Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ancient-Future Talk: November 2005

A Call To An Ancient Evangelical Future

I and others are putting together a document calling upon evangelical Christians to turn away from the cultural narrative and return to the Biblical narrative as the source of all Christian ministry.

The preamble is below as are the 36 areas of the "Call." I have also put the Chicago call of 1977 up on my website for you to check it out. The new call will update and expand the Chicago Call.

The current search is to identify younger evangelical (in age or spirit) who have an interest in being a participant through e-mail conversation. If you qualify as a younger evangelical academic (teacher, pastor, leader) and would like to participate in the formation of this document send me:
1) Your name, position and e-mail;
2) The area of your interest (one of the 36);
3) Names (with e-mail) of other people who should be included.

After the document has been written there will be an opportunity for everyone - seminarians, pastors, worship pastors, youth leaders - who share the convictions of the "Call" to be original signers through a website (not up yet): www.ancientevangelicalfuture.

Bob Webber
Myers Professor of Ministry
Director of M.A. in Worship and Spirituality

Northern Seminary
See Northern's M.A. in Worship and Spirituality and D.Min. in Worship by clicking on the website.



In every age the Holy Spirit calls the church to examine its faithfulness to God's story. We younger evangelicals recognize with gratitude God's blessing through the evangelical resurgence in the church. Yet at such a time of growth we need to be especially sensitive to our weaknesses. We believe that today evangelicals are hindered from achieving full maturity by a captivity to the cultural narrative. There is, therefore, a pressing need to reflect more deeply on the substance of the biblical narrative, its articulation in the historic faith and to a recovery of the fullness of this heritage. Without presuming to address all our needs, we have identified 36 areas to which we as evangelical Christians must give careful theological consideration: This call incorporates and expands the Chicago Call of 1977, and sets forth an Ancient-Future faith for a postmodern world.

Classical Foundations

1. A call to organic faith and practice
2. A call to God's story
3. A call to be the people of God
4. A call to biblical authority
5. A call to the historic hermeneutic


6. A call to theological reflection
7. A call to creedal identity
8. A call to ancient theology
9. A call to reaffirm the atonement
10. A call to confessional humility


11. A call to narrative worship
12. A call to ancient preaching
13. A call to musical ecclecticism
14. A call to sacramental life
15. A call to artistic integrity
16. A call to Christian time


17. A call to holistic salvation
18. A call to Christian formation
19. A call to catechetical teaching


20. A call to historic spirituality
21. A call to sacramental spirituality
22. A call to ethical integrity


23. A call to servant leadership
24. A call to women in ministry
25. A call to sacramental healing


26. A call to Biblical values
27. A call to family values
28. A call to moral absolutes

Life in the World

29. A call to the sanctity of life
30. A call to Christian community
31. A call to the new monasticism
32. A call to sacramental ecology

Roots and Continuity

33. A call to historic connection
34. A call to an ecumenical spirit
35. A call to interfaith dialogue

Ministry Formation

36. A call to seminary reform


We call the Evangelical church to the faith and practice of ancient Christianity in a time of tumultuous cultural transition and change. In this moment when a failed modernity is succeeded by the upheaval of the postmodern, post-Christian and neo-pagan world, we call the church back to the meta-narrative of God, and to its implications for a missional and countercultural witness. May the church not be formed by the world in which it lives, but by the narrative to which it belongs, the story of God. For it is only through God's story proclaimed, enacted and embodied by God's people that the world will learn its own destiny.

We offer this call as a reflection of the new leadership among the younger evangelicals and as a document to facilitate the theological thinking and applied theology of the next generation. Your signature does not bind you to the nuances of every call, but is instead an affirmation that you embrace the general call to return to the priority of God's story and seek to narrate the world out of God's perspective.


Hebraic table prayers for Thanksgiving

Deuteronomy 8:10 When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.

Advent begins in Thanksgiving

How does the Lord appear? The prophet Isaiah tells us that the glory of the Lord will be revealed…as the rough places of our lives are made smooth, our mountainous hardness of heart brought down, ‘every valley shall be exalted and the mountains and hills made low.’ Then shall the glory of the Lord be revealed!

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’

Historically, Christians have emphasized Advent as a time of leveling the mountains, making smooth the rough areas of our hearts. But we have forgotten that such prophetic preparation comes straight out of our Judaic roots. And, little do we realize that it all begins in Thanksgiving.

Hebraic table as pattern of Thanksgiving

The Second Temple Jews understood that unless God was thanked in practice, He wasn’t thanked at all. So they would prepare their lives by bringing God to their very table, at formal meal in the evening. And this is one of the most moving things I’ve found in all my studies…

They would begin this “advent meal,” or meal of preparation, with a blessing prayer, praising God in creation and provision. Then they would bless the food to each person as it was passed, and the cup, praised to God for the fruit given of the vine, and then to the health of the family by name.

