Vertical/horizontal redux

Yesterday’s guest post clearly identified two “umbrella” aspects of the Christian Assembly.  The “vertical” is the worship, while the “horizontal” aspect consists not in God-oriented worship but in people-oriented activity.  


This essential delineation seems so clear, so true … and yet elusive for so many.  Check out this excerpt from an article by a recognized religionist/theologian in Worship Leader magazine:

Our worship should have a diaconal concern, a ministry to the sick, the poor, and the suffering (Acts 6:4).  It should have a teaching ministry for children, and the teaching ministry for mature theologians.  – Hughes Oliphant Old

Dr. Old speaks of good things, of worthy things.  He’s right to speak of serving, or “diaconal” work, fleshing out engagement with those with special needs.  He’s also right to point to Acts 6 as a kind of charter for some of this activity.

But he is not right in assuming those things fall in the category of “worship,” and he may, like so many others, have a concept that everything that occurs during the announced Sunday morning hour constitutes worship.  (No, it does not, and it should not.)  I am led again to believe that one reason for confusion in various spheres has to do with institutional investment in the status quo.   If we didn’t have such institutional needs to have our various programs, we might just understand that worship is worship, and service is service, and the two are distinct.

The breaking of bread, that is, the celebration of holy communion, should be a regular part of our worship (Acts 2:42).  – H.O.O.

Dr. Old is on target in encouraging communion/the Lord’s Supper, although not as thoroughly accurate with his proof-text use.  The “breaking of bread” in Acts appears to have little connection with what we think of as communion today; the expression “breaking bread” appears to have been related to basic table “fellowship” at a meal.

Now, if we go the whole distance and realize that the Jesus-memorial of “communion” was not originally an official, church-program ceremony but probably was more often a part of table fellowship, well, then, we’re onto something again in terms of worship.  It is highly advisable to remember the Lord’s sacrifice while fleshing out some of its implications in the second “body” — those siblings who are with you around the table.  Communion can function as a bidirectional aspect of the Christian gathering:  it is at once vertically and horizontally oriented.


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