This post follows from previous posts about the Common Grounds Online Forum on The Conversation on Denominational Renewal. I just finished listening to “Renewing Worship” (click to download) by Bill Boyd and reading this week’s responses. Let me start by saying that this message has benefitted me the most so far.
Boyd’s main idea is that “gathered worship is table fellowship,” or what we would often call communion. For Boyd, this statement is both metaphorical and literal. He says, “Our gathered worship can actually set the tone and pace for everyday life.” What happens at the dinner table? Life and community happens! But we usually see gathered worship as some sort of “glorified classroom” rather than a “banquet hall.” If we saw gathered worship (or “public worship”) as table fellowship in a banquet hall, it would set the tone and pace for how we live life.
Boyd then takes his listeners through the story of Scripture from beginning to end and explains how elements like food and table fellowship show up as consistent unifying symbols throughout. In doing this, he doesn’t over-spiritualize table fellowship. He isn’t reading into the text what’s not there. And the implications for this understanding of gathered worship are huge!
One such implication stated in the message is that gathered worship must be seen as a dialogue more than it is a monologue. At the dinner table, multi-sided conversation takes place. Philip Ryken responded to these thoughts by adding some helpful advice:
Worship taken as a whole is a dialogue, but there must be a central place in the course of that dialogue for listening to what God says in his Word—a divine monologue, if you will, that invites our response in prayer and praise . . . One very important reason to insist on the centrality of the word in the public worship of the church is because every other element of worship is guided and governed by that word, including table fellowship.
Lastly, it would seem fitting to end with a quote from Eugene Peterson’s “Eat This Book” (which is quoted in Boyd’s talk):
Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son. Readers become what they read. If Holy Scripture is to be something other than mere gossip about God, it must be internalized.