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      Learning about Liturgy Part 1: Gathering

      The assembly gathers for worship January 29, 2019 Pastor Sebastian
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      Pr. Sebastian

      In the name of the Father...

      Good Morning and Welcome to our Service!



      So you may be wondering, what on earth is going on with today’s service?

      What is going on this morning?

      Today is the first 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 Worship and Music Committee agreed to my proposal for this series.


      The idea is that each Sunday, we take one of the four parts of worship, and take time to reflect on each element, before and after; 

      what it means, the history and traditions, 

      kind of like taking apart a car and putting it back together again. 

      Each section we focus upon will be much longer than usual, as you can see from the Guide to worship, 

      but the remaining 3 sections are stripped down to the bare bones. 

      We still have a complete and legitimate service, but a slightly lopsided one. 

      It’s an active learning style: 

      we will learn through doing and reflecting as we do it.


      Some of you might enjoy it, some of you might hate it. 

      But I ask you for your patience and I hope some of my passion and interest for liturgy will come through, and after the end of the series, 

      when we are back to regularly scheduled programming, 

      I hope our Sunday morning worship will have more meaning for you. 


      Why are we doing this series instead of our normal service?

      Since worship is the central thing that Christians do, it is incredibly important. 

      The committee felt that it was vital for as many people to be reached as possible, and so we decided to do this at 9.30. 

      It also enables this to not only be a passive learning exercise, 

      but rather an active, participatory style.




      The Service of Holy Communion has Four Parts: 

      Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending.

      Today we concentrate on the first part of the service: the Gathering.

      You’ll notice today that the Gathering section is ridiculously long.

      Almost all options are included this morning.

      Normally not all options for Gathering would ever be selected like they are today, but this way you get a broad idea of what is possible.

      The Gathering section is the most flexible section, 

      it can be shortened or lengthened based on the needs of the assembly or the character of the Sunday.

      The next few Sundays you will notice it will be very short: 

      just the Greeting and the Prayer of the Day.


      The Gathering section’s focus is on hospitality:

      when we gather, we welcome brother and sister

      and stranger.

      When we gather as Christians,

      we acknowledge that all are equal and

      all are one in Christ.





      First we turn to the rite of Confession and Forgiveness

      It used to be a separate service, during the week or Saturday, 

      esp. when Communion was only a few times a year 

      But now it is an optional rite of preparation that is at the very beginning on Sunday morning. 

      In theory, some of that introspection could also happen during the prelude, but here it is made very explicit.


      When we confess our sins we acknowledge that we

      “Don’t always do what God wants us to do”, and then

      “God hears our confession and we hear his word that he forgives and continues to love us,”

      and we acknowledge that we are saved and God’s children forever.

      When we confess our sins, and repent, 

      we recognize our humanity and our community,

      and we remind ourselves of our failings (both by action and by inaction) against ourselves, others and God.



      According to Martin Luther, repentance is return, and approach to baptism .

      When we confess our faults, we are returning to God, and moving nearer to the font, from where we received the assurance that God loves us and is our heavenly parent forever.

      “Taking stock of our shortcomings is daunting,”

      but if we focus on our baptism, like Luther reminds us, it becomes easier.

      Because of this baptismal connection, often Confession is led from the baptismal font, to make that link clearer.


      In the Middle Ages, the church over-emphasized sin and unworthiness: 

      it become a major guilt trip, and got a little twisted, and there were many instances of corruption,

      but more recently Lutherans have reclaimed this ancient tradition,

      and recognize its cathartic and inner cleansing benefits.

      Many Christians believe it’s a good practice to acknowledge sin on a regular basis and to receive assurance of God’s forgiving word,

      esp., in public to acknowledge; hey I’m not perfect.

      Perhaps like how in AA meetings you begin by saying 

      Hi, Im Bob and I’m an alcoholic.

      Here in worship you begin by saying

      Hi, I’m Bob, and I’m not perfect.

      It’s freeing to acknowledge: “hey I’m human, I need God’s love in my life.”


