Wednesday, March 31, 2010

32 A Guide to Our Worship

Church Colors

Since fabrics have to be some color or the other, the historic Church has taken advantage of this fact and has used color to set the theme of worship. A consensus has developed about the use of colors in the western Church: green, purple, white, and red.

Green

Green is the default color. Green is the color of vegetation, therefore it is the color of life. Green is the color for the Season of Epiphany and the Season after Pentecost. These two seasons are also called "Ordinary Time" because the Sundays have no names, just ordinal numbers.

Purple

In antiquity, purple dye was very expensive, so purple came to signify wealth, power, and royalty. Therefore purple is the color for the seasons of Advent and Lent, which celebrate the coming of the King. Since as Christians we prepare for our King through reflection and repentance, purple has also become a penitential color.

White

Angels announced Jesus' birth (Luke 2:8-15) and His Resurrection (Luke 24:1-8). The New Testament consistently uses white to describe angels and the risen Lord (see Matthew 17:2 and 28:3, Mark 9:3 and 16:5, John 20:12, Acts 1:10, and throughout Revelation.) In the ancient Church, people were given white robes as soon as they emerged from the waters of baptism. Therefore, white is the color for the seasons of Easter and Christmas. White is the color for funerals, since it is the color of the Resurrection, for weddings, regardless of the season.

Red

Red is the color for Pentecost Sunday and for ordinations and installations, because it is the color of fire and therefore also of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:3).

Lenten Meditation #37

Seventh Penitential Psalm

Psalm 143

An Earnest Appeal for Guidance and Deliverance

A Psalm of David.

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord,

Give ear to my supplications!

In Your faithfulness answer me,

And in Your righteousness.

2 Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,

For in Your sight no one living is righteous.

3 For the enemy has persecuted my soul;

He has crushed my life to the ground;

He has made me dwell in darkness,

Like those who have long been dead.

4 Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;

My heart within me is distressed.

5 I remember the days of old;

I meditate on all Your works;

I muse on the work of Your hands.

6 I spread out my hands to You;

My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah

7 Answer me speedily, O Lord;

My spirit fails!

Do not hide Your face from me,

Lest I be like those who go down into the pit.

8 Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,

For in You do I trust;

Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,

For I lift up my soul to You.

9 Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;

In You I take shelter.

10 Teach me to do Your will,

For You are my God;

Your Spirit is good.

Lead me in the land of uprightness.

11 Revive me, O Lord, for Your name's sake!

For Your righteousness' sake bring my soul out of trouble.

12 In Your mercy cut off my enemies,

And destroy all those who afflict my soul;

For I am Your servant.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

31 A Guide to Our Worship

The Church Calendar

We keep track of time and seasons of the year by using calendars that provide us opportunities to observe, commemorate, and celebrate certain events or occasions. The changing seasons of the year also provide us with recurring opportunities to celebrate the Christian Faith in worship. The Christian church, following earlier Jewish tradition, has long used the seasons of the year as an opportunity for festivals and holidays, sacred time set aside to worship God as the Lord of life.

While Jewish celebration revolves around the Exodus from Egypt, the Christian Church year focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus. The sequence of festivals from Advent to Resurrection Sunday becomes an annual spiritual journey for worshippers as they kneel at the manger, listen on a hillside, walk the streets of Jerusalem, hear the roar of the mob, stand beneath the cross, and witness the resurrection! The rest of the church year provides opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus and his commission to His people to be a light to the world.

The Christian calendar is organized around two major centers of Sacred Time: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany; and Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, concluding at Pentecost. The rest of the year following Pentecost is known as Ordinary Time, from the word "ordinal," which simply means counted time (First Sunday after Pentecost, etc.). Ordinary Time is used to focus on the various other aspects of the Faith

Lenten Meditation #36

We confess to Thee, O heavenly Father, as Thy children and Thy people, our hardness, our indifference, and impenitence; our grievous failures in Thy faith and in pure and holy living; our trust in riches, and our misuse of them, our confidence in self, whereby we daily multiply our temptations. We confess our timorousness as Thy witnesses before the world, and the sin and bitterness that every man knoweth in his own heart. Amen.

Edward White Benson

Monday, March 29, 2010

30 A Guide to Our Worship

Amen

What is the "Amen?

The "amen" is a declaration of the truth. It comes from the Hebrew word (aman) which means "reliable, firm or trustworthy." It forms the root for the Hebrew word "faith." The Greek word is ahen (amen). The English word is simply the Greek word (which is the Hebrew word transliterated). It shows faith and confidence in what is being said—it confirms a statement with emphasis.

