Our Worship Service

2014-03-01 8287buttonThe worship service at Calvary URC may be different than you may expect.  The first question we naturally ask of ourselves is, “What do I want or like?”  However, the first question should be, “What does God want, like, desire or command of us in worship?”  These questions may sound strange to modern ears but they are important questions.  We do not merely want to worship the right God but to worship him correctly.  God is not silent about what pleases him nor is he silent about what he desires from us in worship.  At Calvary, this is our desire — to worship God according to his Word.

One of the main reasons for the Protestant Reformation was to reform worship.  The intention of our forefathers was meant to reform worship according to the Word of God.  Many aberrant ideas and innovations had crept into the medieval church.  The situation is the same in our day.  However, counter-intuitive as it may seem or feel, our lives, and in particular, our worship is to be conducted according to the word of God.  This is not to stifle our freedom but rather to provide us with unspeakable freedom as we worship God in ways which he has revealed in scripture.  We do not bind anyone’s conscience to participate in an activity which God has not called us to as those gathered together in his presence.

More than merely traditional or old-fashioned, our liturgy is patterned after John Calvin’s 16th Century worship service in Geneva, Switzerland.  Elements of the worship service, such as the recitation of the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, have been a part of worship services in Protestant churches for centuries.  Only in recent years have these elements been excluded.  We have brought them back into our worship for very good reasons.  Those reasons follow in this explanation of the various parts of our liturgy.

Our worship is “dialogical” – meaning that God calls his people together before his holy presence and we as a gathered people respond.  He calls, we pray; he commands, we confess; he pardons, we thank/praise him; he speaks, we listen; he gives, we give in response; he feeds us, we receive (Word and Sacrament); he provides all that we need for faith and life in Jesus Christ, we respond with lives of gratitude.

The Call to Worship

God calls us to worship him. He summons us into his presence and we gladly obey his command to glorify his name.  Psalm 95 is a famous call to worship.  The Psalmist says to his fellow worshipers, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”

  • Invocation
    As we have entered into the presence of God, we call upon his name, the Name of the One who has delivered us from our sin and who promises eternal life in Christ.  A high and holy drama of salvation is about to be underway.
  • The Lord’s Greeting
    In response to the congregation’s invocation of God’s name, God speaks his blessing, declaring grace and peace to those who have gathered in Christ’s name.
  • Reading of the Law
    How do we, sinners, gather with any manner of confidence before a holy God?  God declares in his perfect law who may approach him.  Far from eliminating the demands of the Law, Jesus explained the impossibility of keeping the Law.  As we confess that we have fallen short of the glory of God, we flee to Christ and trust him who obeyed the Law for us and who shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins.
  • Confession and Absolution
    Oh, how we need the assurance that God will not hold our sin against us, but has truly forgiven our sin for the sake of Christ!  In this part of the service, we are reminded and assured once again that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
  • Pastoral Prayer
    Assured that our sins are forgiven, we may approach with confidence into the very presence of God and receive help in our time of need.  In the pastoral prayer, the minister interceds on behalf of the church, not only for his own congregation but for the church all over the world.  Our prayers are heard only because of the one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Jesus taught his disciples, as well as ourselves, the scope and elements of prayer when he taught them how to pray in The Lord’s Prayer.
  • The Lord’s Prayer
    Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  AMEN
  • Offerings of Thanksgiving
    Our offerings do not pay for our sins but are mere tokens of our recognition that everything we have, and everything we are, belongs to God.  We give for the sake of the ministry of the Word and for the sake of those in need.
  • The Word of the Lord Proclaimed
    The Word of God is addressed to God’s people so that they might believe and therefore be saved.  The Word is powerful and active, able to transform, to build up and to tear down any obstacle to godliness and holiness.  As God plants His Word in our hearts, it bears the peaceful fruit to righteousness for all “who have ears to hear.”
  • Benediction
    God gets the last Word!  And it is a good one.  It is a word of blessing, a promise to keep us and be gracious to us always.  It is a word of peace, so that we might be always confident that God is favorably disposed to us; that God is not out to “get us” but is working everything out for our salvation and granting us His peace.