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      Learning about Liturgy, Part 2: Word

      The first summit of the liturgy February 5, 2019 Pastor Sebastian
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      Pr. Sebastian

      Welcome to the second 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 second part of the service, the Word section,
      but I will begin by reflecting a little more on the Gathering section and including some topics which I cut from last week’s service.



      While weekly Holy Communion is the current practice for Lutherans in North America, and this series focuses on the service of Holy Communion, today’s service is what’s called the “Service of the Word”. 

      It is a relatively new compromise solution for a Sunday Non-communion service. 

      It focusses on the Word and the sermon and is derived from the service of Holy Communion. 

      Instead of the Meal section as a third part, it has a Thanksgiving section in response to the Word. 

      This third part, the “Thanksgiving” gives thanks for the gift of God’s Word in our lives, and includes a special prayer aptly called the “Thanksgiving for the Word”.



      I’d now like to spend some time finishing talking about the Gathering.


      You may have noticed at the top of your orders of service, that we aren’t referring to congregation anymore (abbreviated by the letter C), but this mysterious word “assembly” (abbreviated by the letter A). 

      And you’ll see that now in our Guides to Worship .


      Since I arrived in 2017, I’ve been gradually introducing the newer, simpler and more modern terminology that is used in the Red ELWs; for example we now list an Offering instead of an Offertory, 

      a Thanksgiving at the Table instead of a Eucharistic Prayer,

      a Blessing instead of a Benediction, and so on.


      One characteristic of the ELW is the focus on the word “assembly” instead of congregation, which for some is puzzling.


      To start, we need to figure out what is essential for a church, what do we absolutely “need in order to have a church” (Gordon Lathrop).

      What does the most basic form of church look like? 

      And the answer is that we don’t need a cross, or stained glass, or an organ, or a bell, or candles or a pulpit or even a building, or any material things: they are all optional for a church.

      Also, we don’t need a specific leader, or sacraments, creeds, confessions, those are merely the “notes” of the church”: they are optional.


      We even don’t need specific spiritual experiences, or a social justice agenda, or the feeling of “genuine community”.

      Arguably, all you need in order to have a church—is a gathering of people, or in other words “the assembly” or in the older terminology: 

      the congregation.

      And Ekklesia, the original Greek word for church, means precisely that: 

      the assembly, or the meeting.

      The reason the word assembly is now preferred is that we tend to use in common speech the verb “to assemble” 

      more frequently than “to congregate”.


      So the concept of church as assembly is at the basis of our understanding of liturgy in the ELW.

      The assembly is the “gathering of people to do the central things that identify them as Christian”.

      God gathers us, by the call of the Holy Spirit, and calls us to observe Sabbath, the day of rest, and to keep that day holy.

      And we respond by assembling, and we assemble on Sunday, 

      the day of resurrection, the first day of the week.


      When we gather we are formed as church 

      and we can’t have worship without gathering as assembly.

      The assembly is a Gathering of the imperfect, the hypocrites, the sinful, and quarrelsome. We aren’t perfect, and because of that, 

      and perhaps despite that, yet we gather.

      We are not a crowd or a cheering section, we’re not lecture-attendees, an audience or collection of consumers, but an assembly!

      There are no pre-requisites, no admission fees, no credentials required;

      a true assembly is public and accessible.


      Now, the Bible was intended not for personal, private devotion but for public assembly: for public hearing and discussing and interpreting. 

      For example, almost all the epistles of the New Testament are constantly referring to you in the plural sense: “you all”.

      Worship is not a ritual of a solitary worshipper; 

      you can’t be a Christian in the woods by yourself.

      You can’t do church by email.

      Being a baptised Christian implies that you are gathering (and this includes, in an imperfect way, our Radio assembly) and we are challenged and supported by all the rest who gather.

      When we gather it’s not just me and God,

      but we assemble in God’s presence and one another’s presence,

      expecting to meet Christ in each one who enters.

