Through Thick and Thin

As Christ-followers, we worship the Lord through thick and thin.  We worship the Lord in good times and bad, with plenty and with little, after victory and after defeat, during storms and while basking in the sun.

We also worship the Lord through thick and thin practices.  Have you heard of that distinction? Those who study how Christians do church use it to distinguish between practices with many layers of meaning and those with one or two. Thick practices, as you may have already guessed, have multiple players of meaning. Plus, they have the added benefit of addressing our relationship the Lord. As James K.A. Smith noted in his book Desiring the Kingdom, they have a way of grabbing hold of our love.

A thin practice, for example, is congregational announcements. This is an important but thin practice with but one or two layers of meaning, the most important of which is its affirmation of the communal dimension of the local body of Christ.

In contrast, the Lord’s Supper is a thick practice. It has several layers of meaning. It is a remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice for our sins and communion with Christ. It prompts confession and engenders hope for our eternal feast in heaven. It also fosters unity with those who receive the supper with us.

But here’s another thick practice that you may have found especially meaningful: testimony. I use that word to refer to that time in the Sunday service when someone testifies to the work of God in his or her life. Testimony has several layers of meaning.

  1. It may prompt praise of God. People hear what God has done in the life of someone else and praise the Lord for his mercy and grace.
  2. It may encourage the listener to renew his or her vows to the Lord.
  3. It may offer hope for others. People hear what God has done for someone else and their hope is renewed for the intervention of God’s grace in their lives.
  4. It may build community. As one person shares a story with others, the community rejoices with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
  5. It may prepare the one who testifies before the church to testify before the world.
  6. It may encourage the development of the gift of discernment. As one person identifies how God has been at work in his or her life, it prompts others to look behind the events of their lives to discover the presence of a sovereign God.

When we gather each week, we participate through thick and thin practices. We benefit from both and both are play important parts in the liturgy. But given a choice between the two, choose thick.


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