Mar4MonGod sends us into the cross of the world March 4, 2019 Pastor Sebastian
Today we have our fourth and final service of a 4-part series entitled “Learning about Liturgy”, based on parishioners’ requests to understand more about what we do when we come for worship.
The idea is that each Sunday, we take one of the four parts of worship,
and reflect on each individual element in that section.
More information can be found in our Guides to Worship.
Today’s focus is on the fourth part of the service, the Sending section.
Since January we’ve been splitting our announcements, with the service announcements at the beginning including sponsorship information as well as any announcements that need to be on the radio or refer directly to the service ahead, like the learning of a new hymn or liturgy item.
During the Sending, the General Announcements refer to what’s going on in the church after the service, and include suggestions of what to do,
or requests for help.
Any other announcements continue of course to be printed in the Guides or in the Signal.
SCRIPTURE AND WORSHIP
Before I begin talking about the final section of the service, the Sending,
I’d like to draw your attention to a very important index in your red ELWs.
I invite you to open your red books and turn to page 1154 at the very back. Page 1154.
This section, entitled “Scripture and Worship” aims to show that “Worship in the Christian Assembly is biblical”…that underlying our liturgy, and the different parts of the service, are Biblical texts.
For example, on page 1155, in the Confession and Forgiveness Section, we are reminded that when in worship the presiding minister begins by saying “God of all mercy and consolation”,
we find the basis for this in Psalm 136:1 “God’s mercy endures forever”.
Or turning the page to page 1156, for example you can see that the Greeting: “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you”
can be found in 2nd Corinthians 13:13.
If you have a free moment during worship some time, I recommend you read through this very informative section.
Another neat section is found right after it on page 1160…and contains Luther’s Small Catechism…if you ever wanted a refresher from your confirmation days.
I hope those of you who are online have had a chance to check out the beautiful website whyliturgy.ca which includes photos from St. Matthews, the Seminary and the Holy Land.
This website has been an inspiration to this series.
As the pictures will tell, one of the best ways to make worship more real and meaningful is to visit the Holy Land,
and I recommend every Christian to have a trip to Israel and Palestine on their bucket list.
And now to the Sending Section.
You’ll note that it’s “not called Going, which we would do,
but Sending which God does”.
In this final Section of the worship service, God sends us into the world,
to do what we’ve been called to do.
The Sending section is flexible (like the Gathering), and is usually the briefest section of all four.
Like the other sections, the Sending matches the overall tone of the Sunday.
In Lent or ordinary seasons; it is shorter and more sombre,
in Easter or on festivals, it is longer and more joyful.
Like in the Gathering Section, the Sending “is a forming of the assembly. This time, however, the forming is for the assembly’s life in the world as the local expression of the body of Christ disperses.
Sending is a time for again recalling our baptism: this time for taking our baptismal calling with us into our daily vocation.
It is a time for seeing and being sent; a time to thank God for the gifts of this assembly and prepare to extend them into the community”.
The Sending includes “simple and direct reminders of God’s presence as the assembly goes forth to serve in word and deed”.
“It serves to turn us from the meal we have received and point us back toward our life and ministry extending from the gathering into the world.”
Just like the gathering, the sending is full of movement.
While the Gathering focussed on a movement inward,
the Sending focusses on a movement outward: from the communion table to the cross in the world.
The Service ends with gratitude, with a resounding “Thanks be to God!”
The Sending is not like being dismissed from class: where the children finally get to go outside, play and have fun, now that their servitude, and toil in the classroom is ended,
in the vein of “no more sermons, no more books,
no more pastors’ dirty looks!”
No, the idea is that with the Sending our work now begins.
We are not released from service but for service!
We all did worship together, with the Presiding Minister, Assisting Minister, Ushers, Lectors, Communion Assistants,
Altar Guild, Radio Committee,
Music Director, Choir
and now we’re on our own, so to speak,
now we’ve got to do it by ourself.
Until we meet again, of course.
Now the liturgy is a cycle.
First you gather - then you hear the Word - then you eat the Meal - then comes the Sending - and you disperse until you gather again, and the cycle continues the next Sunday,
that first day of the week, the “eighth day of creation, the day on which Christians recognize that God completes creation, bringing salvation in Jesus’ resurrection.”
“The cycle returns each week from the sending we left on the previous Sunday to the gathering on the next Sunday.”
We hope we will return with joy next week to share what we’ve done and experienced,
where we’ve seen God at action in the world,
and how we’ve contributed to what God was up to.
Since worship is part of a cycle, it connects our whole life to and from the Sunday assembly.
Of course it is not always possible to return again next Sunday:
illness, vacation or even death might prevent us from gathering again next week,
but the cycle continues nonetheless,
whether we are there or not.
The liturgy is greater, and the weekly cycle is greater than any of us.
If we look back at history,
sometimes the return to the worship gathering took a very long time.
During the Babylonian exile, the Israelites waited for 70 years to be able to worship in Jerusalem in the temple again.
Even today there are Christians in parts of the world who live under oppressive circumstances, and suffer persecution and cannot gather in public worship at all.
They long to gather again and worship God freely.
But God doesn’t abandon us between Sending and Gathering.
God awaits our return!
“No matter how long we stay away, no matter how far we have strayed, we return to the gathering and find that we are still connected to the body of Christ gathered there.
Whether we have been gone a week, or most of a lifetime, the gathering welcomes all to the feast each week.
The cycle continues with each new gathering.”
“At the time of the Sending, we are no longer the same individuals who earlier crossed the threshold of the worship space.
We are now a community who has encountered the living Christ in this place, and has been empowered for ministry through the sending.
Like Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration, we can’t remain forever in the assembly.
Our vocation sends us to a world in need, to love amidst the pain and struggles of our world.
Just as the gathering empowers the community by forming itself that day, the sending empowers the community by calling each one to their service and ministry in the world.
Sending also reminds the assembly that the church is not contained within its walls, but extends as the body of Christ throughout the world”.
A beautiful image I encountered this week was that church should be less of a castle, and more of a bird-feeder.
The church doesn’t exist to keep up safe from the realities of the world, (like with a castle) but rather the church is a place to feed us, with God’s word and presence, and give us energy and ideas to go out into the world and connect with what God is doing out there. (Just like with how the birds come to the bird-feeder, eat their seeds and go on their merry way.)
SENDING OF COMMUNION
The first optional rite in the Sending is the so-called “Sending of Communion”.
After the communion distribution is over and the elements are put back on the high altar and the veil is placed on the communionware, what happens?
After the service, the Altar Guild will make sure that everything is cleaned up reverently.
As Lutherans, we don’t believe in trans-substantiation like the Roman Catholics (the idea that the bread and wine are permanently changed into the body and blood of Christ).
Lutherans believe in the Real Presence of Christ in Communion only, in the context of the gathered assembly and the words “given for you, shed for you.”
After the elements are put away, Christ is no longer seen as being present in them.
However, the idea is that if communion is taken soon after the service to those who could not make it to worship, then this distribution functions like an extension of the assembly…the circle is drawn a little wider, and Christ is truly present in this meal as well, even if it is taken by a layperson.
The origins of this practice go back to the 2nd century deacons
who took gifts “over which thanks had been said” to people who were not present”.
If we get our lay visitation programme going, we could potentially use this rite to send communion to our shut ins.
The next optional rite is the “Affirmation of Christian Vocation”.
Now, I didn’t say vacation, but Vocation.
A small but important difference.
The term Vocation refers to one’s calling in everyday life,
which is much more than one’s job, but can include it.
One’s vocation hopefully is where one’s passions and energies meet the needs of the world.
Exploring one’s Vocation means exploring the connections between faith and life, and asking questions like:
“how do I live out my baptismal calling, day-to-day?”
Of course, we remember that not only are pastors called, but we are all called to a specific task and area…Luther talked about the priesthood of all believers…
And wherever we are called to this week,
we note that our work matters,
our roles and responsibilities make a difference,
because we made reference to that in the Sending…
whatever we do, act, think, or say, we are all sent by the assembly
by God, for God’s work.
This brief rite basically says that: “we want to live as baptized Christians” and follow in Jesus’ footsteps as we go about our daily tasks in the 6 days ahead.
Please rise and turn to the
*Affirmation of Christian Vocation p. 84 at the beginning of your red books.
Please be seated.
Now we turn to the Blessing.
The history of the priestly blessing in worship is slightly complicated.
One thing we do know is that in Rome in the 8th century the blessing was not pronounced over the whole congregation.
Rather the pope would bless various people as he returned to the sacristy (the preparation room) after communion.
For the blessing in our worship,
the presiding minister announces the blessing of God
and makes the sign of the cross over the assembly.
The Assembly says “yes” with an “Amen”, or “so be it”.