      If God is community in God-self: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 

      then our Faith must be communal too: 

      we need each other’s company. 


      At this assembly, all are welcome to Word and Meal.

      (But the definition of “all” is always subject to a reality check.

      Sunday morning is one of the most homogenous times, 

      or in harsher words, segregated times of the week.

      How welcome to St. Matthews are you really if you don’t look our average: white 50-80 year old middle class, Anglo-German..

      But that’s a topic for another day.)


      When we gather, assemble on Sunday mornings, we are church together: we are connected with everyone else in our pews here, 

      but we are also connected to other churches in and outside of our denomination. 

      Go to other ELCIC churches in the area and you should find yourself quickly at home in their worship, and the same goes for other mainline churches, whether Anglican, United, Presbyterian, or even Roman Catholic.


      A healthy assembly is engaged in dialogue with history and traditions as well as its current context, or in other words, an assembly reformed but always reforming. A church assembly moves forward, while keeping the past in mind and building upon it.BELL

      Now I’d like to switch gears a bit and talk about our worship gathering at St. Matthews. 

      I’d like to mention a few things about gathering that I failed to mention last Sunday.

      Worship at St. Mathews begins with the bell ringing:

      it is a call to worship, a reminder that worship is starting soon… 

      the gathering is about to begin.

      The bell is an encouragement for those who walk and can hear it 

      to hurry up. 

      90 years ago the bell could be heard miles away, 

      nowadays with all the city noise and high-rises, it only carries a few blocks.

      But the bell is a countercultural symbol from a different era that rings

      to all those around: 

      that the people of St. Matthews are gathering, 

      and you are invited to gather with them.



      Then there is the organ prelude.

      It is a time to chat and catch up with friends and relatives, 

      but as I remark in the Guides, perhaps better:

      it is a time to listen to the organ as we reflect on the past week, 

      and to prepare our hearts for worship.

      Music helps us get settled, and draws us inward and upward. 

      Live music speaks deeply to our souls in a way that 

      pre-recorded music cannot.

      The sounds of the organ, as they waft down from the balcony, 

      remind us of heavenly choruses, and music of the hereafter.

      They, like the bell, start our journey of the gathering with music.

      And the choral prelude continues this time of reflection.PROCESSIONAL

      And during the prelude, the worship leaders process in: 

      we walk in to the seats at the front in a formal, special way.

      Not because the worship leaders are the performers for the audience,

      but because we are coming in for the assembly.

      The procession of the worship leaders symbolizes all our gatherings.

      The procession is a visual representation of what we do when we gather.


      It is the entrance of the servants of the assembly, 

      for that is what the word “ministers” means= a minister is a servant.

      The Presiding and Assisting Minister assist the assembly’s worship and serve the assembly through their work.


      Why do we bow at the altar, or acknowledge the altar?

      The altar “on which the holy supper is set out… is Christ’s gift”;

      it is a symbol of Christ in our midst,
      and a bow acknowledges the gift of the Lord’s Table.

      You might also wonder, what do we do when we bow?

      Well, I often say a very brief prayer of gratitude for the ability to serve:

      like “Thank you God that we can serve (you) in this place”

      or a prayer for those gathered.

      It reminds me that the service is not about me, 

      but about the assembly and about God.


      In theory, we should also bow to the assembly, 

      after having bowed to the altar: 

      because the assembly, the congregation, 

      is also the sign of the body of Christ in the room.


      So much now for those final thoughts on the Gathering section of our worship.

      We now continue with our service.

      Please rise as you are able for the greeting.




      *Prayer of the Day
      Let us pray.

      Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love; and that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.




      Children’s Message





      The first reading generally comes to us from the Old Testament, or Scriptures that were first written in Hebrew, 

      and tell us what “God said and did for his people Israel a long time ago”. 

      We sometimes hear surprising stories, of “cowardly forefathers and family infighting”, greed, pride, jealousy; the heroes are not all perfect or too good to be true, and their accounts sound authentic! 

      Often in the first reading we learn that human nature is the same then as now.


      Some readings challenge us to determine how we’re hearing or reading them: are we treating them literally, symbolically, or seriously?


      The early synagogue’s purpose was likely to study scripture, so the readings were of utmost importance.

      In early Christian worship: the Hebrew readings were read, and then translated if necessary, followed by a discussion or sermon.


      Which brings us to the Lectionary

      the lectionary is list of prescribed readings for specific Sundays.

      In the synagogues of Jesus’ time: the Torah (first five books of Moses) were in a scroll: and you would read it in sections from beginning to end, by rolling a bit further each service. 

      This is still the practice in synagogues today. 

      And you’ll hear of that in today’s Gospel: Jesus didn’t pick the reading, 

      it was the assigned, scheduled reading for that day.

      Early Christians read their worship readings in a continuous sequence as well, adding snippets for feasts and seasons.

      Early forms of lectionaries began in the 7th century, and then came to widespread usage in the high Middle Ages; 

      although there was variation from region to region and church to church. Finally, the Roman lectionary was standardized in 1570. 

      It must be noted that Martin Luther approved the reading selections of his time. 

      From the 8th- to the 20th century a one-year cycle was used with usually 2 readings: an Epistle and a Gospel. 

      The early Church had dropped Hebrew Scriptures from worship in the 8th century,even Martin Luther didn’t include Hebrew Scriptures in 1523 in his reformed liturgy. 

      The Old Testament was almost a forgotten part of the Bible, 

      which was a shame as it constitutes over 70% of its volume. 

      This was corrected starting in the 1960s when the Old Testament reading was reinstated after over 1000 years of being omitted. 

      Now we have three readings, which leads to a greater diversity and range of styles and topics we can hear. 

      Still a large majority of the Bible is never read on a Sunday, including some of the more sensational stories of R-Rated texts.The lectionary we use is called the Revised Common Lectionary, and it was compiled in 1992. 

      Many church bodies follow it, esp. liberal mainline churches, such as the Anglicans, the United Church, and the Presbyterian Church. 

      It is truly ecumenical also because it is based on the Roman Catholic lectionary. 

      It promotes the unity of church, as no matter where you are, 

      you will hear the same readings. 

      We also use the same readings now in Sunday School. 

      The Lutheran Church Canada (for example St. Paul’s down the street) follows a different lectionary, but it is also very similar to the one we use. 


      One of the questions I often get, is “how are the readings related to each other?” Well, that’s a little complicated as it depends on the season. 

      In the Christmas and Easter seasons, the first and second readings are related to the Gospel text, however in much of the rest of the year the first and second readings are semi-continuous, that is they just basically follow what was read the previous week, skipping over the less important parts.


      Another question I get is “why are there so many readings?”

      It sometimes seems like having three readings is a burden, or even is boring. Some churches just have one reading er even just a few verses.

      Having 3 substantial readings though allows for complexity and layering: it is place for meeting God who knows and loves us,

      and not just a source of religious ideas or a single message.

      It is a bit challenging in our attention-deficit and screen-enamoured society, but it means we place a high value on Scripture,

      when we read on Sunday from the beginning, middle and end of the Bible.

      The three Readings are like the Trinity : they dance with one another, in wide circle, and “God is active in these readings to give faith, forgiveness of sins and new life”.


      One thing particular to St. Matthews is that we have the readings printed on the cover of our Guide to Worship, but my challenge to you is to still listen and attend to the reader. You’ll notice we don’t just say:

      now turn to your guides and read the lessons for yourselves.

      What would be the point of having an actual lector then?

      So follow along with the readings in the Guides if you must, 

      but realize that the Word is meant to be heard in a group setting,

      and we do have some excellent readers here at St. Matthews, 

      so please  give them your attention.


