I can’t believe it’s August already and we have been meeting together in person with those who are comfortable doing so for a little over a month. I am also very grateful that we now have the capability of streaming via Zoom through our A/V system consistently so that people who are unable to be with us can join us to worship. So, I was thinking it might be a good time to visit some of the reasons we gather and why we worship as we do. I have always found it interesting that for some reason, suddenly various people will engage me in conversations around a specific topic within a short period of time. I have wondered ‘Why that topic?’ ‘Why that topic at this time?’ Did something change that disturbed them?’ ‘Especially, more than one person????’ Recently, it has been about questions concerning elements of worship. The questions have varied, but centered on various aspects of our worship service as a whole. Since we are now back in person, perhaps we are suddenly more engaged with or aware of the specifics of worship as we are gathering in the Lord’s house instead of on the couch with coffee looking at a computer screen! So why are we here and why are we doing what we do? I am going to write a couple of articles about worship liturgy beginning with the first part that is listed in the bulletin as PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP. First though, it is important to know that Worship is central to everything we do as a church. We meet on Sunday, the first day of the week recognizing that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. Worship is a service of Word and Sacrament where we are meeting in the presence of the living Lord; and, as a church we follow the Lord’s example of proclaiming the fullness of the Gospel for all people. Liturgy is the order of worship we follow. The word ‘liturgy’ is a composite of two Greek words meaning ‘the work of the people.’ We enter into God’s presence listening and responding to what God has to say to us. It is not a passive experience, we are active participants in relationship with our living God.
The PRELUDE, is a moment of music that is never intended as a performance that brings attention to musicians or vocalists but rather points to the One who gives us gifts of the arts that draw us to give thanks and praise to the Giver. The purpose of this time is to enter into a holy space by quieting ourselves and preparing for worship. Through music God speaks to us and we respond.
The CALL TO WORSHIP is typically drawn from scripture and expresses God’s invitation to gather as Christ’s body in the Lord’s house. It establishes the context for worship of entering into the presence of God, focusing on God and praising God. It reinforces the ‘vertical dimension’ of worship that draws our attention to God rather than ourselves.
The PRAYER OF THE DAY is a prayer that gives thanks and praise to God and expresses joy in the presence of Christ. In prayer we call on God to pour out the gifts of the Spirit on our family of faith as we gather in God’s presence. Praise for attributes of God or particular actions of God that are drawn from the biblical readings for the day reminds us that God is more than a vague ‘higher power,’ rather God is seen clearly in the person of Jesus Christ.
HYMNS were originally Psalms sung as praise and prayer to God. In addition to the Psalms the church has added other hymns, canticles and spiritual songs to sing glory to God. Hymns are an active response to God’s presence with God’s people through all of time. Singing together is a gift that is essential in worship helping us express our praise, thanksgiving and the deepest desires of our hearts. It moves our spirit in ways that the spoken word cannot.
Next month we will continue with the Call to Confession, Confession of Sin and the Assurance of Pardon; what people often refer to as the Debbie Downer of worship! Then, as space allows we will continue on through the Liturgy.
While the isolation of the pandemic took its toll on all of us one way or another, we have also been reminded that community and person to person connection with friends and family is essential to our well being and a sense of meaning in life. And, in the Lord’s house among the love of our family of faith, together we enter into and experience a living relationship with God who by the power of the Spirit sends each one of us into the world to share a love that is greater than any of us can imagine. Let us be grateful!