This is #33 in Crossing the Threshold series.
The church is a called out community of people who belong to one another because they belong to the God we know in and through Jesus Christ. They are the recapitulation of Edenic “royal priests” created to offer “right praise” (meaning of orthodox) and then reflect the image of their Creator back into the creation. In other words they are to be actors in God’s story; the one he is writing, producing and starring in, a story going forward, a living story.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:24 NASB)
In Acts 2:42 we see the four part basic pattern or “liturgy” that will extend throughout the church’s history ….gathering, word, sacrament, and sending. A called out people responding to the revelation of the incarnate God in Christ Jesus gather out of the world to come to worship him (offer right praise). The service consists of two parts hearing of the word (apostle’s teaching) and sacrament, (the fellowship of the breaking of bread). At the end they are not dismissed they are sent forth to be the image bearers of their God and King to reflect his glory into the world (Christian means “little Christ”) and to tell other the “good news”.
Word and sacrament were always meant to be held together for they are indispensable to each other. The word portion; reading the scriptures, sermon, creed celebrate the whole salvation story of who God is. The Sacrament portion (Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist, Mass) is the means by which the church proclaims the Lord’s death until he comes (I Cor. 11:26). Word is how our minds are transformed, sacrament is something we do with our bodies and doing it says it like a kiss or a handshake. I highly recommend N.T. Wright little books The Meal Jesus Gave Us for those who want a greater understanding of the importance of sacrament.
I am including a link here to the quotes I used in the talk on the early church pattern and would encourage anyone who is interested to listen to the talk. As we will see in the next few posts “going to church” was never just an intellectual exercise or religious thing to do. It was and is a leaving of the earthly dimension and an entrance into the heavenly dimension/realm.