      First Reading I appointed you a prophet to the nations Jeremiah 1:4-10



      The role of the Psalm in worship is often misunderstood: it is not a reading. It is a song. 

      The word psalm comes from the Greek Psalmos = which means: 

      songs with accompaniment of stringed instruments.


      Psalms are great to turn to, no matter how we’re feeling: 

      happy or sad or worried. 

      They fall into three categories: 

      thanksgiving , lament (complaint or plea for help), and praise.

      The 150 Psalms are poetic prayers written originally in Hebrew; 

      traditionally people thought King David wrote them, but this is now disputed. Liberal scholars believe they were mainly written during or after the exile to Babylon in the 6th century BCE, 

      around four centuries after David’s reign.


      The psalms are considered the song book of the Bible. 

      Early Christians read the Psalms in worship, 

      but began singing them during times of persecution. 

      By the 4th century, congregations sang the Psalms in worship (often after the Hebrew Scriptures).

      Psalms were a safe choice for a song (as there was no fear that they might be heretical, like the possibility existed with newer hymns).

      Martin Luther included the Psalms as part of his reformed liturgy.


      In our worship service, the Psalm is a communal response to the first reading and its use in that place was restored in the Green LBW.

      The Psalm text, unlike the readings, is not from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, but is a translation specifically designed for singing.

      Right now, we read it for simplicity sake in our interim music director situation, but in the past we have sung it, either with a simple tone or a more elaborate setting. 

      Singing highlights the poetry and the fact that it is a song. 

      When we sing psalms we join our assembly with the praises of God’s people from most ancient times.


      Psalm 71:1-6



      For Martin Luther, the Apostle Paul was the perfect example of preaching and theology, and the Second Reading often contains key theological passages from Paul, “proclaiming justification by grace through faith, the theology of the cross, or the doctrine of vocation”. 

      Paul’s writings are among the oldest surviving Christian works, yet scholars debate which ones are authentic.


      What is the difference between letters and epistles?

      Letters are personal communications,
      while epistles are public messages meant to be read aloud and circulated; they are less personal, but their message is more permanent.

      Yet, some letters were meant to be read to congregations (like the Book of Revelation). 

      In any case, the second reading connects us to the life of the earliest churches.


      The Epistle was part of Luther’s reformed liturgy and was chosen in order to help us put the “Gospel lesson into practice in our daily lives”.


      Second Reading 1 Corinthians 13:1-13


      After the second Reading, we rise and sing alleluias (except during Lent, which is a less festive season).

      The Gospel Acclamation is not a response to the second reading, 

      but a preparation for the Gospel Reading. 

      It is a Lutheran principle that “Jesus Christ is at the heart of Scriptures.”

      All welcome the reading of the gospel, and welcome it as if welcoming the very presence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.


      The Hebrew word Hallelujah means “praise Yahweh”, and is used as the opening and ending of 23 Psalms. 

      In Greek scriptures Hallelujah is translated “Praise the Lord”.

      Singing alleluias was part of the practice of the early church.

      An option we don’t do here currently is to have a cantor sing a verse from theGospel text to clue us into the theme of what is to come.



      And then we have the Gospel reading itself.

      You may notice there is a lot of sitting and standing in Lutheran liturgy; 

      by contrast, United Church worship has a lot more sitting.

      Why do we stand for the reading of the Gospel?

      “We stand to show our respect because God is among us” and the Gospel reading gives “testimony to the living Word, Jesus Christ”.

      The Gospel reading is the “liturgical summit” of the first half and it reveals

      “to us the Christ of God in the lowliness of his humanity and the majesty of his divinity”.


      The word Gospel is derived from the old English word God-spel, or good spell, or good news.

      It shares a common root with the word Evangel (as in Evangelical). 

      The Gospel is the good news of Jesus, the good news of what Jesus did and said. 


      Martin Luther showed the importance of the Gospel by reading it in German, the language of the people, instead of Latin. 

      In our three-year lectionary, each year has a focus on one particular Gospel book, in Year A: it is Matthew, Year B: Mark, and this Year, Year C, the Gospel of Luke. 

      Each year, especially Year B, also has passages from the Gospel of John. If you only had one reading in the service, like last Sunday, you would choose the Gospel text.


      The Gospel was traditionally read by the deacon, but nowadays is read by the preacher. 

      After the reader announces the Gospel text, the assembly responds “Glory to You O Lord”, and acknowledges Jesus’ presence in the reading of the Good News of his life. 

      After the reading, the “Praise to You O Christ” acknowledges Jesus’ presence once more.


      One tidbit: you may have wondered why some newer churches (like Mt Zion, or Christ Waterloo) only have one place for reading (a reading stand called the ambo), and we have two: the lectern and the pulpit.

      The origin of having two locations is an old tradition of the Gospel book being carried in procession to the North. 

      Furthermore, reading the Gospel and preaching from the pulpit originated before the age of electronic amplification, and the pulpit was built high so that everyone could hear what was said (and esp. here at St. Matthews, even those sitting in the balcony, or the choir, way back at the top).

      However, having a high pulpit also suggests that the pastor is more important, standing in a place only the pastor is allowed to be in.

      So newer churches have decided that since they no longer process the Gospel book from one location to the other, and they don’t want to have the pastors higher than the laity, and they have electronic amplification, there is no need for two reading locations. 

      One location is much simpler.


      Pastor Helen reads the Gospel and preaches from the lectern.

      However, I figure if the pulpit is there I might as well use it, otherwise what’s the point of having it? 

      One advantage of having an enclosed pulpit is that whatever the preacher is doing from the shoulders down is not distracting to the assembly. 

      I could be doing a tap-dance up there and nobody would notice!



      *Gospel Acclamation   “Alleluia. Lord, to Whom Shall We Go?” p. 216


      Gospel: Luke 4:21-30



      The sermon is rarely left out in Lutheran services, but it is today!

      It is the main and most challenging task and responsibility of the pastor.

      Sermons have a reputation for being long and boring, 

      and in society the sermon has a very negative connotation, like when someone says: “don’t preach me a sermon!”; 

      the feeling is that it’s condescending, long-winded, and directive.


      As far as I know, most of my Lutheran colleagues preach around 12 to 15 minutes, and that’s what I aim for. 

      At 20 minutes I find you start to repeat yourself, or there’s too much information to grasp, and people’s attention starts to wander. 

      However, it all depends on cultural context: a Guyanese Lutheran pastor told me he can’t say anything worthwhile in less than 25 minutes,

      and in some evangelical churches 30 minutes would be considered short. On the other hand, some Roman Catholic or Anglican sermons are more in the range of 5-10 minutes.

      We’re lucky not to be in the Apostle Paul’s company…he supposedly preached the whole day.


      Sermon preparation takes a lot of time. 

      A good rule of thumb is that it takes one hour of preparation for one minute of delivery of a good sermon.


      The theory is that preaching should be “as God’s own voice speaking to us today to arouse faith, to confront sin, and brokenness, and to strengthen us with the good news of our salvation”. 

      It is a “communal ritual with ritual expectations”, 

      and if the preacher departed from it, you would know it immediately…if I started dancing, or running up to the balcony, or even if I get quote unquote too “political.”

      There are various locations that can be used for the sermon; the pulpit seems to make most sense, but one can preach from the lectern or the floor. The sermon could involve drama, video, audio, dialogue, music, and even dance. 

      At the end it hopefully evokes an audible Amen from the assembly.


      The Lutheran understanding of the sermon is that it shouldn’t be just a personal reflection on the texts, 

      but rather it should proclaim the law (the truth of our sin and death and what we ought to do) and the gospel 

      (what God does for us; the good news of salvation of the world through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ).

