The newest issue of Reformed Worship has a great article by Larry Sibley entitled Ten Worship Planning ideas from John Calvin. His first two points are worth revisiting, as most churches since the reformation have not taken seriously these foundational issues related to corporate worship. I am quoting directly from Mr. Sibley:
- “Remember the necessary practices and include them every week: the Word, prayer, the meal, and sharing. Calvin wrote in his Institutes,
Luke relates in the Acts that this was the practice of the apostolic church, when he says that believers “. . . continued in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). Thus it became the unvarying rule that no meeting of the church should take place without the Word, prayers, partaking of the Lord’s Supper and almsgiving.
Calvin treated this passage in Acts as a central norm for Sunday worship. There were to be four elements present: the reading and preaching of the Word; prayers in the language of the people; the Lord’s Supper; and a sharing of goods, principally through almsgiving in the service.
- Keep the traditional ordo: gathering, Word, sacraments, sending. Calvin did this, reforming without disrupting the traditional outline of worship. See the green box for the order of worship. Of particular importance is to gather first around the Word read and preached. This sets the agenda for the intercessory prayer that follows and allows the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper to seal the message of the Word. Calvin pointed out that we are created with the need to see, touch, smell, and taste as well as hear; hence the sacraments.”
Why are we so quick to dismiss the Sacraments from our weekly worship? What are we afraid of? The sacraments are God’s ordained way of reassuring us of salvation and strengthening our faith. We must revisit our core doctrinal documents and reclaim the centrality of the full order of worship given to us in the Scriptures. Following I will review the pertinent questions from the Three forms of Unity of the CRCNA:
Heidelberg Q & A 75
Q. How does the Lord’s Supper remind you and assure you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all his gifts?
A. In this way:
Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat this broken bread and to drink this cup. With this command he gave this promise:1
First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross.
Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul with his crucified body and poured-out blood.
1 Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25
In the Belgic Confession we find a great description of the Purpose of the Sacraments: