REFORMATION 500: Reforming Worship

The Reformation was by no means merely a restating of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith; it was also intended as a reformation of the worship practices of the church. Two of the marks of the true church, “the right preaching of the word and the right administration of the sacraments,” concern worship.

—Stephen Farris, “Reformed Identity and Reformed Worship,” Reformed World 43:1&2 (Mar. & June `93), 69

REFORMATION 500: Semper Reformanda (Always Reforming)

Many imagine that what Luther and Calvin did was to found new churches, with their specific doctrines and forms of worship; and that therefore to be their loyal followers means holding rigidly to these doctrines and forms. Thus any movement to make changes in the established ways of Reformed churches is always met by cries of “betrayal of our heritage.” But neither Luther nor Calvin had any intention of founding a church.

They simply set out to reform the Church that Christ Himself had founded. They had no desire to make a break with the Church and its heritage, but were forced to separate from the contemporary church because of its refusal to reform. Their intention was never to deny continuity with the Christian heritage but rather to restore to the Church her most ancient traditions, those of the New Testament, which they saw had been radically distorted. Hence they were literally re-formers. And nothing could have been further from their intentions than the idea that their Reformation was definitive and authoritative for all time. Thus a loyal son of the Reformation is one who is prepared at all times to reform, and not one who has made of the sixteenth-century Reformation a new idol that cannot be touched. A Reformed Church is a reforming Church, and its characteristic ought to be, not a tenacious adherence to sixteenth century forms and principles, but an openness to the leading of the Spirit in every age. 

—Rev. D. H. C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:1 (March 1955):68

REFORMATION 500: The Priesthood of All Believers

The aim of the Reformation was not the abolition of the priesthood but the abolition of the laity. Every Christian was to realize his priesthood: ‘Ye are a chosen generation; a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.’ This is the Biblical conception of worship—an offering of the entire congregation in praise and adoration. The Reformers aimed at restoring this heritage to a people who had become accustomed to being spectators at a ceremonial in a language they did not understand. They therefore insisted on everything being said at worship in a clear and intelligible voice in the language of the common people. They also encouraged the revival of congregational singing and audible participation in the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed.

—Rev. D.H.C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship, III. The Direction of Contemporary Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:3 (Sept. ’55), 285

The Hiding Place

Hail, sovereign Love, that first began the scheme to rescue fallen man!
Hail, matchless, free, eternal Grace, that gave my soul a hiding place!

Against the God Who rules the sky, I fought, with hand uplifted high
—despised the mention of His grace, too proud to seek a hiding place.

Enwrapped in thick Egyptian night, and fond of darkness, more than light,
madly I ran the sinful race, secure without a hiding place;

but thus th’ eternal counsel ran: Almighty Love, arrest that man!
I felt the arrows of distress, and found I had no hiding place.

Indignant Justice stood in view. To Sinai’s fiery mount I flew;
but Justice cried, with frowning face, This mountain is no hiding place.

Ere long, a heavenly voice I heard; and Mercy’s angel-form appeared,
Who led me on, with gentle pace, to Jesus Christ, my Hiding Place.

On Him Almighty Vengeance fell, that must have sunk a world to hell.
He bore it for a chosen race, and thus became their Hiding Place.

Should storms of sevenfold vengeance roll, and shake this earth from pole to pole,
no flaming bolt could daunt my face—for Jesus is my Hiding Place.

A few more rolling suns, at most, shall land me safe on Heaven’s coast.
Then I shall sing the song of grace to Jesus Christ, my Hiding Place.

—Jehoida Brewer (1752-1817)

The Audience of One

If we define all that we are before our great Caller and live our lives before one audience—the Audience of One—then we cannot define or decide our own achievements and our own success. It is not for us to say what we have accomplished. It is not for us to pronounce ourselves successful. It is not for us to spell out what our legacy has been. Indeed, it is not even for us to know. Only the Caller can say.

—Os Guinness, The Call