      It should “inspire the entire assembly for continued service in the world”.

      For Luther “the word of God is not primarily a text, but it forms an oral event; the act of preaching” 

      The example of this is the famous painting on the Wittenberg city church altar, with a picture of Luther pointing from the pulpit to the crucified Jesus in front of the congregation.


      In the 4th and 5th century priests were banned from preaching (for fear of heresies) and only bishops could preach. 

      Today, anyone can, but it is a daunting task. 

      Prior to the Reformation period, sermons were only delivered occasionally, not every Sunday, and only for special services. 

      New fraternal orders were formed dedicated to preaching. 

      However the Reformers put a new emphasis on preaching, and a symbol of that, something you can see in many Protestant churches, is that the pulpit is higher or bigger than the altar. 

      That shows a clear hierarchy, that the Word is more important than the Sacrament.


      One interesting thing for me about sermons is that it isn’t so much my words that affect people, but God’s words. 

      At times I think I really didn’t have a good sermon and then weeks later, when I’ve long forgotten what it was about, someone will come up to me and say how much that sermon touched them.

      And then some sermons I think were very fine, and it won’t get a single mention.

      Now this isn’t fishing for compliments, but just a personal statement.

      In any case, one thing you can do while listening to the sermon is to

      pray for your preacher, and encourage them: they need it! 

      You’ll find a great example of this in the Black Baptist and Pentecostal traditions for example. 

      Although I don’t expect a “preach it brother” anytime soon here at St. Matthews…



      Following an optional silence that doesn’t happen here due the “Dead air” issue of radio ministry, the service continues with the Hymn of the Day.

      This Hymn is a distinctly Lutheran practice; it is the principal and central hymn of the service and a way for the assembly to take part.

      It reinforces the themes of the readings and the sermon, 

      and is a form of theological reflection, a response to what has gone before.

      By singing it, the assembly takes part in the proclamation and “gathers up relationships among the day’s readings and the season”.

      Because it is the central hymn of the service, it should be theologically substantial, and grounded in Scripture.


      The Hymn of the Day used to be known as the Gradual Hymn (because it was sung on the steps (the latin word for steps is Gradus).

      This Gradual Hymn came before the Sermon; but the problem is that it is  difficult for people to know how the hymn is related to the sermon if it’s before, so it was placed after, a more logical placement.


      One other tidbit: Some people ask me how hymns are chosen. 

      I select the hymns consulting an index and the St. Matthews Hymnology (which is a copy of the hymnal that John McLellan (and previously Sam Weicker) fills in with the dates when a particular hymn was sung.

      Then, using my knowledge of music and theology, I consult with the Music Director to verify my choices.


      *Hymn of the Day “He Comes to Us as One Unknown” # 737



      Now we turn to the Creeds.


      The word “creed” means “I believe”.

      In a nutshell, “we believe that God has made us, has given us his Son Jesus, and is with us all the time”.


      In my Confirmation class where we study Luther’s Small Catechism which includes the Creed, I compare the creed to a logo or a motto.

      The creed creates a common sense of identity.

      It also creates a boundary; and sets forth what is permissible and what is not, it shows what is heresy.


      Every group has a set of norms and founding documents that explain how things run. Some have constitutions, some have liturgies, and the Lutheran Church, a confessing church, has its Creeds and its Confessions, all found in the Book of Concord.


      Some people ask: When we confess the creed in worship: 

      do we have to believe every word? 

      Good question. The answer is yes.


      However, the reality is more like a No.

      The Reality is : if you stopped at every line and did a poll of the assembly whether they believe it or not, not everyone would raise their hand all the time.

      In the Lutheran Church Canada, you have to sign on the dotted line for the doctrinal statements otherwise you can’t be a member and can’t receive communion.

      However in the ELCIC we’re more open, liberal, and flexible. 

