Agapē Feast of God's Word
Unlike the other articles on Christian Origins/Current Faith, this one less about information than a model for worship. This is a proposed liturgy called the Agapē Feast of God's Word based on the communion meals shared by the first-century church. It encompasses two basic things that Jesus wants us to do: listen and act (Matt. 7:24-27). The Jewish triennial reading cycle for the Torah portions and the first-century worship manual known as the Didache inspire the Agapē Feast of God's Word. It features the Revised Common Lectionary that nearly all historically Protestant (e.g., Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian) churches use today, balancing the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets of the Old Testament with the gospels and apostolic letters of the New Testament. The second part of the liturgy is the agapē, or "love feast" (see "Communion: Partaking in Faith").
Here is the outline:
Readings (New Revised Standard Version & Revised Common Lectionary)
Psalms (sung a cappella or with instrumental music)
New Testament Letters
Expository Open-Forum Lesson
The presbyter leads an open-forum lesson based on the lectionary readings, teaching by the historical-grammatical method. Questions are permitted and encouraged.
Confession of First-Century Faith
Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone; we shall love the LORD our God with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, with all of our minds, and with all of our strength. We shall love our neighbors as ourselves. We shall keep these words that God is commanding us today in our hearts. We shall recite them to our children and talk about them when at home and away, when we lie down and when we rise. We shall bind them in our actions, establish them in our thoughts, and let them be the rule of our homes.
The apostles handed on to us this primary tradition: That Christ died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day according to the scriptures. He appeared to Simon Peter, then to the twelve. Jesus appeared to more than 500 brothers and sisters at once. He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Finally, as to one untimely born, Christ appeared to Paul. Jesus was revealed in flesh, vindicated by the Holy Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, trusted in throughout the world, and taken up in glory. In him, we are children of God through faith. Those of us who are baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves with him. There is neither Jew nor gentile, slave nor free, male nor female; for all are one in Christ Jesus. Since we belong to him, we are Abraham's offspring, heirs of the promise. There is one body and one Spirit, just as we were called to the one hope of our calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. We are branches grafted into the root of Israel's tree. We stand by faith, not proudly, but in awe of God's salvation. As often as we partake of Christ's body and blood, we proclaim his death and resurrection until he comes. Amen.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Bring us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:23b-26).
We thank you, Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your Son; to you be the glory forever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom; for your is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever (Did. 9:3-4).
This is an actual meal shared by all in attendance in celebration of a godly life together. The goal is to apply church funds to cater this meal each Sunday morning around 11:00 am.
The presbyter reads this post-communion prayer from the Didache or a benedictory verse from scripture to close out worship.
We thank you, Father, for your holy name which you caused to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which you made known to us through Jesus your Son; to you be the glory forever. You, O Lord, created all things for your name's sake; You gave us food and drink for enjoyment, that we may give thanks to you; but to us you freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through your Son. Before all things we thank you for your power; to you be the glory forever. Remember, Lord, your church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in your love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for your kingdom which you prepared for it; for yours is the power and the glory forever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to God, the Son of David! If anyone is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Amen (Did. 10:2-14).
Janicki, Toby. The Way of Life—Didache: A New Translation and Messianic Jewish Commentary. Marshfield, MO: Vine of David, 2017.
O'Laughlin, Thomas. The Didache: A Window on the Earliest Christians. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.
Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson, trans. "Didache." Fullerton, CA: Early Christian Writings, 2021. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html.
Strong, James. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Updated and Expanded Edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007.
Wright, N. T., and Michael F. Bird. The New Testament in Its World: An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the First Christians. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019.