Lenten Meditation #35

1 Blessed is he whose  transgression is forgiven,

Whose sin is covered.

2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,

And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old

Through my groaning all the day long.

4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;

My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah

5 I acknowledged my sin to You,

And my iniquity I have not hidden.

I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,"

And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

―Psalm 32

Sunday, March 28, 2010

29 A Guide to Our Worship

PART THREE: COMMUNION AND BENEDICTION

The Benediction

The whole worship service has been a "dress rehearsal" for life. Now the public service ends and it is time to start living as God commissions us to go back to our families, communities and jobs as the His peculiar people. We have gathered around His Table, and now we will gather daily around the tables in our homes and community to carry out continual worship.

The benediction (i.e., the "good word"), is a blessing from God to the congregation. It is not a prayer, so eyes should not be closed but looking forward with attention as God speaks to His people. The minister lifts his hands, (palms toward the congregation, indicating a blessing being given), and pronounces the blessing of God upon His people as they leave the assembly and return to the world as lights shining in the darkness.

The pastoral benediction arises both from the Lord's direction to Aaron and his sons: "This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 'The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.' So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them" (Num. 6:22-27); as well as the Lord's practice: "And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them" (Luke 24:50).

Lord’s Day Meditation -- Palm Sunday

The story of Jesus' grand, though surprising, entry into Jerusalem is an object lesson in the mismatch between our expectations and God's answer. The bad news is that the crowds are going to be disappointed. But the good news is that their disappointment is at the surface level. Deep down, Jesus' arrival at the great city is indeed the moment when salvation is dawning. The "Hosannas" were justified, though not for the reasons they had supposed. To learn this lesson is to take a large step towards wisdom and humility, and towards genuine Christian faith.

Jesus is the King of kings. He not only rules over all His and our enemies, He also rules over us. And so, as we praise the triumphant King, we must also bow the knee. He must first be enthroned on a pagan cross; and we must first go with Him there—the cross before the crown.

All glory, laud and honor,
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David's royal Son,
Who in the Lord's Name comest,
The King and Bless├Ęd One.

The company of angels
Are praising Thee on High,
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply.

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our prayer and praise and anthems
Before Thee we present.

To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.

Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

28 A Guide to Our Worship

PART THREE: COMMUNION AND BENEDICTION

The Nunc Dimittis [Lat: now you are dismissing]

These are the opening words of Simeon's song of praise on the occasion of the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:29-32). After seeing Jesus, Simeon joyfully proclaims that he has seen God's salvation. The congregation now joins in that joyful proclamation.

NOTE: A variety of Psalms and hymns are used from time-to-time in the worship service.


Lenten Meditation #34

Almighty and most merciful Father, all merciful, mercy itself, I have erred wittingly, and strayed willingly, nay run from Thy ways, more like an untamed heifer, than a lost or wandering sheep. I have followed too much, even altogether, the absurd devices and brutish desires of my own heart, I have offended against, and even been offended by, Thy holy, most holy laws. I have left undone, not done at all, those things which I ought to have done; and have done, done nothing else, but those things which I ought not to have done; and there is no health, no hope or health in me.

O Lord, have mercy upon me, miserable, most miserable sinner, the greatest sinner, and most unthankful for so great grace. Spare me, and them all, O God, which confess their faults; restore me, and all of them that be penitent, that desire to be penitent, that wish they were, would be glad if they were so, that fear they are not enough, and are sorry they are no more; for this is according to Thy promises, most precious, most gracious, most sweet promises, declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. Grant therefore, O most merciful Father, for His sake, who is our Redeemer, Advocate, Author and Finisher of our Faith, our Propitiation, Righteousness and Justification; that I and all penitents may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of Thy holy Name, and the salvation of our own souls. Amen.

William Laud

Friday, March 26, 2010

27 A Guide to Our Worship

PART THREE: COMMUNION AND BENEDICTION

Prayer of Commission

A final prayer of thanksgiving is offered on behalf of the congregation as we prepare to end the worship service. It is an acknowledgement that we have been privileged to be in the presence of God and to hear from Him. Moreover, it is a pledge to walk with Him as His people in the week to come.

