A SPECIAL MESSAGE TO THOSE WHO ARE
WORSHIPING WITH US FOR THE FIRST TIME
If you are visiting our congregation today for the first time, we want you to know how glad we are to have you with us. We also want to take this opportunity to explain our worship service to you, so that you will know what is happening, and why.
Our congregation follows a “liturgical” order of service. This means that there is a basic framework or structure in our worship that remains essentially the same each Sunday. This also means that there are many elements in our worship that change from week to week, according to a pattern that repeats itself every year. This kind of service, which has been used by the historic Christian Church for 2,000 years, provides a proper balance of continuity and variety in each Sunday’s service.
The order of service that we follow is from the front part of the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary. For the convenience of worshipers, the entire text of the service – with the exception of the hymns – is printed in the bulletin. (The music for those parts of the service that are sung can be found in the Hymnary.)
The hymns that are appointed for today’s service are indicated in the bulletin and on the hymn boards at the front of the church. Except for those times when a special hymn is printed on a bulletin insert, the hymns are from the back part of the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.
God is the primary actor and speaker in worship. In the Liturgy he speaks to us through the Scripture readings, and also through the other components of the service that enshrine and convey his dual message of judgment against sin, and forgiveness in Christ. As God speaks to us in these ways, his Word molds and shapes our response, so that we then say back to him the things that he would want us to say. We come to church, not so much to tell God what we think, or to express ourselves to God, but in humility to learn from God, and to be instructed and guided by his Word in how we should call upon him. This is why the prayers and hymns that we use have an objective and “doctrinal” quality about them.
The Lord’s Supper is available in our congregation every Sunday. We believe that participation in the Lord’s Supper should be preceded by a course of instruction in the teachings of Scripture and of our church, concerning this sacrament and other important articles of faith, so that communicants can be properly prepared for their sacramental encounter with the living Lord. This is in keeping with St. Paul’s exhortation: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28, ESV). And this is in keeping with his warning: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27, ESV). We also believe that such participation serves as a public testimony of unity in faith among those who are communing together, in keeping with St. Paul’s statement: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17, ESV). We therefore do not follow an “open Communion” practice. But even if you are not communing with us today, God’s grace is still offered to you in his saving gospel, as it is proclaimed in the Absolution, Scripture readings, sermon, and hymns.
Gathering before the Lord to hear his Word and to offer him our prayers is a very serious matter. It is not to be done in a frivolous or lighthearted manner, but with reverence and sobriety. When we enter into the Lord’s presence in worship, we are, in a sense, transported into a higher realm – a sacred realm of eternal realities. Our use of symbolism and ceremony testifies to our conviction that the worship of almighty God is something special, and unlike anything else we do in other arenas of life in this world. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28, ESV).
We hope and pray that you will be blessed by the ministry of God’s Word during your time with us today. And we hope that you will come and worship with us again next week. You will always be most welcome in our midst, in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ!