SINGING AND FOURFOLD WORSHIP – THE TABLE (RESPONSE)

  January of 2006 I attended my first session at IWS (Institute for Worship Studies) in Jacksonville, Florida.  During worship in the sanctuary of Grace Episcopal Church I was a little nervous, sitting on a pew with Robert Webber and being a little uncertain as to whether I would know when to do what.  Kneeling benches? Chanting psalms? Prayers of the People? And of course the big question searing on my mind, “Is that real wine up there?”  This cradle roll Baptist boy was not very comfortable, but was very intrigued.  As the worship moved on I harkened back to a worship service when I was a a school-age boy sitting on the front pew of Northwest Baptist Church in Miami, Oklahoma.  As a new Christian I sat on the front row with others who had recently made their professions of faith in Christ.  It was our first Lord’s Supper observance.  We were ushered into the sanctuary following our New Christians class in the pastor’s study.  My dad was the pastor, so as I recall his study was a lot more familiar place for me than that front pew was.  Though memory of any details of an event nearly fifty years previous may have been shakey at best, as I worshiped in Jacksonville, Florida that day in 2006, I felt strangely connected to another time and another place.  Added inspiration for such reflection may have been that the reality of my father’s passing just over a month earlier was still sinking into my mind and spirit.

 

Observances of the Lord’s Supper rightly bring together past, present, and future.  Obviously, this holding together is not rooted in personal sentimental memories, though I am often surprised by the stirrings of just that sort that are strangely raised up in me during the taking of the elements of bread and cup in worship.  Rather, the remembrance and related thankfulness that takes place at the Table embraces the full gospel story, a story which in fact covers all eternity; past, present, and future. While the crucifixion atonement is the focal point of the memorial meal, worship leaders do well to broaden the tone of this worship fold to rehearse not only Christ Who died, but Christ Who is risen, and certainly Christ Who is coming again! Singing during the Table observance can be some of the most resonant with triumph and praise if approached with this larger view of the full gospel.  While stirring of emotions such as I previously described are by no means the point of the Table, it is most fitting for us to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually place our own lives in Christ and recognize His eternal presence in us during this time of remembrance and reflection as we commune with Him and His bride.

 

Though Baptist churches generally practice the actual observance of the Lord’s Supper (Table) less frequently than sister churches who worship with more formal liturgical patterns, the third fold of worship remains a crucial part of the worship engagement. By conviction I personally resound by with Baptist leaders who recognize a need for, and subsequently call for a more frequent participation in worship at the Table.  While that is not the point of this article, I would call upon pastors and worship music leaders to prayerfully consider the high value of all that surrounds Table worship, from self-examination to church koinonia (Communion) to gospel proclamation and thankfulness (Eucharist).  In his foreword to the book, The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2010), David Dockery states “The highest form of Christian worship is the Lord’s Supper.”

 

For those of us who do not practice actual Table observance weekly, Constance Cherry among others, has offered a way of identifying the third fold in fourfold worship as “Alternative Response.”  She rightfully argues that in the worship rhythm of revelation and response there must be an intentional response to the revealed Word, such as is given in the preaching of the Holy Scriptures.  When God speaks we must reply.  The response can be, and often is, voiced in song and singing.  Especially in revivalist worship environments the call for response known as the “invitation” is most usually accompanied by the singing of an appropriate song of invitation and/or response.  Most Baptist environments by tradition would understand this time of invitation to be an invitation to profess one’s faith in Christ, conversion, to renew faith journey of discipleship, or to place one’s church membership within the body gathered for worship.   It would seem logical that the freedom offered in less formal worship would allow for a wide variety of responses to be displayed, perhaps most meaningfully done in direct response to the sermon’s application.  In fact, we see this often as worshipers are invited to commit themselves anew to service or stewardship, or to respond to other calls for mission and ministry endeavors.

 

Fourfold worship seeks to involve worshipers in a simple, though profound understanding of engagement with God – Gathering, Hearing the Word (God speaks to us), Responding with thankful hearts at His Table, and Sending worshipers out to serve God and neighbor in the world.  Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs through these folds of worship serves the worship of individuals and the collective body by helping voice our worship and praise.  At the same time the singing helps worshipers to express their worship, it forms them through the affections expressed, theological pronouncements made, and relationships encouraged with God, other members of the body, and the world in which we live and serve.

 

Songs for the Table are too numerous to list, so let me note a couple and invite worship planners to reply with those you find particularly rich:

 

This Is the Threefold Truth – Fred Pratt Green/Jack Shrader

The Communion Hymn – Keith & Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend

Here at Your Table, Lord – Mary Hoyt/William Sherwin

In Remembrance of Me – Ragan Courtney, Buryl Red

Explore posts in the same categories: Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: