Adjustments to Our Liturgy

 

Jan. 19, 2017 | Joshua Hinson

 

Elements, Forms, and Circumstances

Reformed doctrine and worship is historically precise doctrine and worship. In worship, we distinguish the elements from the forms and circumstances. Such distinctions may sound arbitrary or tedious, but the worship of God is a serious matter. We must seek to worship God according to his design while also taking into consideration all that is necessary to hold a worship service.

The elements of worship are derived from Scripture – either by an explicit command or as a good and necessary consequence. They are essential to worship and include the reading and preaching of God’s Word, the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, the administration of the sacraments, prayers, etc.

Circumstances are also necessary, but not commanded. For instance, Scripture doesn’t provide us with a time or place for our worship services, or whether we have pews or chairs. Circumstances are to be considered according to their use. A place to sit is a necessary circumstance. Whether we sit in chairs or pews is a matter of prudence. What we can’t do is add some liturgical value to what is circumstantial (e.g. “We set our thermostat at 72 degrees because in the worship of God we return to the fellowship Adam had with his Creator when he walked with him in the cool of the day.”) and essentially transform a circumstance into an element of worship.

The form of worship may be the content of a particular element (what Scripture is read or song is sung) or the “how” of our worship – the order and structure. It is whether we begin with the doxology, a call to worship, or a Scripture sentence. Each would be permissible as an element of worship, but the form may differ.

The Westminster divines acknowledged the necessity of prudence in such matters:

“there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God and government of the church common to human actions and societies which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence according to the general rules of the Word which are always to be observed” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.6).

In such matters where there is liberty, we should strive to do all things decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40).

Adjustments to Our Liturgy

You’ll notice some slight adjustments to the form of our corporate worship beginning this Lord’s Day. There is no substantial change to any of the elements per se, though we’ve added the doxology following our confession of faith and the reading of the law (on some weeks this will be listed as a call to confess our sins). The adjustments are slight but they are not without significance, so we want to provide an explanation.

Intentional
The headings which mark each section move us from God who is worthy of worship, to man who is sinful, to Christ who pardons, to the ministry of the Word, to communion with God, and God’s blessing and commission as we depart. This is simply the pattern of the Gospel explicitly stated in our form of worship.

Didactic
As Reformed Christians, we value clarity and understanding. As the headings and elements are seen and explained, our liturgy is itself a presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is also a way our worship can be hospitable to our visitors. Our primary purpose is to please the Lord and not men in the worship of God, but we also realize that Reformed worship is unfamiliar and unclear to many; especially to those who come from evangelical church worship and life. This is one way we can help them understand why we do what we do, and hopefully to the glory of God in their worship with us.

One other slight adjustment you’ll note this week is with regard to the psalm to be sung. We believe Scripture commands us to sing the psalms and we want to contribute to the resurgence of psalm singing among Christians. We also realize that singing the psalms is at times difficult. We’re moving from a psalm of the morning to a psalm of the month. We’ll choose a key psalm each month, sing it every week, provide commentary or devotional material, a way to pray through the psalm, and perhaps tips for memorizing it. The goal is to strengthen our singing of the psalms, to familiarize ourselves with the Psalter, and to deepen our love for God’s Word as we sing it together.

You can see the order of worship of worship for this Lord’s Day below.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Josh

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Order of Worship for The Lord’s Day, January 21, 2017

GOD PREPARES US TO WORSHIP HIM

Meditation and Preparation: Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and endure us with the spirit of meekness and patience; that no evil we suffer from others may move us to do evil to them, but that we may overcome them by doing them good; and if it be possible, as much as lies in us, live peaceably with all men. And in all our dangers and adversities, stretch forth your hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Welcome & Announcements

Musical Prelude

GOD CALLS US TO ADORE HIM

* Call to Worship (responsive): Psalm 27:4, 8, 13-14
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Salutation: from Jude 1-2
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

* Hymn of Praise: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, st. 1-3, #457

* Prayer of Invocation (followed by the Lord’s Prayer)

* Confessing the Faith (unison): Apostles’ Creed, pg. 845, Trinity Hymnal

Doxology
Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him all creatures here below; praise him above, ye heavenly host: praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

GOD REVEALS HIS HOLY WILL

Reading of the Law: Matthew 22:35-40

Corporate Confession of Sin (unison):
Most holy and merciful Father, we acknowledge and confess before You our sinful nature – prone to evil and slothful in good – and all our shortcomings and offenses against You. You alone know how often we have sinned in wandering from Your ways, in wasting Your gifts, in forgetting Your love. O Lord, have mercy on us, who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You. Teach us to hate our errors, cleanse us from our secret faults, and forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son. And O most holy and loving Father, send Your purifying grace into our hearts, we beseech You, that we may henceforth live in Your light and walk in Your ways, according to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord (Book of Common Prayer, 1906).

Silent Confession of Sin

GOD PROVIDES WHAT HE DEMANDS

Assurance of Pardon: Ezekiel 36:25-28

Hymn of Thanksgiving: Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners, st. 1-5, #498

Giving of Tithes and Offerings: Acts 20:35
Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

GOD CONSECRATES US THROUGH HIS WORD

Psalm of the Month: Psalm 113, Praise the LORD’s Name, 113A

The Word of God: Isaiah 26:1-21 (Pew Bible, pg. 586)

Pastoral Prayer

Scripture: Exodus 5:10-21 (Pew Bible, p. 48)

Sermon: Bricks Without Straw, Pastor Josh Hinson

GOD COMMUNES WITH US IN THE SACRAMENT

* Communion Hymn: Behold the Lamb

The Lord’s Supper

GOD BLESSES AND COMMISSIONS US

* Hymn of Application: Be Thou My Vision, st. 1-5, #642

* Benediction

* Musical Postlude

 

 

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