Following the meal then, after being filled, they would praise God in a three-fold pattern: a blessing for God filling the world with good things, a thanksgiving for God’s law and inheritance, and then a prayer for God’s city, God’s people.

Listen to a portion of early Jewish table liturgy, where the Holy God is welcomed into the home, at the sacred table…in accordance with Deuteronomy 8:10, et al.

Leader: Friends, let us bless.
May God be praised from this moment through eternity.
May God be praised from this moment through eternity. With your permission, friends, let us praise God for we have eaten of God's bounty.
Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten, Whose goodness is our lives.
Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten, Whose goodness is our lives. Praised be God and praised be God's name.

The Table Leader would pray:
Blessed are You, LORD our God, Ruler of the universe, Who sustains the whole world in goodness with grace, kindness and compassion. God gives food to all creatures because God's mercy is eternal…Blessed are You, LORD, Sustainer of all.

Thank you, L
ORD our God, for this good and spacious land that you have given our ancestors as an inheritance, and for the food that sustains us always, every day, every season, every moment. For everything, LORD our God, we thank you and praise you. May praise of Your name always be on the lips of every living being, as it is written, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God Who has given you this good earth.” Blessed are You, LORD, for the earth and for the food.

Early Christians understood this table aspect of the presence of God…obviously, since they were all Jews! The first Christians understood that the real meal of faith was a communal meal in the presence of God. And they followed this pattern of table thanksgiving, powerfully.

What would happen if we recovered this integral aspect of thanksgiving, and again allowed God at our tables…not just in some rote prayer drowned out by the roar of TV football – Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys! – in the background…followed up by people gorging themselves beyond common sense, and then leaving the table not thankful, but overly-satiated and selfishly fed.

This Thanksgiving, what if we prepared for Holy Advent by thanking God with our table? What would happen if hundreds and thousands of families across America turned down the TV and again allowed the Holy One to feast with them in conscious remembrance at Thanksgiving…?

A recovery of Judaic-Christian prayers

For renewal of Thanksgiving and Advent, I offer a recovered 1st century Jewish-Christian table liturgy.

Here is a pattern of table liturgy faithful to the Judaic ‘meal of prayer.’ These come straight out of documents recovered from 1st century Christians and Jews. The basic pattern here is simple: communal prayers before eating, and then prayers following the meal. [The meal can be elaborated, as individuals are blessed by name at the pouring of the drink, and as part of the meal, but the simple pattern is shared prayer before and after.]

Table liturgy from 1st century prayers

Prayer before Eating

Leader: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for this drink which you have provided us -- through Jesus Christ, the holy Son of David.
Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever
Leader: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the life and knowledge which You bring us in this meal -- through your Son Jesus our Lord.

Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
Leader: As Jesus Christ has come down from heaven to be the Bread for the world, so feed us now on this bread taken in your Name, through your Holy Spirit, blessed God forever, Amen.

Group: Thine is the kingdom, and power, and glory forever, Amen!

[individuals may be blessed by name during pouring & after eating]

Prayer after the Meal

Leader: Friends, let us bless.

Group: May God be praised from this moment through eternity.

Leader: May God be praised from this moment through eternity.
Friends, let us praise God for we have eaten of God's bounty.

Group: Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten,

Whose goodness is our lives.

Leader: Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten,

Whose goodness is our lives.

Praised be God and praised be God's name!

Leader: We give Thee thanks, Holy Father, for your holy name, which You have made to dwell in our hearts, and for the life in this food, given through your Son Jesus.
Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
Leader: Thou, Almighty Master, didst create all things for Thy name's sake, and didst give food and drink unto humans for enjoyment, that they might render thanks to Thee: so we give Thee thanks, for Thou art great;
Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
Leader: Remember, Lord, Thy people to deliver us from all evil and to perfect us in Thy love; and gather us into Thy holy kingdom --
Group: for Thine is the power and the glory for ever and ever.
ALL: May grace come though this world pass away.

Hosanna to the God of David! Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, Amen.

How far would such a recovery of table liturgy go toward renewing a sense of the holy in our world?

Perhaps it would begin a natural repentance, a national preparation for Christ's Thanksgiving!

Your thoughts?

Note: This article is by Loy Mershimer, for discussion on ancientfutureworship blog. Please do not blame Bob for the writing of this article, but please blame him for its inspiration! Any similarity to thoughts of Bob Webber is strictly intentional; any dissimilarity is an unfortunate, heretical departure from the holy canons of St. Bob... :-)