We are continuing our study of the way the church offers her worship of Almighty God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! As we have seen, the church presents herself to God in worship through what we know as the “liturgy”. The word liturgy actually means “service” and in the setting of corporate worship that is precisely what we are doing. We are offering our service to God through confession, prayer, hymns and songs, the reading of His Holy Word, the sermon, the affirmation of faith (i.e., the Creeds), and as we do these things, God Himself is preparing us for a lifetime of service to Him and to His church, the body of Christ.
The apostle Paul put it this way, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, ESV). Those words challenge us to live a life of total and complete worship every day, not just on the Lord’s Day or Sunday.
Last month we looked at the important of the Invocation and Confession & Forgiveness or Confession & Absolution. These two aspects of our worship remind me of Isaiah 6:1-6 and Revelation 1:9-20 and 4:1-11. In each of these passages we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah or the Apostle John as they record for us their vision of Almighty God in His heavenly glory surrounded by all the heavenly hosts. We need to keep in mind that every time we worship, we do not worship alone. When we offer our worship to God, we are also worshiping with all the saints that have gone before and are also engaged in the worship. Therefore, our worship is never to be haphazard, arbitrary, or careless. Jesus revealed to the woman at the well His Father’s desire for those who worship Him in these words, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him” [John 4:23, ESV].
Now returning to the liturgy proper, we have seen what is required of us as we prepare to enter into the holy presence of God to worship and to praise His name. This preparation takes place in the Invocation and the Confession & Absolution.
The next part of the liturgy is our welcome of the Lord as we enter into His presence. Depending on the day of the church year and if the Sunday includes the sacrament of Holy Communion or not, at this point in the liturgy there is the signing of a hymn or the Kyrie. The Entrance Hymn is not just any hymn or our favorite hymn. It is an expression of the glory of God, the person of God, or some attribute of His character such as His holiness, immortality, wisdom, perfection, or power.
The Kyrie is also an affirmation of God’s character, but also includes an expression of our emptiness without God and of our personal need to have Him who created us for His glory to work in us to renew us and to fill us with His grace. Kyrie is the Greek word for “Lord” and as we sing the Kyrie we are asking the Lord to have mercy upon us. We also petition our Lord to grant us peace and unity and to help, save, comfort, and defend us as His people.
After the Kyrie is the Salutation or the Greeting. Here the pastor prays for the presence of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – to come upon and to bless the entire congregation, assembled as one people, the people of the Living God redeemed by Christ. In many cases it is with the words of the Greeting that we are reminded of the reality of the Trinity. The God who has revealed Himself in Holy Scripture is One God eternally existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all equal in being, authority, power and glory.
Following the Salutation is the Collect or the Prayer of the Day. The word “Collect” comes from Latin and means “to gather the people together” and it applies to the liturgy as we gather as one people in the presence of God and welcome Him into our midst and receive His invitation to meet with Him. The Collect or the Prayer of the Day is a short prayer which gathers or “collects” us together in our thoughts and prayers for the entire church – the church on earth and the church in heaven. In God’s sight, we are His one true church composed of all who have received the power of His grace, the forgiveness of our sins, and are united together in Christ the Only Saviour of all mankind.
We began this series of articles by asking the question, “Why the Liturgy?” It is my prayer that as we look at each of these articles and as we step back and look at them as a whole, we will realize and see the importance and the blessing of the Liturgy as it keeps our worship on track and keep us involved. The Liturgy provides us with the proper preparation to enter into the presence of Almighty God and to welcome Him into our midst as we joyfully respond to His invitation to worship and praise His holy name!
Thanks be to God!
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