Reflection by Pastor Shawn:
Congregation of the Good Shepherd is a liturgical church, meaning our worship services are in a liturgical mode. The front page of our website ( https://www.cogs-bj.org/ ) says, “We offer liturgical worship each Sunday at 10 a.m.” So what is liturgy and why do we do things that way?
The original meaning of the word “liturgy” is “a public work of the people.” The liturgy is a collection of prayers, scriptures, creeds, and other words used for the public worship of God. It is a holy “work” where all worshipers are expected to participate—it is not a spectator or entertainment event. It is shaped by the Gospel: we confess our sins as part of our ongoing repentance in following Jesus, and we hear words of forgiveness based on the promises of God’s Word. It emphasizes Scripture as we read from the Old and New Testaments, Psalms, Epistles, and Gospels. We are washed in God’s Word as we hear it read and receive it explained in the preaching. In the liturgy we pray words that have been labored over, thoughtfully constructed to bring the very best expressions of our hearts to God. We speak together the great truths of the Christian faith in the form of the creeds, connecting us with the church of the past, present, and future. We sing old and new songs from different time periods and cultures. In the liturgy, we express a range of human emotions: joy and sorrow, praise and lament, fear and assurance.
And there’s more. The liturgy shows our roots. It’s important to be connected with the Christian tradition, and the liturgy is one way to do that. It is centered on God and Christ, not on us. Worship is not primarily about “me” or “us” but about God in Christ reconciling us and the world to Himself. The liturgy helps us stay focused on the Father, Son, and Spirit in our worship.
Also, the liturgy keeps a corporate focus. We each worship God continually with our lives (Rom. 12:1), but on Sundays (and with other worship services) we come to worship God together. Worship is not mainly about “what I get out of it,” it is about God and about our fellow worshipers receiving the gifts of God that bind us together and to encourage each other to love and good works. We confess our sin, we sing and pray, we hear the Scriptures read and explained—and we all do it together.
Worship is formative, not expressive: it’s not about us expressing something that God needs to hear, but about God forming us. The intentionality of a well thought-out liturgy can make us more like Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.