It’s been quite some time since we’ve used this space to simply walk through the structure of our worship, explaining the driving purpose behind our worship practices. For those of you who have read some of these blog posts, you’ll probably know that the overarching goal our weekly worship gatherings is for us to participate in the retelling of the Gospel Story.
Now, I understand that for many of us, this remains a bit of a foreign or ambiguous idea. Why would we, week-after-week, retell the same story? I could give a good number of reasons and have touched on some of them here in this blog, but for today I want to touch on an important concept in Biblical worship: anamnesis.
Anamnesis is the Greek for ‘remembrance’ or ‘reminiscence’ and it strikes to the heart of every Biblical Theology of worship. This is because anamnesis (remembrance), in a theological sense, has nothing to do with a bland, static remembering of a detached historical event. Anamnesis is about us deeply re-entering into a past event which continues to have an overwhelming impact on our current reality.
One great example of this is seen in the book of Deuteronomy. Here it says that, once the people of Israel have inherited the Promised Land, they are to gather in the place where God chooses (eventually this will be Jerusalem), bringing their offerings and then:
3 When you come before the priest who is serving at that time, you must say to him, ‘Today I acknowledge to the Lord your God that I have entered the land the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’
4 “Then the priest will take the container from your hand and place it before the altar of the Lord your God. 5 You are to respond by saying in the presence of the Lord your God:
My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt with a few people and lived there. There he became a great, powerful, and populous nation. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated and afflicted us, and forced us to do hard labour. 7 So we called out to Yahweh, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our cry and saw our misery, hardship, and oppression. 8 Then the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with terrifying power, and with signs and wonders. 9 He led us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 I have now brought the first of the land’s produce that You, Lord, have given me.
You will then place the container before the Lord your God and bow down to Him. 11 You, the Levite, and the foreign resident among you will rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given you and your household.
Again, there is a lot that could be unpacked from this passage. But, for our purposes, we can summarise this scripture by describing this act of worship with three words: remembrance, retelling, & rejoicing.
The people are to come to worship God with an offering. When they offer their gifts they come and remember (anamnesis) what God did to save them. But they don’t just remember it as a boring historical event. No! They are personally required to retell the story as if they were actually there and it happened to them personally (even though this is the generation who was born in the desert; none of these people personally experienced the Exodus). Then, as they retell the story, remembering God’s acts of salvation, they rejoice (vs. 11).
This is what anamnesis is all about. This is the centre of Biblical worship.
Every worship gathering in the Old Testament was an anamnesis (remembrance – retelling – rejoicing) of one of God’s saving acts. For us as Christians, we recognise that all of these OT celebrations were simply shadows (Heb. 8:5, 10:1) of the reality which was fulfilled in Jesus. So, when we gather in worship, our worship is an anamnesis of the saving acts of Christ. This is what it means for our worship to be thoroughly Biblical and Christ-centred.
And when we remember (past) what God has done, we rejoice in faith that he is still doing it (present) and will continue to do so (future). This is why we retell the story; because worship is about us deeply re-entering into a past event which continues to have an overwhelming impact on our current reality and beyond.
And so, as you’ll see below in last week’s order of service, this is a significant part of what we wanted you to be able to enter into.
As we sang, “Oh, Our Lord” (with Ps. 8:1-4) we praised the majestic One who created all things, being reminded (through “Almighty God”) that he is ‘high and above understanding.’ As we worship this God we are reminded (in “Mighty to Save”) that we are all in need of his compassion and so we call out for his mercy to fall on us, acknowledging that he alone is ‘mighty to save.’
Notice how in just this one scripture and three songs we remember, retell, and rejoice in Yahweh as the Almighty, Creator-God who alone can save.
Then, following the sermon, we concluded by summarising all of our praises and prayers by prayingthe prayer that Jesus taught us, the Lord’s Prayer, as sung in “As it is in Heaven.”
So, as we gather week-by-week, I encourage you to watch for this sense of anamnesis, the sense that we gather to be caught up in praise of God by remembering, retelling, and rejoicing in all that he has done.
Sunday, January 8, 2017:
Call to Worship:
“Oh, Our Lord” [with Ps. 8:1-4] (Paul Baloche)
“Almighty God” (Tim Hughes)
Service of the Word:
“Mighty to Save” (Hillsong)
Sermon: Vision Casting
“Be Thou My Vision”
“As it is in Heaven” (Matt Maher)