      We are a big tent with a wide range of beliefs, and you don’t get ex-communicated for questioning the doctrine of the virgin birth.


      The reciting of creeds began in the earliest days of the church where candidates for baptism had to profess their beliefs in front of the congregation.

      The earliest creed is: Jesus is Lord (1 Cor 12;3, Acts 8:37) and is found in the New Testament. 

      The creeds were originally a teaching document for people wanting to be a Christian, and that is where they are still primarily used today.


      There are three traditional Creeds of the Church: the Apostle’s, the Nicene and the Athanasian creed (that last one is hardly ever used and is not even printed in our ELWs). 

      The Apostles’ Creed has its origins in 2nd century baptisms in Rome, and is used primarily in the Season of Lent, and in ordinary time. 

      The Nicene Creed originated in the late 4th century. 

      While formerly it was closely linked to the celebration of Holy Communion, it is now more used for specific seasons and higher festivals. 

      There are some textual options based in arcane theological debates…

      The newer translations we use (written in 1988) are more gender-inclusive and reflect better translations. 

      Other Churches, such as the United Church, have even newer creeds, not bound to the older traditional ones.


      The use of the creed in worship is optional. 

      It wasn’t part of the Mass until the 6th century. 

      Like the Hymn of the Day, it is also a response to the Readings and the


      We now confess our faith in the words of the *Nicene Creed p. 104


      We now confess our faith in the words of the *Apostles’ Creed p. 105



      We now turn to the Prayers of Intercession.

      Why do we pray in worship?

      For one thing, it is a way to respond to bad news. 

      Sometimes you wonder if there’s anything you can do in the face of what’s going in the world today. 

      Well, at least you can pray. 

      Praying “opens us up to the needs of others”,

      it names urgent needs before God.

      It shows that we care for and love those whom we pray for.


      It is all our priestly vocation, our duty to intercede…and so we pray for others and creation.

      Early Christian leaders encouraged prayer (1 Timothy).

      In the third century already, prayers were part of worship: 

      they prayed for the needs of the church, the baptismal candidates, the penitent, the travellers, those in affliction, the prisoners, the emperor and the magistrates.

      It was the deacon’s duty to minister to the sick, and so they were the ones who prepared the prayers.

      Today the prayers express our understanding of the priesthood of all believers; and so the assisting minister prays them, 

      as symbol for the entire assembly.


      One complaint I have about the prayers of intercession is that they often end up too boring, bland, and generic. 

      The reality is it takes time to compose good, locally applicable prayers: 

      we use pre-printed resources from the Lutheran Church in America which we modify slightly. 

      The problem is to strike a balance between being too general and being too specific. 

      If you’re too specific then people might tune out because it doesn’t apply to them, but if you’re too general, then people fall asleep. 

      One other danger is for the prayers to become too partisan political. However, we must recognize and pray for all those in authority: 

      that is a Biblical command.


      Now the big question is of course:

      Does God answer prayer?


      Perhaps the better question is: how does God answer prayer?

      And that’s a topic for another day, but suffice it to say that God is not an ATM, a genie in a bottle or a supernatural chess player. 

      Martin Luther says in the Small Catechism;

      “these things we pray about 

      will come about without our prayer, 

      but we ask in prayer that they may come about in and among us”!


      So: God doesn’t need our promptings to know about what goes on in the world…praying them longer, louder, faster or stronger won’t get them achieved.

      But we hear these prayers too…God is the recipient of the prayers, but we eavesdrop: we hear them and we too can act upon them.


      While the assisting ministers pray the prayers, we make them our own by using a response (such as Lord have mercy, or hear our prayer). 

      Another way to participate is when we have a time of silent prayer, where we can lift things or people in our hearts up to God.



      And then the last part of the Word Section: The peace.

      Germaphobes hate it, extroverts love it, 

      and introverts could probably do without it.