“The assembly assents to the blessing God gives, sending us back into our daily lives”, “to live as Christ’s body in the world”.
It must be noted that the blessing is not the Presiding Minister’s blessing, but God’s.
Blessing used to be called with the old term:
Benediction: which meant “literally hearing God’s good words”.
There are various options, both shorter, and longer for the Blessing.
The standard one is the so-called Priestly Blessing or Aaronic Blessing (named after Aaron, brother to Moses)
derived from one used in Israelite services
and found in the book of Numbers, Chapter 6 (v. 24-26).
The shining face of God is a sign of protection,
and the “lifting up of his countenance upon you”,
is better understood in the newer version “look upon you with favour”.
One interesting thing I find about the Blessing is the grammar used.
When you say: “the Lord bless you and keep you”
what is implied is the word:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
The verb “May" is used in a “subjunctive here to express a wish or desire.
It modifies the imperative, and turns it into an imperative of entreaty; or a ‘jussive'“
That is, it is a request rather than a command.
So the minister is addressing God indirectly and requesting that God would bless the people.
The hope is that God will do so.
But it would be in poor form to demand something of God.
Some churches though criticize this, as if we are putting
God’s blessing into question.
They change it into the indicative:
The Lord blesses you and keeps you, the Lord’s face shines on you…
This is certainly more positive and hopeful, and joyful,
but it is not the original traditional way.
Please rise for God’s blessing.
Please be seated
The Sending Hymn “strengthens the assembly as it prepares to disperse”,
enables praise and a response to God;
giving thanks for the meal,
expressing gratitude for the worship service
and empowering the assembly for the mission in the world.
When we sing hymns we pray twice, Luther says, and this hymn reinforces the themes of the day and gives us courage to go out and do what we should do,
and to remember Jesus’ words “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”.
The hymn should end on a positive, joyful note,
unless we’re in the season of Lent—then it is more sombre and introspective.
During the Sending Hymn the Ministers recess or ceremonially leave down the aisle.
The idea is not that the ministers are performers exiting the stage,
but that they are performing a symbolic action on behalf of the assembly.
They are recessing for the assembly, and leading us, like Christ leads us, to our daily lives during the week ahead.
Some churches have a sign over the door as one leaves the building that states: “you are now entering God’s mission field”, and it reminds everyone that God is not only present in the holy of holies, but God is everywhere, and not bound by bricks and mortar.
And our job, no matter what job we have, or if we don’t have a job at all, is to go out and serve the Lord and our neighbour.
After the hymn, we hear the Assisting Minister,
the lay leader whose voice we heard throughout liturgy,
announce the dismissal.
The dismissal can connect to the theme of the day or the season.
It is brief and optional.
There are three parts:
Firstly: a direct command for people to leave: “Go in Peace”
Then a second variable section, with a specific instruction, such as:
Remember the poor.
Serve the Lord.
Share the good news.
Then finally the Assembly responds with joy:
Thanks be to God.
Which in a way summarizes our entire worship,
because in a nutshell our worship is: thanks to God.
Interesting to note:
In the Pre-Reformation era the deacon announced at the end of the service in Latin “ita missa est” (or “that was the mass”),
which is where we get the word mass from.
And then finally the Postlude, which is a musical summary of the service and usually matches the tone or the content fo the service. Sometimes there might be an allusion to a hymn sung in the service. In some churches, the assembly remains seated and listens to the music, both honouring the contributions of the musician, and also taking time for prayer and meditation on what has been experienced. At St. Matthews some choose to do that, while others treat t more as background music to mask the noise of gathering up possessions, chatting with friends and leaving the sanctuary.
The ministers then stand in the narthex and offer a personal wish for a good Sunday and week ahead and make themselves available for any comments or questions. This also provides an opportunity for the ministers to greet people who may be new to worship or those who have not gathered in some time. However, properly, this shouldn’t be understood as a greeting but rather as a continuation of the sending: a final personal encouragement to live out one’s baptismal calling in the week ahead.
So we come to the end of our service, and to the end of our 4-part series on Learning about Liturgy. Hopefully this series has helped you gain some understanding of the richness and depth of the liturgy, and you are able to gain more more meaning from it.
Of course this is just a brief overview and one could take an entire graduate degree in liturgy.
What I like about Lutheran liturgy is its comforts of its natural rhythm;
it contains the wisdom of history and traditions,
and through it we are connected to the saints over centuries and millennia:
think of the Sanctus, (the Holy, holy), which is 1700 years old.
