One of the things I love about my church is the corporate emphasis of our liturgy. Week in and week out the congregation stands together to sing, pray, & confess our united faith. One of the perceived downfalls of many “electric” churches is the inability of the congregants to hear one another sing, pray, or confess. Usually the lights are turned down low so it is difficult to see the Body of Christ and the speakers are turned up high so it is near impossible to hear the Body of Christ. This creates an environment where the individual (and their feelings) are held in higher esteem than the objective reality (salvation) that the Body experiences in the worship gathering.
One of my favorite parts of our liturgy is our corporate confession of faith. Usually we recite (as a congregation) one of the historic creeds of the church (Nicene, apostles, Chalcedon). However, occasionally, we will corporately respond to a catechism question from either the Heidelberg Catechism or the Westminster Confession of Faith. This week our confession of faith was to corporately give the answer to the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism.
Question: What is your only comfort in life and death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth to live unto Him.
For whatever reason, I have been thinking about the corporate confession of faith more over the past 24 hrs. than usual. In particular, I have given thought to the fact that the corporate confession of faith does such a great job in assuring the individual. I stood and recited the answer to the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism yesterday morning my personal faith in the truths expressed was overwhelmed by hundreds of other voices reciting the same thing. Moreover, considering the age of the Heidelberg Catechism (written in 1563), again my personal faith is bolstered by the legacy of faith that has gone before me for hundreds and thousands of years.
A responsive & corporate liturgy takes the focus away from the individual and paradoxically strengthens the individual. Conversely, a liturgy that caters to the individual ironically isolates the individual in the experience they are having.
When you focus on the corporate, the individual is necessarily included. When you focus on the individual, you do not, of necessity, get the corporate.
Food for thought.