Why We Worship the Way We Do

 

The Order of Worship

     Our order of worship is grounded in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and it reflects the tradition of the holy, catholic (universal) Church and our Reformed heritage.  Our service is presented in five major actions: Gathering Around the Word, Proclaiming the Word, Responding to the Word, Sealing of the Word (for Baptisms and the Lordís Supper), and Following the Word into the World.  Each of these actions symbolizes in one way or another our Reformed theology.  Our actions of faith and worship are in thankful and obedient response to what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ as attested through Holy Scripture. 

 

Gathering Around the Word

     Christian worship begins with God.  It is God who takes the initiative in our lives and calls us into being and into relationship.  This is why we worship together and why worship is so very important to the lives of the faithful.  In worship, the people of God proclaim Godís presence in the world and in our lives, we respond to Godís reconciling and redemptive action in Jesus Christ, we are transformed and renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we offer ourselves to God and are equipped for Godís service in the world.
     We gather around the Word, because it is the Word of God that calls us together as the community of faith, quickens our lives as disciples, and transforms our hearts and minds as the people of God.  When we gather, we begin to move into a new and different time and space.  Our hearts and minds begin to focus on who God is and what God has done, is doing, and will do in the world.     

 

Proclaiming the Word

     Remembering the five main movements of our worship service, we now come to the pinnacle of our worship: the proclamation of the Word.  All that we have done before, and all that we do after is grounded in the reading and proclamation of Holy Scripture.  It is the Word of God in Holy Scripture that is our only rule of faith and life.  We believe that God who speaks to us in scripture, speaks to us now, the God who acted in biblical history, acts today, and the God who is present in the lives of Godís people, is still present in our lives.  Through the Holy Spirit, Christ is present in the reading and proclamation of the Word offering us his grace, transforming our lives, and inviting us to respond in faith and obedience.      

 

Sealing of the Word

     Our worship service is composed of five actions: Gathering Around the Word, Proclaiming the Word, Responding to the Word, Sealing of the Word, and Following the Word into the World.  Most of the time, we only do four actions, but on special occasions when we celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion we add the ďSealing of the Word.Ē 

     In our Reformed tradition, we celebrate two Sacraments, Baptism and Communion, which we believe were instituted by our Lord, Jesus Christ.  In our Reformed theology, we believe that these two sacraments are the ďvisible signs of Godís invisible graceĒ (from St. Augustine).  They are signs of Godís actions and the seals of Godís promises to the community of faith.  ďThrough the Sacraments, God seals believers in redemption, renews their identity as the people of God, and marks them for service.Ē  W-1.3033(2)

 

Responding to the Word

     After the reading and proclamation of the Word, we move to our next movement of the worship service: Responding to the Word.  A cardinal point of Reformed Theology is that God acts first and we act second.  Our faith is important, but it is in response to what God has already done for us in Jesus Christ.  All that we do as disciples of Jesus Christ is in thankful obedience to the grace, mercy, and love of God.  In our worship service, we respond to Godís Word through our affirmation of faith, our prayers of the people, the giving of our tithes and offerings, and through other forms of commitment and recognition such as Christian marriage, ordination, installation, and commissioning.      

 

Following the Word into the World

     In our final movement of worship, we make our most radical claim as Christians that God will lead us out of the sanctuary and back into Godís world.  It is indeed our confession of faith that our final act of worship is found, not just in our sanctuaries on Sunday morning, but in our everyday life as we go about our daily Christian living in faith and obedience. 

     It is the world of God that calls us out of the world in order to go back into the world as Christís loving servants and faithful witnesses, for it is out in the world where the sovereignty and love of God, the grace and peace of Jesus Christ, and the power and fellowship of the Holy Spirit are at work redeeming, saving, transforming, and empowering Godís good creation and where they are made manifest as we participate with God in Godís mission in the world.

 
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