Walk Through the Worship Service: Corporate Reading
I struggle to spell the word “ridiculous.” I messed it up on the first try, but thankfully I have spell check. Another option would have been to ask any one of my three girls. Each of them can spell it just fine. I have Disney’s Descendants movie to thank for this. It includes a song that spells out ridiculous. R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S, It’s (ridiculous), Just (ridiculous) and so they go a-singing and surpass me in their spelling abilities.
Children are natural learners, especially learning through imitation. And kids have a remarkable ability to mimic the thing we don’t want! While our inclination to imitation isn’t as strong as we get older, people still are social creatures and learn through seeing and hearing others.
Catechesis is not some relic of a bygone era, but something that happens every day through what we hear and read. The word catechism comes from the Greek word katekhizein, which means to teach or instruct. So it’s not so much a question of whether or not you are being catechised, (you are) but what is catechising you?
Each week in our service we participate in a corporate reading that often comes from a catechism (we are currently going through the New City Catechism) or some historic creed or confession of the faith. Congregational participation has been part of worship for several thousand years. In the Old Testament, God’s people gathered on two opposing mountains and would shout God’s words to each other from across the valley. (Deut 27:12-13) This practice continued in the early church, where there are records of reciting an early form of the Apostles creed when someone was baptized.
One reason we do this is because it reminds us of what we have in common with other believers. People often accuse Christians of being divided, or wonder why there are so many different churches if there is just one God. While various churches may differ on less important matters, most of these churches are united around the basics of the faith, as described in the historic creeds of the church. For instance, while we are a Presbyterian Church, we only ask one hold to the basics of the faith to be a member.
Fuzzy notions about God and superficial understanding of biblical truth are unfortunate marks of too many congregations today. A lack of theological foundation has left many unanchored and pulled by the currents of whatever water one is swimming in. When Paul speaks to the church leaders in Ephesus, he warns them of those who would act like believers, but promote false beliefs. (Acts 20:29-31) In other words, sometimes the greatest threats are not from the secular culture, but from those claiming to serve God. When you are in an unfamiliar place your senses are heightened to danger, but when you are in your own home your are at ease. Unfortunately, too many books, movies, and speakers roam freely in the Evangelical community, yet (often unknowingly) teach about God, Jesus and salvation in ways that are contrary to Scripture. While this may seem innocent, the danger is that it leaves a groups of people who are, in the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:14, “tossed and blown about by every... new teaching.” A faith built upon such teachings leaves one always thirsty, but never satisfied, because one is not actually drinking from the rich truths of Christ. A Christianity based upon a Jesus who is a few degrees off from the Jesus in the Bible robs people of the Christ who holds all joy. A catechism and other statements of the faith provide teachings that are easy enough for children to memorize, yet robust enough to capture the essence of biblical teaching. What is taught in these statements isn’t what just one person has come up with; they have been affirmed by believers across time and throughout the world. When we recite these corporate readings in worship we stand with a great cloud of witnesses!