 16th century, a movement that was rejected and opposed by Dr. Martin Luther and all of the great Reformers. 

Every Worship Service that our Lord Jesus Christ participated in, whether in a synagogue or in the Temple in Jerusalem was liturgical, and to this day every Jewish synagogue in the Land of Israel or in the diaspora is liturgical in its worship. Likewise, Christian worship — which grew out of Old Covenant synagogue and Temple worship — has been liturgical from the very beginning. In fact, more than three out of every four Christians in the world today worship liturgically.

Why liturgically? Because liturgical worship allows the congregation to pray and worship together. Without liturgical worship common prayer is impossible. Without liturgical worship the congregation is reduced to spectators, saying "Amen" at the close of someone else's prayer. Even the most non-liturgical of churches have hymns, which are written prayers and praise. Imagine what worship would be like without hymn books and people being able to sing praises to God together? 

For the newcomer, liturgical worship can be a lot like ballroom dancing. When you are just learning to dance you are self-conscious, feel like you have two left feet, and find yourself tripping over your own two feet. But once you learn how to dance and begin to find your feet, you feel free to soar across the dance floor, and dancing becomes a joy. It is the same with liturgical worship. It does take a few Sundays to learn the liturgy, but once you learn it you are free to really participate in worship, to exercise your part in the priesthood of the faithful, and to soar to the throne of grace. Through the liturgy you get into the rhythm of prayer: adoration, confession and the assurance of forgiveness, thanksgiving, supplication and intercession, alternating between God speaking through His Word and the congregation responding through prayer and praise. 

"Sounds good," someone may say, "but that is the wisdom of the world. I don't find the word liturgy in the Bible." If you don't find liturgy in the Bible, then either you are not reading, or more likely not understanding, the Holy Scriptures. In the Bible we have descriptions of liturgical prayer in the Old Covenant Temple, and in heaven. Yes, there is liturgical worship in heaven! In fact much of the Book of Revelation describes a heavenly Worship Service that the Apostle John witnessed, complete with presbyters (the elders) in white robes, an altar, candle sticks, incense, heavenly manna, liturgical chant and prayer, and much more.

Some may still protest that they do not find the word liturgy in the New Testament, but they would be wrong. The word liturgy is often used in the New Testament. However, many people do not realize that it is there because it comes from the Greek and is commonly translated rather than transliterated into English. Jesus said, "in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established" (Matt. 18:16). With that in mind, lets look at three texts of Scripture. 

In Luke 1:23 we read, "And it came to pass that as soon as the days of his [Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist] ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house." The Greek word translated ministration is leitourgia, and means liturgy or liturgical ministry. This text refers of course to Old Covenant worship, but we will now see that New Covenant worship is also liturgical. 

"As they [the church in Antioch] ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'" (Acts 13:2). The Greek word translated ministered is leitourgeo, and means that they conducted a liturgical Service. Not only did this liturgical ministry not "quench" the Spirit, but during the liturgy "the Holy Ghost said, 'Set apart for  Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" 

Writing to the Philippians from Rome, the Apostle Paul says, "Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am joyful and rejoice with you all" (Phil. 2:17). In this verse the Greek word translated service is leitourgia,  the same Greek word translated as ministration  in Luke 1:23. The Eastern Christians generally call the Services of the Church the Liturgy, transliterating the Greek into English, while Anglicans tend to use the word Service, translating rather than transliterating the Greek into English.

In addition to liturgical worship, the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that Christians have an earthly altar. That may sound strange to Christians who's churches are pulpit focused and have "altar calls" to an altar-less platform, but it is true nonetheless. "We have an altar from which they have no right to eat, who serve the tabernacle" (Heb. 13:10). What the writer of this epistle is saying is that we Christians have an altar which the unbelieving Jews who still worship in the Old Covenant Temple have no right to eat. Would you like to partake of the New Covenant altar spoken of in the Epistle to the Hebrews?

The Gospel came to Britain from Jerusalem in AD 37, just a few years after the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. The Anglican (Latin for "English") Church has an unbroken history from that time. We still worship liturgically; we still celebrate the Lord's Supper, the Holy Communion every Lord's Day; partake of Communion at an altar; and we still "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). You may have tried trendy churches and "praise bands," but after a while found that they generate more heat than light. Christianity isn't "hip," it is serious. It is a way of life. Isn't it time to try the original? We are an ancient Church, and we will be here until Christ returns for His Bride. At Holy Cross Anglican Church, we celebrate the Holy Communion every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM, and we enjoy fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall after Services. We are a faithful and friendly Church, and we have a place for you. Come and experience Biblical Christianity firsthand. I hope to see you on Sunday!