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An Introduction to Liturgical Mission

Greetings, saints of Trinity! 

We are very excited for Theology on the Bayou tomorrow morning, with guest speaker Winfield Bevins.  Coffee’s on @ 9AM and Morning Prayer begins @ 9:30AM.
By way of introduction to the event, I thought I would share a brief outline of Winfield’s new book, Liturgical Mission (copies are available at the church, and Winfield will be happy to sign them).

Liturgical Mission is divided into two parts about, you guessed it, Liturgy & Mission.  
The first part is titled “The Work of the People,” which is the literal meaning of the word liturgy.  In other words, when we talk about “liturgy,” we are talking about a form of worship that involves “the active participation of the people” (17).  The liturgy is not a lecture or a concert, where the people are merely spectators.  Rather, the liturgy is form of worship where the people are actively involved, participating as we worship together.  And our participation in the liturgy happens in four parts: “gathering, listening, feeding, and sending” (46).  
1)    We gather by intentionally making time for the corporate worship of God. Beginning with song, prayer, confession, and creed, we prepare our hearts to receive God’s word.
2)    We listen to the reading of God’s word, hearing passages from whole counsel of scripture: Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, and Gospel.  And then we listen to the sermon, which interprets the text, applies God’s teaching to life, and proclaims the gospel of Christ.
3)    We feed on Christ in communion, by which we both remember Christ’s gift of himself to us, and also receive his grace as an objective foundation for our spiritual growth.  This objectivity of God’s grace is especially meaningful to Winfield, and he devotes the entirety of chapter 4 to what he calls “The Sacramental Life.”
4)    We are sent as we conclude our liturgy, sent out with the peace of God, to love and serve both God and neighbor.
The second part of the book is titled “For the Life of the World,” which summarizes the purpose for Christian mission.  Yes, Christian mission is concerned with the particulars of proclaiming the gospel, serving those in need, and building the kingdom.  But all of this is for the ultimate purpose of redemption, the restoration of God’s abundant life to a sinful and hurting world.  
Especially valuable in this section is Winfield’s fifth chapter, on “Trinitarian Mission,” which explains how the Trinity gives us the pattern of mission.  God the Father is the “initiator and sender” (92).  God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is “the embodiment of mission in the world,” in “embodied God’s mission in his very life and death” (94).  And God the Holy Spirit is our “empowering presence for mission,” the one by whom we are “relying on God” (96-97).
Though Winfield generally presents a positive vision of the Church and its missionary work, he does acknowledge that at this time “the church is in crisis and is in rapid decline throughout most of the Western world” (103).  This is in part because we have “a generation of consumers rather than radically committed disciples of Jesus Christ” (107).  As modes of revitalization, Winfield appeals in Chapter 6 to a new spirit of Christian unity, of “comprehensiveness without compromise” (115), and in Chapter 7 to a mission that is “holistic and integral, both evangelistic and social” (126).  
In sum, Winfield seeks to find the “future mission of the church” in a “recovery of tradition for the sake of the future” (149).  He envisions a church both “historically rooted and modern; orthodox and gracious; unified and diverse; liturgical and open to the spontaneity of the Spirit; catholic and evangelical; and finally sacramental and missional” (154).  It’s a big vision, and a worthy one.
In Christ -