Lenten Meditation #33

Alas I have sinned against Thee, O Lord, I have sinned against Thee: O what have I done and Thou hast not requited me the due reward of my sins. But I am ashamed, and I turn from my wicked ways, and I return unto my heart, and with all my heart I return unto Thee, and seek Thy face, and pray unto Thee saying:

I have sinned, I have done amiss, I have dealt wickedly: I know, O Lord, the plague of my heart, and behold I turn unto Thee with all my heart, and with all my strength. And now, O Lord, from Thy dwelling place, from the throne of the glory of Thy kingdom in heaven, hear therefore the prayer and the supplication of Thy servant and heal his soul.

I do not presume so much as mine eyes to lift up to heaven: but stand afar off. I smite upon my breast and say with the publican, "God be merciful to me the sinner"; to the sinner above the publican; be merciful to me as to the publican. The thought of man shall make confession unto Thee: and the residue of his thought shall keep feast unto Thee.

Lancelot Andrews

Thursday, March 25, 2010

26 A Guide to Our Worship

PART THREE: COMMUNION AND BENEDICTION

The Doxology

The Last Supper was followed by the singing of a hymn (Matt. 26:30; 14:26), and so we too offer up a song of praise to God for all His blessings that are communicated to us in Christ. Worship is a celebration of life and a tribute to the Giver of life. The bride worships her Husband for the kindness He has shown to her. We corporately lift our hands to the Lord, not as individuals, and not a sign of authority, but rather as an indication of our submission to and dependence upon the Lord—as a child would reach toward his father—offering praise and receiving His blessing.

Lenten Meditation #32

O Lord, teach me to gladly receive Your reproofs and corrections as the gracious gifts that they are; even the reproofs and corrections from friends that You send to me. May I eagerly receive the Word that is preached and taught by Your under shepherds, and may I be compliant and full of contrition. I am in constant need of Your Word and Spirit. Help me also to remember my baptism and to constantly feed on the body and blood of my Lord, for He has cleansed me and sustains me. I am thankful that even when I turn aside, yet I may return to You immediately and be welcomed of Christ's sake, and drink again from the overflowing fountain of Your grace. AMEN

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

25 A Guide to Our Worship

PART THREE: COMMUNION AND BENEDICTION

The Eucharist or Communion

The sacrament of the Lord's Supper (the sacred or set apart Supper) is observed every Lord's Day during the worship service. By partaking in this meal we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes and renew our covenant oath of loyalty to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. We invite all baptized disciples of Jesus Christ, who are active members of Christ's Church in good standing, to partake in this sacrament with us. If you have any doubt about your participation, please speak to the elders before or after the service.

The word "eucharist" comes from the Greek work which means "to give thanks." We have been cleansed and consecrated, but before God sends us out to serve Him in the world, He first sits us down for a meal. He must strengthen and nourish us for the task ahead with bread and wine. Therefore, we are invited to sit down and eat this covenant meal with Jesus and receive from Him, by faith, His own life-giving flesh and blood. This meal is the symbol—the picture of God's intimacy

All the senses are engaged: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. The Gospel is communicated to us in this simple but powerful and public declaration of the saving grace of God! In this meal we are routinely reminded of our Lord's death, with all of its implications, along with the fact that He is coming again: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Lenten Meditation #31

Sixth Penitential Psalm

Psalm 130

Waiting for the Redemption of the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

1 Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;

2 Lord, hear my voice!

Let Your ears be attentive

To the voice of my supplications.

3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

4 But there is forgiveness with You,

That You may be feared.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

And in His word I do hope.

6 My soul waits for the Lord

More than those who watch for the morning—

Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord;

For with the Lord there is mercy,

And with Him is abundant redemption.

8 And He shall redeem Israel

From all his iniquities.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

24 A Guide to Our Worship

PART THREE: COMMUNION AND BENEDICTION

The Sursum Corda

(Latin for "Lift up your hearts") is the opening dialogue to the liturgies of the Christian Church, dating back to the third century. God's purified people are now invited to come even nearer. Having confessed our sins and received absolution, and having received the word of the Lord and confessed our faith, we are now prepared for our fellowship meal with God. The minister declares and the congregation replies:

The Lord be with you.

And also with you!

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord!

Let us give thinks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give Him thanks and praise.

