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December 7, 2023: Theocentric Worship

In the sanctuary of a church that I attended as a boy, they moved the altar table recently. It was moved from the chancel area to the nave (where the congregation gathers) so that the praise team might take its place in the chancel area. Thus, the focal point of their worship space is no longer the Eucharist but performance. This change is not merely architectural, nor is it unusual. The Church of Jesus Christ is currently experiencing a theological crisis in her worship. Worship in our age has increasingly become anthropocentric rather than theocentric (man-centered rather than God-centered).

  Communion has been de-emphasized in much of Western Protestantism.  In many evangelical churches, the main service never includes communion—inviting people to partake at a different time where there is limited participation. In other churches they continue to have communion in the main service, but it is infrequent. And when it is celebrated, it seems to be an addendum to the service. The elements are often presented haphazardly without sufficient context and reverence. In many mainline denominations there is no prayer of confession, no absolution, and the service has been stripped of all reference to atonement.

  The early church understood Word and Table as the twin loci of worship. Liturgical worship continues the ancient form with the service of the Word followed by the Eucharist. All were welcome to the service of the Word but catechumens and all unbaptized were dismissed before the Eucharist. For here the grace of God is found. Jesus has given his body and blood that we might have life. Therefore, all are called to examine themselves before partaking. As we heard in the exhortation this past Sunday:

…the benefit is great, if we receive that holy Sacrament with a truly penitent heart and lively faith, spiritually eating the Flesh of Christ and drinking his Blood, so that we might be made one with Christ and he with us; so also is the danger great, if we receive these gifts unworthily.

It is time to recover the sacred center of worship. For worship is not about great music performances or great preachers. The center of worship is Jesus Christ. The homily must never be centered in the man who preaches or in his speaking skills but the faithful proclamation of the Word.  The Eucharist offers Jesus body and blood that we might be fed and have life. Anything that would minimize these twin foci of worship robs God to honor man. Therefore, flee from entertainment if you desire to worship. Prefer reverence to applause. Worship never puts on a show.

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