This Sunday: October 23
When We Get It Right
There is no dress code for United Methodist churches. In most churches, people dress in a variety of ways. Some congregations dress more casually than others. On Sunday mornings at Wesley, you will see a variety from 3-piece suits all the way to jeans or shorts and a t-shirt. Nevertheless, you will not be judged on your image. Come as you are comfortable as your are coming to worship the Lord, not to impress the multitudes.
The Basic Pattern of Worship is rooted in Scripture and in our United Methodist heritage and experience. It expresses the biblical, historical, and theological integrity of Christian worship and is the basis of all the General Services of the Church. This Basic Pattern serves to guide those who plan worship and to help congregations understand the basic structure and content of our worship. Though it is not an order of worship, a variety of orders of worship may be based upon it. It reveals that behind the diversity of United Methodist worship there is a basic unity.
Our worship in both its diversity and its unity is an encounter with the living God through the risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. When the people of God gather, the Spirit is free to move them to worship in diverse ways, according to their needs. We rejoice that congregations of large and small membership, in different regions, in different communities, of different racial and ethnic composition, and with distinctive local traditions can each worship in a style that enables the people to feel at home.
The Spirit is also the source of unity and truth. The teachings of Scripture give our worship a basic pattern that has proved itself over the centuries, that gives The United Methodist Church its sense of identity and links us to the universal Church. This pattern goes back to worship as Jesus and his earliest disciples knew it—services in the synagogue and Jewish family worship around the meal table. It has been fleshed out by the experience and traditions of Christian congregations for two thousand years.
The Entrance and the Proclamation and Response—often called the Service of the Word or the Preaching Service—are a Christian adaptation of the ancient synagogue service.
The Thanksgiving and Communion, commonly called the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, is a Christian adaptation of Jewish worship at family meal tables—as Jesus and his disciples ate together during his preaching and teaching ministry, as Jesus transformed it when he instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night before his death, and as his disciples experienced it in the breaking of bread with their risen Lord (Luke 24:30 -35; John 21:13).
After the Day of Pentecost, when the earliest Christians went out preaching and teaching, they continued to take part in synagogue worship wherever they went Acts 9:2 ff., 20; 13:5, 13ff., 44ff.; 14:1; 17:1ff., 10ff., 17ff.; 18:4, 19, 26; 19:8; 22:19; 24:12; 26:11) and to break bread as a holy meal in their own gatherings Acts 2:42, 46).
As their preaching and teaching about Jesus led to a break between church and synagogue, the Christians held an adapted synagogue service and broke bread when they gathered on the first day of the week. Such a combined service of Word and Table is described in Acts 20:7 ff. This was apparently an accepted pattern by the time Luke wrote the Emmaus account in Luke 24:13 35, which pictures the joining together of a transformed synagogue service and a transformed holy meal and indicates to readers that they can know the risen Christ in the experience of Word and Table.
The Emmaus account can be used today in preaching and teaching the Basic Pattern of Worship. As on the first day of the week the two disciples were joined by the risen Christ, so in the power of the Holy Spirit the risen and ascended Christ joins us when we gather. As the disciples poured out to him their sorrow and in so doing opened their hearts to what Jesus would say to them, so we pour out to him whatever is on our hearts and thereby open ourselves to the Word. As Jesus “opened the Scriptures” to them and caused their hearts to burn, so we hear the Scriptures opened to us and out of the burning of our hearts praise God. As they were faced with a decision and responded by inviting Jesus to stay with them, we can do likewise. As they joined the risen Christ around the table, so can we. As Jesus took, blessed, broke, and gave the bread just as the disciples had seen him do three days previously, so in the name of the risen Christ we do these four actions with the bread and cup. As he was “made known to them in the breaking of the bread,” so the risen and ascended Christ can be known to us in Holy Communion. As he disappeared and sent the disciples into the world with faith and joy, so he sends us forth into the world. And as those disciples found Christ when they arrived at Jerusalem later that evening, so we can find Christ with us wherever we go.
Since New Testament times, this Basic Pattern has had a long history of development. At times this pattern has been obscured and corrupted, and at times it has been recovered and renewed. The Wesleyan revival continued this emphasis on Word and Table, taking the gospel into the world by preaching and singing and by celebrating of the holy meal. Today The United Methodist Church is reclaiming our biblical and historic heritage, as we seek in this Basic Pattern to worship God “in spirit and in truth.”