Friday, July 18, 2014

Worship Is Initiated by Christ to Our Behalf and for Our Participation

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.  (Heb 8:1-2)

A theology of worship requires that we recognize the divine initiative in the divine-human encounter.  The only basis on which we can scribe to God “the glory due his name” is that God is already glorified in humanity by the incarnation of the Word.  Worship is not only what the congregation does; it is also what God does through the proclamation of the word and ministration of the sacraments.… A word that comes closer to incorporating both the divine and the human participation in worship is leitourgia.  It meant a service that was rendered on the people’s behalf by a representative; hence it is composed from words for work (ergon) and public (leïtos).… In subsequent use, “leitourgia” referred to religious rites performed to the public good.  The one who performs these services is a liturgist (leitourgos).…

Just as Paul was a leitourgos to the Gentiles,* and Epaphroditus was a leitourgos to Paul,† and just as the church from an early date appointed ministers (bishops, deacons, as in Didache 15:1) who could render the leitourgia to the congregation, so there is a venerable tradition that regards Christ as the true leitourgos to the people, their true high priest or presiding minister.  The liturgical role of Christ in the church has been given focus in the sacramental celebrations.  Thus Ephesians 5:25-32 uniquely states that Christ gave himself up for the church “in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.”  The church’s holiness and glory are those of Christ who gives himself for and to the church.  He makes the church his own by cleansing it “with the washing of water by the word.”  Christ the baptizer; the church and its ministers are only the instruments of his will.

Frank Senn, Christian Liturgy

* Romans 15:16
† Philippians 2:25, 30

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