LPC Liturgical Elements of Worship
LPC’s Sunday morning worship service follows a general order with a number of different elements included. This order is a called a “liturgy” and the elements are the content. Below are the different elements of the worship service listed out with a brief explanation for what they are and why we include them. The order and rhythm of our service is most deeply informed by the liturgies of the Reformation. The Westminster Directory for Public Worship (1644), John Knox's Genevan Book of Order (1556), and the Book of Common Prayer (1552, 1662) have particularly had the most influence on our liturgy.
Call to Worship
Worshipping God is the glorious and joyful privilege of his children. Since God is infinitely glorious and holy, we may only approach him as he calls us. The call to worship is that gracious summons or invitation from God. It is typically drawn from the words of scripture and is God’s welcome to his people as we gather to worship him. He calls us and we respond. The call to worship each week not only reminds us that we belong to God, but that he does indeed regularly welcome us back to know and worship him.
Prayer of Invocation
Apart from God, we can do nothing. God has promised to bless and guide us as we come to him. He does this through his Holy Spirit, whom he has poured upon his church and assured us will guide us in knowing him. The prayer of invocation at the start of worship is a prayer of dependence, acknowledging that we need God the Spirit to guide us. It is a prayer of faith, appealing to God to keep his holy promise to guide, assist, and be present with us. In this, we adoringly recognize God for who he truly us.
Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs
Singing together is a beautiful expression of individuality and unity. Individual voices, old and young, weak and strong, are joined in an aural tapestry of praise. Singing together expresses the many children of God belonging to his one family. Singing also embeds God’s truth in our hearts, connecting to us in deep ways. We sing the words of scripture and words that reflect God’s truth, words and melodies that run the gamut of the human and Christian experience. This is God’s comfort to us and our sacrifice of praise to him.
The Reading of God’s Law
God has a will for our lives. His will for us is revealed in his law in scripture, which is his standard of justice and goodness. This is not haphazard, but reflects God’s righteous and holy character. His law is for his glory and our joy. As sinners, we break his law and need to be reminded again and again of God’s will. As saints joyfully pursuing obedience to God, we need to be encouraged to hear God’s will for us so that we may faithfully follow it in gratitude for our salvation that is in Christ.
The Confession of Sin
Jesus willed that the entirety of the Christian life should be one of repentance. Repentance of sin first requires acknowledgement, repudiation, and sorrow of sin. That is what confession is. We confess our sins each week to God as our regular, corporate acknowledgment of our wrongdoings. Corporately we confess in generalities, since we are gathered together as one body. Individually we silently confess with specificity our sins against God. We do this in light of God’s excellent holiness, in grateful recognition of his mercies.
Absolution of Sin
Jesus taught us to pray and ask God for forgiveness of our sins. That is the hope of the Christian life: that God forgives us our sins. Repentance is not only sorrow for sin, but throwing oneself on the mercy of God in Christ. The absolution of sin, or assurance of pardon, is the affirmation that seeking God’s mercy is not in vain and God has cleansed us of our sins through the blood of Jesus. The absolution of sin is the routine reminder and enactment of God’s forgiveness of all the sins of those who turn to him in faith. We joyfully respond and solemnly reflect on his forgiving mercy through singing either the Doxology or the Gloria Patri and then meditate on his grace through song.
There are two passages of scripture read each Sunday. One immediately precedes the sermon and is its text. The other passage comes from the alternative testament from the sermon text and is selected from the Revised Common Lectionary, an ecumenical scripture reading guide for worship services. God’s word is designed to be heard; it orients us to him and feeds our souls. By having multiple scripture readings each service, the church hears a wide range of God’s revelation to us.
Sometimes called an intercessory prayer, the pastoral prayer is prayed on behalf of the congregation. Prayer is offering up our desires to God for things agreeable to his will, talking to him through the power of his Spirit in the name of Christ. Praying in Jesus’ name means that we can speak to our Father because Jesus has made a way. The pastoral prayer is the lifting up of the needs of the church and our neighbors. It is a practice of devoting ourselves to God, knowing that our Father loves to care for his children. We conclude together with the Lord’s Prayer, as Christ’s own model and direction for what we should desire and how we should raise our requests to God.
Baptism is a sacrament, a sign and seal of God’s covenant. It represents and effects our being washed by the cleansing blood of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. By using our baptism through faith, we are united to Christ, cleansed of our sin, joined to God’s family, and pledged to follow him. It is a rite of initiation, given to children of families already dedicated to God and to converts to the faith. It is corporate, meaning that in each administration the whole church reflects upon their own baptism and reaffirms their devotion to him who first loved us.
Vows are part of the worship of the church, but only occur from time-to-time. There are two situations when solemn vows are made in worship. The first is when someone joins the church, whether by profession of faith or by baptism. In this case, they pledge their faith to God, their fellowship to the church, and the church pledges support to them. The second is when new Pastors, Elders, or Deacons are installed into their office. Here, the new officers vow to be faithful to their duties as God has described in scripture, and the church vows to support the officers in their calling.
“Let the little children come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” The church is the embassy of the kingdom of heaven and here Jesus is given to his people. The church of God is for all the children of God. We devote a time in worship to directly address the youngest children of the church with God’s word. God’s word is for all his children, young and old, and so this time is also intended to encourage older members of the church to support the youngest in their spiritual upbringing. It models in the gathering of God’s family what discipleship should be like in our own homes.
Sermons are the exposition of God’s word. That means they contain explanations of scripture’s meaning, proclamations of the gospel, and exhortations to belief and obedience. God’s word is living and active, and the Holy Spirit impresses the truth of his word upon the hearts of his people through preaching. This is why preaching begins by praying for the Holy Spirit to use God’s word and work in our hearts and concludes with a prayer that God would be faithful to his word. Preaching is a means of by which God illumines the hearts and minds of his church, convicts and converts sinners, disrupts the overly comfortable, and comforts the afflicted. Through it, Jesus draws sinners to himself. In listening to God’s word expounded, we devote our hearts, minds, and souls to knowing God as he reveals himself to us in Christ.
The Christian life is one of faith. A creed is a summary of guiding belief. The Christian’s creed is one of faith: trusting in God for what he has done, is doing, and will do. The creeds of the church are ancient and faithful statements of who our God is – it is God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who is our guiding belief. We recite the creeds together, typically in the administration of the sacraments, as a way of reaffirming and reminding each other of the content of our faith.
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, sometimes called Communion or the Eucharist, is a sign and seal of God’s covenant. In giving and receiving the bread and the cup, Jesus’ death is demonstrated to the church and world. By eating and drinking in faith, recipients of the sacrament truly and spiritually partake of the body and blood of Christ. In him we find nourishment and grace for our souls, and fellowship with God and each other. In it, God reassures us of his pledges that we are his and have found salvation through the death of Christ.
The benediction is a pronouncement of divine blessing. In the Old Testament, priests would conclude worship by raising their hands over the congregation and assure them of God’s presence and favor in their lives. This practice continued into the New Testament church, with the words of blessing typically drawn from God’s word. As the church dismisses from its corporate gathering before God and returns to their life in the world, the benediction is the promise of God that he will never leave nor forsake his people. He has forgiven our sins and is at peace with us. So we may go into the world in peace.
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