Call to Worship – God comes near and takes hold of us, and brings us near to Him in order to do something new with us.
During the Call to Worship, we are to understand that we are approaching the Heavenly City. God is calling us into His Presence to Renew Covenant With us.
This Call to worship comes from the Psalm of the Day, and is concluded with the Triune Name of God. It is the Triune God who calls us into His presence. We are not Unitarians, we are not idolaters, we worship the one true God in Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We respond with a Corporate Amen, confirming that we have heard the Summons Call of God for us to enter into His Presence, and we not only heard it, but we will heed it.
Next the Minister confirms to us that this is a good thing to heed God’s Call – “ I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”
The People respond by affirming their readiness to ascend into Heaven, into God’s house and Heavenly Throne Room. The Ascension does not happen immediately as a one time action. There is a progression that occurs, a continual ascension throughout the Liturgy. Like when the children get to the True Narnia, they are summoned to go further up and further in.
It is important that we are only at the gates of the Heavenly City, we are still on earth looking up to Heaven. “To you I lift up my eyes, to the one enthroned in Heaven.”
We confirm again, that our eyes are fixed on Yahweh, till He has mercy upon us. And that is the impetus behind our ascent into His Presence – Mercy. If we are called into God’s presence and He was going to destroy us, we would not be eager to go. But God confirms that it is for Mercy that He calls us to Himself.
We then begin ascent with a Processional Hymn. It is as if we are processing up the way from the gate up through the courtyard, singing.
When the Processional Hymn is finished, we have now Arrived at the Front Door. We are greeted in the Name of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus. We return the greeting – And also with you.
Admittedly, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God, so we need to be encouraged again, that God, the one with whom we have to do, is the same one in whom our help is. Our Help is in the Name of Yahweh, Maker of Heaven and Earth.
Confession and Forgiveness – God separates us from our sins and sinful ways by calling us to repentance and granting us forgiveness of sins. He reminds us that we bear the name of the Christ.
It is important to remember that God knows our condition as sinners, and He has made provision for us in Jesus – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
After the Corporate confession of Sin is made, we cry out to God using an ancient song for Mercy – the Kyrie Eleison – Lord have Mercy, Christ have Mercy, Lord have Mercy – comes from the Eastern Church, originating we think around the fourth century AD.
After God hears our confession of sin and our cry for mercy, the Lord, through His minister, forgives us of our sin, and absolves us of our guilt. The only proper response is to give thanks.
We now can continue on our journey of ascent into God’s heavenly house. Having wiped our feet at the door, so to say, we have been cleansed to enter into the Holy House of God.
We sing another Hymn, the Ascension Hymn in response to God’s further mercy of forgiveness and allowing us into His house.
Consecration of the Word: Scripture Reading and Sermon – God speaks to us through His word. Once we have been cleansed and have ascended into God’s House, there are some instructions, and commands, and words, and promises that the Lord wants us to know about how we are to conduct ourselves as His children in His house.
The Collect of the Day attempts to summarize the upcoming lessons from the Scripture
There are 3 passages read – one from the Old Covenant, one from the Epistles, and one from the Gospels. This is to show that the Bible is a unified book, a consistent testimony from God concerning His Son Jesus.
We also will chant the Psalm of the Day after the Old Covenant Lesson, and again after the Epistle Lesson. For someone who has not experienced Psalm Chanting before, this might seem like an odd and peculiar way of singing. And we admit, it does have a bit of odd feeling to it. However, what we essentially are trying to accomplish here is to sing the very words of Scripture. The Psalter has been the Church’s Song Book for thousands of years, and we want to follow the command of the Apostle Paul who told us to sing Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. And chanting the Psalms is one way in the Church in its many branches throughout the ages has sought to Glorify God by singing to Him His own inspired words.
Then we come to the Gospel Lesson. Admittedly, there is a bit of preference given to the Gospel, over the Old Covenant and Epistle Lessons. With the height of God’s Revelation given in Jesus, the Gospels have a preeminence in the Bible. When the Gospels are read, the people shall stand. In some Churches, the minister who reads the Gospel, will come down and read the Gospel in the center aisle, signifying the Incarnation, the Revelation of God coming down to us.
After the word is read, we affirm our commitment to the Trinitarian Faith once Delivered to the Saints as recorded to us in the Scriptures, by pledging our allegiance to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, confessing our faith with the Creed (Apostle’s, Nicene, Athanasian, or St. Patrick’s). It is appropriate that after confessing our allegiance to the Triune God, we praise Him by singing the Gloria Patri. All Praise to the Holy Trinity.
