Every Sunday Christians Re-experience Their Story

Siberia—Working with outsiders means listening and being heard, according to Eduard Genrich, of Second Baptist Church in Novosibirsk. People here say they are encouraged and helped by outsiders, but taken advantage of by some. (photo by Don Rutledge)

The order of worship in churches is based on the only full worship service we have recorded in scripture which is Isaiah 6:1-8.

When we start the service the first thing that happens is acknowledging we have come into the presence of God. This is similar to how you start a story and introduce characters.

When we meet God in this moment it will cause us to be reminded of our sin, which is also similar to a story needing crisis/tension. This is where in worship we acknowledge there is nothing we can do and only God’s grace is able to save us. But first we must confess.

This dialogue continues between man and God in worship where after we confess and God has forgiven us, then God is asking who will go. This is like in the storyline where the mentor is outlining to the main character what they need to do to overcome their crisis.

Often this is where the homily/sermon is given that gives us more insights on how to live our lives. This is the direction given to all main subjects in a story that then they go and then live out those instructions.

Emily Wright during the Easter Services at Roswell Presbyterian Church.

Here is the scripture that both Christians and Jews use to create their order of worship.

Isaiah 6:1-8 

REVELATION– verse 1: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

ADORATION– verse 3: “And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!'”

CONFESSION– verse 5: “Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.'”

EXPIATION– verse 6-7: “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.'”

PROCLAMATION– verse 8a: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?'”

DEDICATION– verse 8b: “Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.'”

SUPPLICATION– verse 11: “Then I said, ‘How long, O Lord?'”

COMMISSION– verse 9: “And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people…'”

Roswell Presbyterian Church

If you look at this order and then compare it to the Narrative Storyline you will see they have a lot in common.

PLOT – a series of incidents that are related to one another, what happens in a story, includes 5 stages (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution)

EXPOSITION – usually in the beginning of a story, where the characters, setting, and conflict (problem) are introduced

RISING ACTION – the part of the story where the conflict(s) develop, in which the suspense and interest builds

CLIMAX – the turning point or most exciting moment of a story, in which the main character comes face to face with the main conflict and a change happens

FALLING ACTION – all the loose ends of the plot are tied up, the conflict and climax are taken care of in this part of the story, and the suspense is eased

RESOLUTION – where the story comes to a reasonable ending and the outcome is resolved

Roswell Presbyterian Church
Here is how I see these lining up
Worship Service Narrative Story
Revelation Exposition
Confession Tension/Struggle
Expiation Climax
Proclamation Falling Action
Commission Resolution

All the stories in scripture have flawed characters who either turn to God for help and are obedient to those directions or they refuse to be obedient. Now many of those stories involve a series of times where well intentioned characters continue to come back to God and ask for forgiveness for not being obedient.

I believe the reason this format is used in worship is that it forces us to process our faith in story form. It continues to remind us that like all characters in a story that we live in crisis that we cannot solve on our own. We need help. In the stories of Hollywood you need THE FORCE in the Star Wars movies to take on your enemies. You go to someone like Yoda to be trained.

New hymnal celebration event at Presbyterian Church [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.3, 1/30]
In the Disney stories like Cinderella she needed a Fairy God Mother to help her.

We are moved by stories because we can relate. While the problems are different, they are problems that the main character, like us, cannot solve alone.

The other cool thing about worship services as it relates to storytelling is that it has a soundtrack. The music in worship services helps to set the tone for stories to be told and as we resonate with those stories we are reminded of the story we are living.