Order of Worship
In Christian worship the scattered people of God come together to sing, listen, and respond to God by celebrating the living God whom we know through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41-42). The service of Holy Communion has four basic parts.
When we come into church, we come into a place where we can be with God in a very special way. One way we can get ready is by quieting our heads and our bodies (Psalm 46:10). Being quiet comes from inside us. It helps us to listen better, to be in God’s presence together, and helps other people around us do that, too. We will hear the organist play music called a Prelude to help us all prepare for worship. It is a time we can sit and pray or look around us at the windows and altar and other things in the church.
We stand when the pastor and the worship leaders walk in. The pastor calls us to worship by saying: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). When we see the + symbol in our bulletin, it means that this is a time when we can make the sign of the cross (Galatians 6:14). This is a reminder of Jesus’ death on the cross for us, and also of our own life as part of Christ’s risen body! On our high Festival Days, we begin worship with a formal procession of the choir and ministers. On most other Sundays, we prepare ourselves with a prayer of Confession (James 5:16).
We kneel for confession to be humble, like servants before our master, not able to defend ourselves. We ask for mercy, because we do not love and serve God or our neighbors as much as we care about our selves and our own life and comfort. Sometimes we make mistakes. We often act on our own without thinking or praying (Romans 7:14-25). We are part of a broken world that we cannot fix by ourselves. We need God’s help! So we confess all these things, and pray for mercy. The pastor reminds us of God’s promise: for Jesus’ sake, God forgives our sin, and sends the Holy Spirit to help us.
The Kyrie is short for the Greek words “Kyrie Eleison” which means “Lord, have mercy” (Mark 10:47). Using this ancient form of prayer we ask for God’s help and blessing upon the world and the church.
The Hymn of Praise, also called the Canticle of Praise, is sometimes a song made up of biblical texts, like the ancient “Gloria in excelsis” – “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14) – or the modern “Worthy Is Christ” (Revelation 5:9-13). At times we use another hymn to praise God at the beginning of worship.
With the Apostolic Greeting (II Cor. 13:14) the pastor and the people bless each other. This is a sign of our love in Jesus. Then the pastor leads us in the Prayer of the Day, written in the words and themes of the season and the Bible lessons for that Sunday or Festival.
This is a time to listen to God’s Word. The First Lesson is normally from the Old Testament in the Bible. In response, we usually chant the Psalm, a poem or prayer also from the Old Testament. The Second Lesson, sometimes called the Epistle, is almost always from the collection of letters of the early Christian church found in the New Testament. Then we stand and sing to welcome a reading from one of the four Gospels, the stories of the Good News of Jesus, found in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We read the same lessons with Christians all over the world from the lectionary, a schedule of readings chosen to make sure we hear God’s word from all the different parts of scripture.
During the Sermon, the pastor preaches, proclaiming, teaching and interpreting the Bible readings for us.
Next, we sing the Hymn of the Day, which emphasizes the main themes and message of the day.
In the Creed we confess together what we believe about God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
We kneel, if we can, for the Prayers. When we pray together, we ask God for healing and comfort for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our church family, and for people around the world (Romans 12:12).
Everything so far in the service is quite similar to Jewish worship in Jesus’ time (Luke 4:16-22). To this, the earliest Christians added the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in obedience to Jesus’ command at his last supper with the disciples: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:14-22).
We begin by greeting one another, sharing the Peace that is a gift of Jesus (John 20:21). Then we respond to God with our Offering to be used for His work in the world (II Cor. 9:6-8). While the ushers move through the congregation, the choir and musicians offer their gift of music. We sing the Offertory as the gifts – the bread, the wine, and our offerings – are brought to the altar. Then we thank God for all these blessings as we pray together the Offertory Prayer (Romans 12:1-2).
In the Great Thanksgiving we offer thanks to God with solemn and joyful hearts. The pastor sings or says words that help direct our thoughts, and we respond by singing the Sanctus, which means “holy” (Isaiah 6:3). The pastor leads us in the Eucharistic Prayer. “The Holy Eucharist,” from the Greek word for “thanksgiving,” is another name for this meal we share (Colossians 3:15-17). Eucharistic prayers include the words used by Jesus when he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples the night before his death. At the end of this prayer we all respond by saying the prayer Jesus gave us – the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-15). We watch and listen for the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine, and we exclaim in wonder at the mystery of Christ’s presence, “Behold, the Lamb of God…” (John 1:36). Then we sing the Agnus Dei, which means “Lamb of God,” while the ministers commune.
In the Communion of the Faithful we come together, united in one body, the church, and share in the meal, the Eucharist (I Cor. 12:12). Jesus promised that he would always be with us (Matt. 28:20). We receive him in the bread and wine in communion. All the baptized of every age are welcome at the Lord’s table (Mark 10:13-16).
After we are nourished with the body and blood of Christ (John 6:22-59), we are prepared for our sending out into the world with the Post-Communion Prayer.
The Lord blesses us as the pastor sings the Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26). This prepares us to be sent forth into the world to serve God. We sometimes sing the canticle Nunc Dimittis, Latin for “Now let us depart” (Luke 2:29-32), or another Sending Hymn, as one final act of worship and thanksgiving for God’s grace. Listen for the message in the words we sing.
At the Dismissal we hear the words “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.” (Romans 12:11). We reply joyfully, “Thanks be to God.” The Postlude is the music we hear as we greet the pastor and each other in the narthex.