Then, the minister will preach a sermon. If he is following the lectionary, his sermon will be on one of the lessons just previously read. Or if He is in another sermon series altogether, he will preach from something different.
At this point, someone might ask why is there so much Bible reading and preaching? The simple truth is, faith comes by hearing, and hearing, true hearing unto salvation, comes by hearing Christ’s word. The heart of God’s Covenant with us is ethical, and word centered. The Second Person of the Trinity is the Eternal Word of God. God’s primary means of communicating to His people is by way of the Word. The minister would do well in the sermon to lift up Jesus Christ and magnify Him, for when Christ is lifted up in people’s hearts, He draws them unto Himself more deeply.
After the sermon, there is a time of the giving the tithes and offerings, and a time of prayer. It is appropriate in response to God’s good gift of His word, that we would confirm again our obedience to what was said by the giving up of ourselves to God’s service. We only offer to God, what He first gave to us. Thus, the minister, when he receives the collection, and offers prayer to God, he will lift it up, symbolizing that the gifts that we give to God, come from Him first. While the offering is being lifted up, we then sing the doxology, praising God from whom all blessings flow, indicating in song what we are symbolizing with the lifting up of the offering. The minister will then place the offering on the Altar, further signifying that we are offering up ourselves and all that we possess as a sacrifice to God.
Next is the time of Prayer. God has just instructed us in His word, and in response we give to Him everything, because he has given everything to us. Now that the air is cleared, so to say, God encourages us to speak to Him. God loves to hear the cries and petitions and thanksgivings of His children. This is our time to talk to God about the deep things in our hearts. Now, the minister can’t know what is in everyone’s hearts, so he in one sense has to offer up general prayers which are applicable to all people. It is the duty of the people to affirm the details of their hearts prayer with God, responding when the minister says, O Lord in your Mercy, with, Hear our Prayers.
Our prayers will consist usually of prayers for the Civil magistrates, both local and national; for the Church and denomination, for missionaries and ministries, for our town, our local congregation, and those who are sick, injured, afflicted, and distressed.
We then conclude our Prayer time with the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray this prayer. We will usually sing it, but sometimes we will say it. The tune is an ancient tune, helping us to make deeper connections with the saints in the Church throughout the ages.
The minister will say, right before the Lord’s Prayer, “we are bold to pray…” Our Father… Why is it bold of us to pray to God as Our Father? Because in the Old Covenant, nobody called God, Father. Jesus freely called God, Father, and when he taught us to pray that God is our Father, he is telling us that we are adopted into the Divine Family of the Father, Son, and Spirit, made partakers of the Divine Nature. We have become members of the Divine Council with the Son, who is now our brother. We have been adopted into God’s Family, and we can therefore enter boldly to the throne of Grace. We boldly pray to God as Father, because we are certain he will hear us and answer our prayers if we pray in earnest. No other religion has a God so close to them that they can call their god, Father, and their Savior, brother.
God Communes With Us: The Lord’s Supper – God invites us to commune with him at his covenant meal, we respond by memorializing his covenant and enjoying his faithfulness to us. This meal seals blessings for our obedience or curses for disobedience (1 Cor. 11:29,32).
The Lord’s Supper is the climax of the Covenant renewal service. It is particularly here, at the table of God, where everything that has happened thus far in the service, is confirmed to us. The meal is a sign and seal of God’s covenant promises.
The minister will begin by giving a communion exhortation. He will attempt to relate something from the sermon, or one of the readings to the Lord’s Table and the sacrament. He will conclude his exhortation with the Sursum Corda, (latin, Lift up your Hearts) telling the congregation to Lift Up their Hearts! In this Lifting up of the heart, we are moving into the climatic and highest point of ascension into Heaven – Further up and Further in to God’s Glorious Presence.
Now, if you are familiar with the CREC, and have attended any number of our Churches you might have noticed that it has become a practice in our denomination to use the Sursum Corda and the Sanctus toward the beginning of the Liturgy, after the Absolution. So why did I put the Sursum Corda and the Sanctus before Communion, much later in the Liturgy? Because this is where it has always been in the history of the Church. In every branch of the Church, East and West, In the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and yes, in the Reformed liturgical Traditions, this is where this part of the service takes place. And by using it here, we are indicating that the Ascension into God’s presence did not just happen once at the beginning of the service, but that there is a Progression of Ascent, and at the Table of the Lord, we have reached the Summit.