Lenten Meditation #30

Heavenly Father, I have suffered from many starts and stops in my sanctification. With sincerity and enthusiasm I have repented of my sins only to backslide again into the very same transgressions. I believe; help my unbelief. I have feet of clay and am prone to wander. I am forgetful and grow dull of hearing. Spiritual lethargy and laziness overtake my best intentions and I easily set aside those things that would strengthen me in my walk with You. Lukewarm seems comfortable but it is not profitable. Stir me up continually and restore me for Christ's sake. AMEN

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lenten Meditation #29

O Lord, my every sense, member, faculty, and affection is a snare to me. I can barely open my eyes but that I envy those above me, or despise those below me. I covet the honor and riches of the mighty and I am proud and unmerciful to the poverty of others. When I behold beauty it is a bait to lust, or if I see deformity it stirs up loathing and disdain. If I am in authority, I am tempted to abuse my trust. If I am an inferior, I am prone to begrudge others. I lament that my apprehensions are dull, my thoughts are petty, and my affections misguided. How quickly do slander, course jesting and vain thoughts creep into my heart. Keep me mindful of my natural state but do not let me forget who I have become in Christ; that I am now, by Your great grace, an heir of grace tha can deal with every sin. AMEN


Sunday, March 21, 2010

23 A Guide to Our Worship

PART TWO: CONSECRATION AND ASSENT

Confession of Faith

The word "Creed" comes from the Latin verb credo—the first word in the Latin creeds—and means, "I believe." In the recitation of one of the historic creeds (or confessions of faith), we proclaim that we are Christians, that this is Christian worship, and that we stand in the historic river of ancient Christianity.

The word "god" means all kinds of things to people these days. The historic creeds proclaim that this is the God we worship and serve—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We will be clear, courageous, and precise in our confession of faith. The first commandment demands as much. This is more than an academic or doctrinal statement, but rather it is a declaration of personal faith or trust. The Greek translation of the word credo is the word pisteuo, which is precisely the word for "faith" in the New Testament (John 3:16, 36; Rom. 10:10). The Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon provide us with the opportunity to recite our trust in the Persons of the Trinity and their work on our behalf.

Lord’s Day Mediation

When Christ rose from the dead the supernatural realm became a historical fact and the real presence of Christ was now continually present in the natural realm through the Church. The resurrection of Christ became the means by which we see the true meaning of history. Literally and supernaturally, the resurrected Christ was manifested in the natural world through the Body of Christ―the Church―with her laity, officers and sacraments presenting the ongoing presence of Christ's supernatural and resurrected life. To be engrafted into the Body of Christ by way of baptism, is to be united to Christ and His mediatorial offices of prophet, priest and king. Thus, the Church (and all her members) speak the word, intercede for men, and rule the earth as the manifestation of Christ Himself.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

22 A Guide to Our Worship

PART TWO: CONSECRATION AND ASSENT

The Gloria Patri

This is a response to having heard from God—God speaks and we respond. Here we ascribe all glory to the Triune God. This hymn arises from biblical texts like Romans 16:27; Ephesians 3:21; Philippians 4:20; and Revelation 1:6. The singing of the Gloria Patri serves as a transition to the Lord's Supper.

Lenten Meditation #28

O merciful Father, I have no merit in myself, and so I stand before You now only in the merit of my Lord Jesus Christ, which is imputed to me. I am full of infirmities, needs, and sin, but You are full of grace. I confess my sins, my frequent sins, my willful sins. All my powers of body and soul are defiled and a fountain of pollution is deep within my nature. There are rooms filled with foul images within me. I have gone from one hideous room to another and walked in a no-man's-land of dangerous imaginations, probing into the depths of my fallen nature. I am utterly ashamed of myself that I am what I am in myself. Help me to forsake my lust of the flesh, my lust of the eyes and my pride of life, and from everything that is natural to fallen man, and let Christ's nature be seen in me today. AMEN

Friday, March 19, 2010

21 A Guide to Our Worship

PART TWO: CONSECRATION AND ASSENT

Prayer of Consecration

The minister will lead the congregation in a prayer, asking God to enable His people to believe and obey His word.

Lenten Meditation #27

O Lord, the remembrance of my many sins makes me sorrowful since by them I have squandered the opportunity to serve and glorify You and have sown bitter seeds that now bear their bitter fruit. As Your child, I am ashamed that my sins have shown disrespect for You and Your holiness. I am grieved over the harm my sins have caused others. Indeed, upon reflection, I am horrified as I consider the darkness of my sins. Moreover, I am also weary from the burden and travail of all my iniquities. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for Christ's sake. Take away the bitterness and pain of my sins as Christ has borne their punishment and taken away my guilt. Strengthen and renew Me by the grace of Your Spirit. Make the sight of my sins ugly and the vision of the beauty of Your holiness lovely to me. AMEN

Thursday, March 18, 2010

20 A Guide to Our Worship

PART TWO: CONSECRATION AND ASSENT

Sermon and Text

We should remember that the entire worship service is sermonic, not just the sermon. We read, sing, pray, and recite the word of God from the opening of the service to the very end. The sermon is very important, but it is not the all-important event. It is one important part of many other important parts of worship.

