Outline

I. This lecture represents a transition in the course as we begin to trace the continuation of certain experiences and convictions through stages of development.

A. As the community takes on greater definition, it increasingly becomes the main vehicle through which religious experience is mediated in its practices of worship, teaching, and ethics.

B. A dominant way of understanding this transition is in terms of loss of the experiential (or "charismatic") in favor of institutionalization. This view of development as decline is a prime example of theological presuppositions distorting analysis.

C. A more phenomenological approach recognizes that even in origins, there are elements of structure and that as forms of structure change, elements of experience remain alive and often powerful.

II. Worship in the New Testament is not fully described and is known mainly through allusion.

A. Earliest Christianity had little distinctive sense of sacred space and time—note the "transcendent" character of the primordial experience of the Resurrection.

1. Places of worship were in the beginning Jewish—the temple and synagogue—and shifted to the household; there were no public worship buildings before the fourth century.

2. Only the "Lord's Day" is set aside in New Testament writings (1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10), and Passover may have been observed (1 Cor. 5:7).

B. The practice of worship involved various combinations of the following elements, although we are not able to reconstruct any order of worship.

1. Some elements were drawn from the worship of the synagogue: the reading of Scripture, study, singing of psalms and hymns, prayer, and preaching.

2. Some specific and distinctive Christian rituals include the use of kinship language (Christians called one another "brother" and "sister"), the fellowship kiss, washing of feet, and (as already learned), baptism and fellowship meals (Lord's Supper). The practice of ecstatic utterance (prophecy, glossolalia) probably occurred in the context of worship, as well.

C. These elements of practice are accompanied by certain convictions.

1. The community gathered "in the name of Jesus" embodies his presence in more than a simply metaphorical fashion.

2. The energy in the assembly that empowers both ordinary and extraordinary means of transformation is given by God through the Holy Spirit.

III. In the second century, we have fragmentary glimpses of Christian worship as it develops in the time before Constantine.

A. Pliny the Younger's Letter to Trajan 10.5 (around the year 112) contains a short description of a Christian liturgy as perceived by a Roman governor who has gotten information through torture. 1. He learned that Christians assembled on a fixed day, prayed, and vowed not to commit crimes, not to break their word, and to share possessions. They met again to eat together.

2. The governor concluded that Christianity constituted nothing worse than a "perverse and extravagant superstition."

B. The Satirist Lucian of Samosata's Proteus Peregrinus 11 provides another outsider perception: Christians read books, believed in an afterlife, shared their possessions, were not afraid to die for their beliefs, and helped those in need.

C. The Martyrdom of Polycarp (14:2, 15:2) and the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch (Smyrneans 7:1-2; Romans 4:1-2) show the development of eucharistic imagery in connection with martyrdom.

D. The Didache 9-14 provides us with a late first-century or early second-century instruction on worship, which resembled the sort of gathering with prayers and blessings that a leader in a Jewish household would conduct.

E. The First Apology 66-67 of Justin Martyr offers a report on a mid-second-century liturgy: On Sunday, sacred texts would be read; a sermon would be preached; the congregation would rise and pray, then participate in the Eucharist; and their leader would offer prayers.

IV. The dramatically changed conditions of imperial favor under Constantine begin the equally dramatic development of a Christian worship that becomes more elaborate and pervasive.

A. Sacred space enters Christianity in two visible ways:

1. Grand public buildings for worship allow for the expansion of worship both in duration and complexity.

2. A preoccupation with "the Holy Land" begins the traditions of specifically Christian pilgrimage.

B. Sacred time becomes a feature of Christianity in two complex ways:

1. The development of Christian feasts (Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost) creates a liturgical year that sacralizes time.

2. The development of a sacramental system (baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, reconciliation, ordination, marriage, anointing of the sick) sacralizes all the stages of life.

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