During the Eucharistic Prayer, the minister will sometimes add phrases into the prayer based up the Liturgical season. It will always proceed after… “O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God…” The Eucharistic prayer will always end with, “Therefore with angels and archangels …etc.”
We then will sing the Sanctus. Since we have now just ascended into the Highest heights of Heaven, we are with the Angels, the Archangles, the Seraphim, and all the Christians have gone before us who continually cry before God in Heaven, Holy, Holy, Holy.
Once we have entered into the Highest Heaven, there is no place for malice, anger, resentment, offense, bitterness etc, We have peace with God, and with one another. And so as the Lord Jesus said to His disciples and friends on the day of His resurrection, Peace be unto you, everyone shall respond with, “The Peace of Christ be also with you.
We then will Pass the Peace to one another. This is not a greet your neighbor time. This is a truly extraordinary act of worship in which we not only acknowledge, but experience the peace, love, and forgiveness that we have with God, and with one another.
God did not just save us to Himself, but he saved us to one another. We are in a Body, and it is important to recognize that Christ’s death, which were are about to memorialize in the meal, has accomplished the peace between Heaven and Earth, as He intended. His indicative is our imperative.
We then will be called back to our seats with the Agnus Dei, another very ancient song, in which we pray for God to grant us mercy, and the peace that we have just extended to one another.
Then comes the part when God and man sit down at table together. This is what we have all been waiting for. This is what the whole service has been leading to.
The minister will pray for the bread, the people will respond, Blessed be God forever and ever.
The minister will say, Do this is my memorial. A memorial is different than just mere remembrance. The biblical notion of “memorial” is significant in this regard. A memorial is something that recalls the covenant to God’s mind (Noah’s rainbow, for example). The Old Testament sacrifices were “memorials” of the coming Messiah, effective because they reminded the Father of the Son’s future redemption. The Eucharist is Christ’s memorial in the same sense: The Church presents the tokens of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice before the Father, and He remembers His covenant promise to be a God to us and to our children forever, and to feed us truly with the saving benefits that Christ accomplished.
Or, to put it another way, we are calling upon God to put into effect right here and now what Christ accomplished once for all in His Death and Resurrection and Ascension. A memorial is much more profound than merely “remembering.”
After the minister eats and drinks, before He distributes the bread to the ushers, he will exhort you to feed on Christ in your heart by faith and with thanksgiving. This comes from the Book of Common Prayer. For mere eating with the teeth will profit a man nothing. He must feed on Christ in His heart for salvation.
While the bread and the wine are being distributed, the congregation will sing again, usually a song with a Eucharistic motif to it.
The minister concludes the meal time with a final Prayer of Thanksgiving, giving a final bookend to the Eucharist (thanksgiving meal).
We will sing another Hymn, the Celebration hymn. This is important psychologically, for it confirms to us that the table of the Lord is not a funeral. It is a celebration. We have just feasted with our king on the most precious food in Heaven and Earth, the very Body and Blood of God’s only begotten Son. How could this not be a Celebration?
We also are very conscious about the kind of "atmosphere" that happens in much of the Reformed world surrounding the Lord's Supper. In many places it is a somber, sorrowful, penitential experience in which the Church confesses her sins again to God. But we have already been forgiven, now is a time to Feast and Rejoice! In restoring a celebratory feel to the Lord's Supper, we are also inculcating in our children, an anticipation of Joy in the Lord's House. We really do want our children to grow up saying, and meaning, "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the House of the Lord.'"
The Benediction and Commission – God blesses us and charges us to extend his kingdom into the future and into the world by preaching the gospel and making disciples.The minister will give the Aaronic Benediction, closing it with a Trinitarian Blessing.
He will then commission the people to go forth into all the world
and proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
The People will respond with the Scriptural Promise that the Earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, giving them encouragement to go, and confidence in knowing that they are not laboring in vain.
A final commissioning hymn is sung, usually very Triumphal, and rousing.
Go in peace to love and Serve the Lord Jesus Christ and one another.
If you have any questions about the Liturgy we use at Christ the Redeemer Church, please talk to the Pastor, and he will gladly attempt to answer any questions you have.