The Entrance and Proclamation and Response – often called the Service of the Word or the Preaching Service – are a Christian adaptation of the ancient synagogue service.
The Thanksgiving and Communion, commonly called the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, is a Christian adaptation of Jewish worship at family meal tables – as Jesus and his disciples ate together during his preaching and teaching ministry, as Jesus transformed it when he instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night before his death, and as his disciples experienced it in the breaking of bread with their risen Lord (Luke 24:30-35; John 21:13).
After the Day of Pentecost, when the earliest Christians went out preaching and teaching, they continued to take part in synagogue worship wherever they went (Acts 9:2ff.,20; 13ff.,44ff.; 14:1;17:1ff.,17ff.; 18:4, 19, 26; 19:8; 22:19; 24:12; 26:11) and to break bread as a holy meal in their own gatherings (Acts 2:42, 46).
As their preaching and teaching about Jesus led to a break between church and synagogue, the Christians held an adapted synagogue service and broke bread when they gathered on the first day of the week. Such a combined service of word and Table is described in Acts 20:7ff. This was apparently an accepted pattern by the time Luke wrote the Emmaus account in Luke 24:13-35, which pictures the joining together of a transformed synagogue service and a transformed holy meal and indicates to readers that they can know the risen Christ in the experience of Word and Table.
The Emmaus account can be used today in preaching and teaching the Basic Pattern of Worship. As on the first day of the week the two disciples were joined by the risen Christ, so in the power of the Holy Spirit the risen and ascended Christ joins us when we gather. As the disciples poured out to him their sorrow and in so doing opened their hearts to what Jesus would say to them, so we pour out to him whatever is on our hearts and thereby open ourselves to the Word. As Jesus “opened the Scriptures” to them and caused their hearts to burn, so we hear the Scriptures opened to us and out of the burning of our hearts praise God. As they were faced with a decision and responded by inviting Jesus to stay with them, we can do likewise. As they joined the risen Christ around the table, so can we. As Jesus took, blessed, broke, and gave the bread just as the disciples had seen him do three days previously, so in the name of the risen Christ we do these four actions with the bread and the cup. As he was “made known to them in the breaking of the bread,” so the risen and ascended Christ can be made known to us in Holy Communion. As he disappeared and sent the disciples into the world with faith and joy, so he sends us forth into the world. And as those disciples found Christ when they arrived at Jerusalem later that evening, so we can find Christ with us wherever we go.
Since New Testament times, this Basic Pattern has had a long history of development. At times this pattern has been obscured and corrupted, and at times it has been recovered and renewed. The Wesleyan revival continued this emphasis on Word and Table, taking the gospel into the world by preaching and singing and by celebrating of the holy meal. Today The United Methodist Church is reclaiming our biblical and historical heritage, as we seek in this Basic Pattern to worship God “in spirit and in truth.”
THE BASIC PATTERN OF WORSHIP
The people come together in the Lord’s name. There may be greetings, music and song, prayer and praise.
PROCLAMATION AND RESPONSE
The Scriptures are opened to the people through the reading of lessons, preaching, witnessing, music, or other arts and media. Interspersed may be psalms, anthems, and hymns. Reponses to God’s Word include acts of commitment and faith with offerings of concerns, prayers, gifts, and service for the world and one another.
THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION
In services with Communion, the actions of Jesus in the Upper Room are reenacted:
Taking the bread and cup,
Giving thanks over the bread and cup,
Breaking the bread, and
Giving the bread and cup.
In services without communion, thanks are given for God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ.
The people are sent into ministry with the Lord’s blessing.”
The ministry of all Christians consists of privilege and obligation. The privilege is a relationship with God that is deeply spiritual. The obligation is to respond to God’s call to holy living in the world. In the United Methodist tradition these two dimensions of Christian discipleship are wholly interdependent.