Because the liturgy is ecumenical, we are also connected to the church next door, or in the next city or country.
Because it is well thought-out and high quality, there is no need to re-invent the wheel every Sunday and do something new and different each time–which is a great time-saver.
I think good Lutheran Liturgy is willing to change with new or better ideas, and is willing to listen to scholars as new insights or old ideas resurface. Liturgy works sometimes just like good old hymns
which go out of fashion but then come back in style after 50 years.
Lutheran liturgy is not rigid but flexible, and it provides a good order so people know where they are.
It provides a framework, so that one is not at the whims of the latest fad or the preacher’s obsession and also not too concerned with pandering to the lowest common denominator.
Yet, Lutheran Liturgy is complex, and challenging and not particularly friendly to newcomers who are either unchurched or come from a non-liturgical background. And this is a challenge to our hospitality.
I think our Lutheran liturgy here at St. Matthews is a real niche,
not that our way is better, but something unique and something to be proud of, especially given our music, our organ and our art and architecture.
It is something to invite your friends to.
St. Matthews, as I often say is perhaps a Gold Standard for Lutheran liturgy in Canada, and if you have visited other churches you might well agree.
We do it pretty well here.
All in all, as we reflect upon our liturgy here,
“we live in gratitude to God in and away from the Sunday assembly.
God provides us with the means to love gratefully in all of our lives, strengthening us even now with the Word of God and the sacramental meal. We live in the continual cycle of gathering, sending and gathering again. Truly we respond as we are sent: “Thanks be to God”.
Please rise as we sing our Sending
*Hymn “How Good, Lord, to Be Here” # 315
Holy Communion Narrative for Children, Augsburg Fortress, 1978.
The Sunday Assembly, Brugh and Lathrop, 2008.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Leader’s Edition, 2006.
Holy People, Lathrop, 1999.
We listen to the organ as we reflect on the past week, and prepare our hearts for worship.
We continue our reflections, listening to the choir.
Words of Welcome & Service Announcements
We gather in the name of the Holy Trinity, and inform ourselves about the worship service ahead.
*Gathering Hymn “God Is Here” # 526
We sing a song to orient our minds, hearts and bodies to God’s presence in our lives. This particular hymn is a good explanation of what we do in worship.
We greet each other in the name of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
*Prayer of the Day
We pray to God in a brief prayer that summarizes the theme of the day.
We hear a simple message on the theme of the day for young and old.
We listen to the choir as they sing a song relating to the day’s theme, and we get
ready to hear God’s word proclaimed.
*Gospel Reading Jesus is transfigured on the mountain Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]
We hear God’s Word about the Word of God, Jesus Christ
*Prayers of Intercession
We respond to the Word by praying for the church, the world and all in need.
Offering Collection Hymn“We All Are One in Mission” # 576
We share the gifts that we have first received from God. This particular hymn is a good explanation of what offering is: giving of ourselves and our gifts together for the life of the world.
*Offering Presentation Hymn“Now Thank We All Our God” # 840, v. 1
We offer up our gifts and our very selves for God’s work.
*Great Thanksgiving p. 129
The presiding minister greets the assembly a second time and invites all present to give thanks.
*Holy, Holy, Holy p. 130
We sing an ancient hymn of praise to God, the holy Trinity
*Thanksgiving at the Table I p. 130
The presiding minister gives thanks for the gift of God’s Meal.
*Lord’s Prayer (Our Father who art in heaven…) p. 134
We join in praying the model prayer that Jesus taught us
Lamb of God p. 135
We sing an ancient hymn of supplication of Jesus, the Lamb of God.
Communion Hymns # 465, # 838, # 815
We receive God’s gift of Himself in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, as we sing hymns relating to Holy Communion and the themes of the day.
We recognize the healing and strengthening power of God’s Meal in our lives.
Brief announcements are made, especially those related to the assembly’s participation in God’s mission in the world.
*Affirmation of Christian Vocation p. 84
We affirm together our desire to serve God throughout the week.
We receive God’s blessing to strengthen us for the week ahead.
*Hymn “How Good, Lord, to Be Here” # 315
We sing a final hymn to send us into the week, to put into practice what we have heard.
*Dismissal A: Thanks be to God.
The assisting minister declares that the worship service is over, and our week of service begins.
We listen to the organ as our Interim Music Director provides a musical summary to the service.