Our Thoughts on Liturgy
The Gospel is our central focus on Sunday mornings because we think the Gospel is the most clear demonstration and revelation of God’s greatness and character. In the Gospel story, we see his Holiness and Justice, and we see his steadfast love, grace and mercy. It’s our belief that when we encounter God, we are changed. So the hope of the Liturgy and worship service is to help our congregation “see” God, so that we can be changed and moved to worship him in praise and thanks. The liturgy is crafted in a way that communicates different “themes” or “movements” of the Gospel. Not just the content of the liturgy, but the actual shape and flow of the liturgy itself.
We have seen the liturgy shape our own hearts. It’s our prayer and hope that the Liturgy will be an imitation of the faithful Christian life. Below is the the thought process through a recent Sunday Service that should give you a glimpse into how each movement is woven together, and also serve as a snapshot of a Sunday morning Liturgy.
Section One. God’s Greatness/Transcendence/Glory:
Call to Worship: Come people of the Risen King. Emphasis: Rejoice! Rejoice, we’ve been one by the Risen King. Our cry rings out, Our God is all in all.
Next Song: O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing. Emphasis: The Majesty of God is too splendid to communicate with just one tongue. In truth, there are MILLIONS of tongues singing of God’s greatness right this very moment, so join with their voices singing of his greatness.
Section Two. Man’s sinfulness, and unworthiness:
Time of Confession: Corporate confession of sins. Where we come together and silently reflect on, acknowledge, and confess our sins before God.
Section Three. The Turn:
How the Gospel Shows us the bridge between Man’s sinfulness, and God’s Transcendence. The Presence of Christ and his work of atonement and substitution.
Confession of Faith:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus,
the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him
endured the cross, despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. *Hebrews 12:1-3
So the Confession serves as the time to transition from our unworthiness to the beauty of the gospel and what our faith and hope is.
So after that time of Confession we sang, Before the Throne of God above. A song that does well to articulate the beauty of the work of Christ. While the other songs that we did Sunday do a really great job of communicating truth about God and encouraging our hearts in worship of him, this one does a great job of highlighting the particular work of Jesus. So that’s why it works here super well.
Section Four. The Welcome Time:
The time for welcoming one another each morning also falls under this category of the Turn. We are no longer heavy hearted believers with unconfessed sin greeting one another. We have confessed our sin. Reminded ourselves that God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of our sins. Also, I just confessed the core faith and belief of the gospel out loud alongside the brother or sister by my side. So when I turn to welcome them, we don’t have to have 5 things in common. We don’t have to be perfectly compatible to be friends. We just confessed what we believe at our very core. Christ is our hope and the source of our joy. So whoever is sitting right beside me, we have THAT in common. That’s enough to look them in the eye with love and joy and welcome them in the peace of Christ from the bottom of my heart. That’s my brother. That’s my sister.
Section 5. Response:
We next sang Come Thou Fount during the time of offering. So we’re trying to remind people that God is the source of all our blessings, and that should spur us to give back to God out of Gratitude.
Section 6. The Sermon:
Hopefully the sermon does a good job of communicating all the above points.
Section 7. Benediction:
Our Congregation left with the Benediction 2 Peter 3:18:
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
Ended the service with the doxology. Praise God!! So that was a recent Sunday’s service. The way the actual liturgy imitates the Christian life? It displays the rhythm of the faithful Christians life.
Go about praising God for his goodness and greatness. We struggle with sin. But when we do, we acknowledge it and confess it. We remember the faith, the gospel and proclaim it to ourselves. We respond with love, awe, wonder, and action. We try to be like Jesus in our self sacrifice to God and service of others. We are blessed with God’s peace and promise that we will become more and more like Jesus. We end with singing praise to God from whom all blessings flow. And the Cycle and Rhythm continues.
And by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit, we become more and more like Jesus.
Not every service will be lined out with these exact same formats and sections. But the general feel is that the gospel will be proclaimed VERY thoroughly by the end of the service. If you leave our service without hearing the gospel, it’s because you weren’t listening. Or because we missed the mark. Which has happened. But Liturgy helps us not do that. It sets the boundaries, categories, and standards for the content of each Sunday’s service.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.