Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:21, 23-24 (NRSV)
Recently the worship committee met to review worship from Lent and Easter and to make plans for the summer months. We also spent some time talking about the order of worship. I believe that how we worship God should grow out of WHY we worship. In other words, what we do should grow out of our theological convictions about who God is, who we are in relationship with God, and how we live out our faith in the community we call “church.”
Our order of worship means something. It’s not just elements thrown together, prayers and songs, preaching and communion… everything is where it is for a reason. But, do you know why?
At Marshfield Christian, our order of worship is roughly based on the life of Jesus. Each week we not only gather at the table, but we reenact the totality of Jesus’ life. From his birth, through his death and resurrection, and then into the mission of ministry in the early church. Did you notice? I didn’t until I was in seminary and studying worship.
Our worship begins with gathering, and praise. Just like that wondrous night at the manger. Like the shepherds gathered to give praise to the Christ-child and the angelic choir lifted their voices, we gather from our various duties and lift our voices to praise God.
Around the Moment for Young Disciples and the anthem, or special music, we are undergoing a transition. I like to think of the children’s moment as a chance to remember the early years of Jesus’ life. We don’t hear much about those years in scripture, but he must have gone to synagogue with his parents, and listened to the rabbi teach.
Then as we move into the sermon we encounter Jesus’ three-year ministry of teaching in the Judean countryside. For me, one of the most amazing things about Jesus’ teaching is how he takes the Hebrew scriptures and interprets them for an audience living in a new and different world. Sure, there are some areas of connection, but Judea of Jesus’ day is much different from Egypt during Moses’ life. The Jewish people were still captive, but their captivity took on a different tone. The job, I believe, of all pastors is to draw out the connections between our contemporary lives and the stories of faith we find in scripture.
Following the sermon we move into a time of giving, sacrifice, and remembering the final hours of Jesus’ life. This portion of the service is so important that I want to take the time to give it due attention. So, I’m saving the thought behind the way this series of worship elements progress for our next newsletter later this month!
As important as communion is in our worship, we know that Jesus’ death is not the end of the story. Jesus rose from the grave, but he didn’t remain on earth forever. He ascended to heaven and left his disciples, us, to carry on the work of sharing the gospel in word and deed. That’s why we end our worship service with a sending forth, and a reminder of our mission as a community of faith.
I hope you find the symbolism and theology of our order of worship to be as beautiful as I do. And, now that you know why things are put together the way they are, I’d love to hear if, and how, worship takes on new meaning for you. I hope to see you in church as we remember the life, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!