      It has three parts:

      First, the presiding minister greets the assembly and says
      “The peace of Christ be with you (all) always)”

      The Assembly returns the greeting and says: “And also with you” (reminding us of the initial Apostolic Greeting during the Gathering).


      And then there is the passing of the peace, and a gesture is used.

      The most common in the West is of course the handshake.

      But in this flu and cold season: other options are available: a fist bump, a wave, a hug, a bow, a Roman handshake and so on.

      The oldest gesture is the holy kiss and is mentioned in Pauls’ epistles.


      Martin Luther (and German traditions today) have the Peace after the Lord’s Prayer before the Lamb of God, and there is it is a more explicit sign of reconciliation before receiving Communion.

      In our current practice the peace is a transition between the Word and Meal (or as today, the Word and Thanksgiving sections).

      The passing of the peace is a symbol of reconciliation:

      We wish peace upon our neighbour, and pray for peace amongst us all.

      “Because of the presence of Jesus Christ, we give to each other what we are saying: Christ’s own peace”.

      It shows that we are in God’s family and we love and care for one another.

      In the greeting, which includes words and a symbolic gesture, 

      is a word from God to one another.


      The Sharing of the Peace sums up the Prayers of Intercession:
      “the peace of the risen Christ is the answer to our prayer, it is God’s gift to us all”. It’s like a seal on our prayers.

      As we speak the words of peace to our neighbour, we are proclaiming the “presence of a downpayment on the very things for which we pray”.

      “This gift of the risen Christ is the gift that we speak: “that always the peace of Christ is with you”.


      One challenge for you today:

      Do you greet people you don’t know during the passing of the peace?

      Do you always shake the hands of the same people?





      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.

      Sunday, February 3, 2019

      Learning about Liturgy Service, Part 2: Word

      *indicates when the assembly (A) stands



      Organ Prelude

      We listen to the organ as we reflect on the past week, and prepare our hearts for worship.               

      Choral Prelude

      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.                                                                


      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.

      Children’s Message
               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.                                                                     


      First Reading            I appointed you a prophet to the nations           Jeremiah 1:4-10

      We hear God’s Word through the words of Hebrew Scripture (the Old Testament).

      Psalm 71:1-6                                                                                    (said responsively)

      We join together in reciting an ancient Hebrew song.

      Second Reading       If I speak without love, I am a noisy gong1 Corinthians 13:1-13
               We hear God’s Word through the words of Greek Scripture (the New Testament).  

      *Gospel Acclamation  “Alleluia. Lord, to Whom Shall We Go?”                      p. 216

      We prepare our hearts for the reading of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

      *Gospel Reading                                       

                     Jesus says a prophet is not accepted into his hometown            Luke 4:21-30    

      We hear God’s Word about the Word of God, Jesus Christ.




      The preacher reflects on a text of the day, and the assembly reflects on what is heard.

      *Hymn of the Day       “He Comes to Us as One Unknown”                              # 737

      We respond to the Word with the singing of a hymn that is either related to the sermon or the Gospel reading.                                             

      *Nicene Creed                                                                                                      p. 104

      We respond to the Word by confessing this ancient, longer statement of faith.

      *Apostles’ Creed                                                                                                 p. 105

      We respond to the Word by confessing this ancient, shorter statement of faith.

      *Prayers of Intercession                                                              A: hear our prayer.

      We respond to the Word by praying for the church, the world and all in need.


      We respond to the Word by greeting our neighbour with a sign of Christ’s peace.


      Offering Collection Hymn“We Are All One in Mission”                                  # 576    

      *Canticle of Thanksgiving                                                                                  p. 219

      *Thanksgiving for the Word                                                                              p. 220

      *Lord’s Prayer “Our Father in heaven…”                                                        p. 221


      General Announcements


      *Hymn                                 “Great is thy Faithfulness”                                     # 733

      *Choral Blessing                                       

      *Dismissal                                                                                 A: Thanks be to God.


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