A sermon ought to be the time when Christ personally speaks to His bride through the ordained minister: "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13). We sit down and listen to our Husband speak to us through His appointed representative: "That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26).

The minister has studied and prepared his sermon so as to instruct God's people (2 Tim. 2:15). This means that the sermon is not primarily evangelistic, at least not in the narrow sense. Anytime the word of God is being preach, the gospel (i.e. the "good news") is being declared; "…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). The sermon is the time when the minister ought to explain the word of God and bring it to bear upon the life of the congregation. It is time for the people of God to be instructed from the Bible and to be exhorted by it. The goal of the sermon is to point to Christ; Who He is and what He has done.

Lenten Meditation #26 (3-18-10)

O Lord, the great commandment of the law is to love You with all our hearts, souls, and mind, and the second is like it: to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Impress upon me the vital connection between these two "tables" of the law, that my love for You will result in a true compassion for my fellow men. How prone I am to lavish love upon myself, O God, to take but not give, to give, but give sparingly, to cut corners and hold back, to pursue my own comforts and entertainments, and to rob You of the glory due Your name.

Give me a selfless love for others that will demonstrate a true love and devotion to You. I know that I will have opportunity even today to serve and love my neighbor. Use Your law, written upon my heart, to guide me to practical specific application. Enable me now, by Your Holy Spirit, to see myself in the light of Your Word. Help me to look deep, to have a sensitive heart, to repent and confess my sins, and to give all that is Your due. AMEN

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

19 A Guide to Our Worship

PART TWO: CONSECRATION AND ASSENT

Prayer for Illumination

This prayer should be centered on anticipation and preparation for receiving the sermon. It should call the congregation to focus our attention on the fact that we are about to hear the word of God though the servant of Christ, and that we must have hearts and minds eager to receive that word, and feet that are ready to obey. The minister should call upon God to send His Holy Spirit to enlighten the minds of His people, and to convict, instruct and comfort them.

Lenten Meditation #25 (3-17-10)

Fifth Penitential Psalm

Psalm 102

The Lord's Eternal Love

A Prayer of the Afflicted, When He is Overwhelmed and Pours Out His Complaint Before the Lord.

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord,

And let my cry come to You.

2 Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble;

Incline Your ear to me;

In the day that I call, answer me speedily.

3 For my days are consumed like smoke,

And my bones are burned like a hearth.

4 My heart is stricken and withered like grass,

So that I forget to eat my bread.

5 Because of the sound of my groaning

My bones cling to my skin.

6 I am like a pelican of the wilderness;

I am like an owl of the desert.

7 I lie awake,

And am like a sparrow alone on the housetop.

8 My enemies reproach me all day long;

Those who deride me swear an oath against me.

9 For I have eaten ashes like bread,

And mingled my drink with weeping,

10 Because of Your indignation and Your wrath;

For You have lifted me up and cast me away.

11 My days are like a shadow that lengthens,

And I wither away like grass.

12 But You, O Lord, shall endure forever,

And the remembrance of Your name to all generations.

13 You will arise and have mercy on Zion;

For the time to favor her,

Yes, the set time, has come.

14 For Your servants take pleasure in her stones,

And show favor to her dust.

15 So the nations shall fear the name of the Lord,

And all the kings of the earth Your glory.

16 For the Lord shall build up Zion;

He shall appear in His glory.

17 He shall regard the prayer of the destitute,

And shall not despise their prayer.

18 This will be written for the generation to come,

That a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.

19 For He looked down from the height of His sanctuary;

From heaven the Lord viewed the earth,

20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner,

To release those appointed to death,

21 To declare the name of the Lord in Zion,

And His praise in Jerusalem,

22 When the peoples are gathered together,

And the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.

23 He weakened my strength in the way;

He shortened my days.

24 I said, "O my God,

Do not take me away in the midst of my days;

Your years are throughout all generations.

25 Of old You laid the foundation of the earth,

And the heavens are the work of Your hands.

26 They will perish, but You will endure;

Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;

Like a cloak You will change them,

And they will be changed.

27 But You are the same,

And Your years will have no end.

28 The children of Your servants will continue,

And their descendants will be established before You."