Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

We Worship As Presbyterians

We Worship as Presbyterians

During a Presbyterian worship service a man began to be moved by the Spirit. Out loud he said "Amen!" People around him were a little disturbed. Then louder he said, "Hallelujah!" A few more people were becoming disturbed. Louder still he shouted "Praise Jesus!" An usher moved quickly down the aisle. He bent over and whispered to the man, "Sir!. Control yourself!" The man exclaimed, "I can't help it. I got religion!!!" To which the usher responded, "Well you didn't get it here!"
How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb? None. Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

You might be a Presbyterian if:
When the spirit comes upon you in power, you don't raise your hands and shout Hallelujah, rather you scratch your chin, turn to your neighbor and whisper "hmmm, . . . that was a good point."
You think the phrase "frozen chosen” is a compliment.
When asked to solve a problem, the first action of a Presbyterian is to form a committee. The second action is the form a subcommittee.
One things Presbyterians are able to do is to laugh at ourselves. How do you know you are in a Presbyterian Church - everyone is sitting on the back pew. There are lots of jokes about us - and we can laugh and snicker at them because we know they are true! We as Presbyterians have unique and special ways of worship and of government and today we gather to celebrate our life as Christians who worship and work in Presbyterian manner.
This Sunday gives us an opportunity to talk about and learn about this Presbyterian idea. Being Presbyterian is like anything else, the more we learn about what that means, the better we understand who we are and why we do things the way we do, and the more sense it makes.
So let us start off by briefly reviewing our history. We trace our history back to Martin Luther in the 1500s when Luther pulled away from the Catholic Church and this started a whole chain events which spawned many of the denominations we are familiar with. John Calvin read Luther’s writing and he became the founder of what was known as the ‘reformed’ movement - meaning simply that what was once the Catholic Church was being ‘reformed’ into something new. John Knox from Scotland went to study under Calvin and went back to Scotland where he began this new movement in the church based on Calvin’s teachings and that became the Presbyterian Church. “Presby” means elder and our main difference from any other denomination is our form of government. We are known as a ‘bottom’ up type government and we are the only major denomination that is governed in that manner. Each church has a group which governs it - the session. The session elects a representative to go to Presbytery meetings where the representatives vote on issues of the church. The Presbytery elects representatives which go every 2 years to General Assembly where larger issues of the church are discussed and voted on. And if that sounds a lot like the government of the United States, it is because many signers of the Declaration of Independence and framers of the constitution were Presbyterian and it is a documented fact that the government of this new country was based on the Presbyterian system. While all other denominations have the system of Bishops and District Superintendents and Regional Directors and such which direct how local churches conduct their business, we have nothing like that in our system. All decisions are made by representatives from the churches who sit on committees and make recommendations and then are voted on. This was basically the system that was set up in the church right from the beginning. When the church started forming right after Pentecost, the church was made up of small congregations which met in homes and each home would elect an elder. The elders would then meet together to determine policy and doctrine for the churches and ensure that these scattered house churches stayed on the same page theologically. Each local congregation would elect deacons whose job was to care for the people. They would collect food, take it to the poorer members and generally were there to care for the needs of the people in their congregation. Basically the same system that we use today.
So government is the first unique thing about being Presbyterian. Our worship is not completely unique but certainly is modeled after a certain style. We are liturgical in our worship which is styled originally after the form God set up in the Old Testament for the Jews - liturgical simply means that the people in the pews participate in worship. The other style of worship is called “revival style” and consists of singing several hymns in the beginning of the service, then prayer and offering and sermon at the end followed usually by an alter call. But our style is called liturgical where we read and pray together. The order and parts are based on Isaiah 6 and the call of Isaiah. And truly nothing in our worship is arbitrary. Everything we do and the way we do it has a scriptural basis. As much as we often laugh about our Book of Order - the rulebook - every portion of our Book of Order has a scriptural reference.
Presbyterians have often been called ‘people of the book’ because we can trace everything we do and how we do it back to the ‘The” book - the Bible. But out theology is also adamant that we look look at the whole of scripture - the whole of the Bible. While we may use specific sections as we’ve mentioned earlier - the history of the early church to determine our government, the call of Isaiah to design our worship and so forth, we believe that it is imperative that scripture be looked as an entire story - we look at all of the scripture and look at over all ideas and over all themes and the over all message - for us the Bible is a history of how God has dealt with and continues to deal with his people. We are very much big picture in our way of thinking rather than plucking out bits and pieces here and there to determine what we believe.
We are here in a Presbyterian church worshipping in a Presbyterian way, governing ourselves as Presbyterians. But we also understand that this is just one way among many to worship and serve God - we do not think that we have any great lock on the truth, that we are ‘right’ above everyone else. But that everyone who believes in and worships and serves the risen Christ is part of God’s people. We just exhibit one way among many to do that. And that is why as we come together to participate in this communion, we always say - This is the Lord’s table and he invites everyone to share in this meal with him.
We are Presbyterian, and today is simply a day to remember that means something.
Amen!