      Confession begins in the presence of God, remembering the promise of baptism, with the sign of the cross, invoking the Trinity.


      When we trace the cross on our bodies we

      “remind ourselves of what God did for us and for all people thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross”.

      Tracing the sign of the cross was recommended by Luther,

      as it reminds us of our baptism, 

      where we were marked with a cross of oil on our forehead.


      After the sign of the cross, God’s action is acknowledged with a brief introduction that sets the stage for what is to come.


      And then: Silence for reflection and self-examination.

      Unfortunately here at St. Matthews this is a little problematic as for our Radio Broadcast we want to eliminate any dead air, 

      so our silence here is probably shorter than it should be.


      One option for confession is to kneel.

      Here at St. Matthews’, kneelers were installed in the 70s.

      I invite you to look down: they’re actually still there. 

      Have you ever used them?

      No, they’re not just a foot stool for those with shorter legs.


      Why would anyone kneel for prayer: isn’t that the penitential slave model:

      “Please don’t cut off my head, master!”?

      Well yes, kneeling is a sign of humility,

      and it helps one focus one’s thoughts, 

      kind of like a bodily tonic …it keeps the blood flowing to change positions.

      However, for those with elderly aches and pains, and joints not what they used to be, kneeling could be too painful.

      Kneeling is not very practical, but always an option.

      If you’ve never knelt during worship, try it out, maybe you’ll like it!




      Let us now stand and turn to p.116 for Confession and Forgiveness

      [move to font]


      Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God,

      who forgives all our sin,

      whose mercy endures forever.



      Almighty God,

      to whom all hearts are open,

      all desires known,

      and from whom no secrets are hid:

      cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

      by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

      that we may perfectly love you

      and worthily magnify your holy name,

      through Jesus Christ our Lord.




      Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.

      (We now have a time of silence to think about how we have or haven’t done what God wants us to do)


      Silence is kept for reflection.

      Gracious God,

      have mercy on us.

      We confess that we have turned from you

      and given ourselves into the power of sin.

      We are truly sorry and humbly repent.

      In your compassion forgive us our sins,

      known and unknown,

      things we have done

      and things we have failed to do.

      Turn us again to you,

      and uphold us by your Spirit,

      so that we may live and serve you in newness of life

      through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.




      God, who is rich in mercy,

      loved us even when we were dead in sin,

      and made us alive together with Christ.

      By grace you have been saved.

      In the name of + Jesus Christ,

      your sins are forgiven.

      Almighty God strengthen you with power through the Holy Spirit,

      that Christ may live in your hearts through faith.



      We now continue with Thanksgiving for Baptism on p. 119.


      In the name of the Father,

      and of the + Son,

      and of the Holy Spirit.



      The presiding minister addresses the assembly.


      Joined to Christ in the waters of baptism,

      we are clothed with God's mercy and forgiveness.

      Let us give thanks for the gift of baptism.


      Water may be poured into the font as the presiding minister gives thanks.


      We give you thanks, O God,

      for in the beginning your Spirit moved over the waters

      and by your Word you created the world,

      calling forth life in which you took delight.


      Through the waters of the flood you delivered Noah and his family.

      Through the sea you led your people Israel from slavery into freedom.

      At the river your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit.

      By water and your Word you claim us as daughters and sons,

      making us heirs of your promise and servants of all.


      We praise you for the gift of water that sustains life,

      and above all we praise you for the gift of new life in Jesus Christ.

      Shower us with your Spirit,

      and renew our lives with your forgiveness, grace, and love.


      To you be given honor and praise

      through Jesus Christ our Lord

      in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever.



      Please be seated.


      You may notice some similarities between Confession and Forgiveness and Thanksgiving for Baptism.

      Neither is a requirement, both are options for the beginning of the Gathering section.

      Both remind us of the gifts of baptism: forgiveness and new life.


      Thanksgiving for Baptism is a new alternate order, which started in our Red ELW Books and is esp. appropriate for the Easter season, the season of baptism.

      It is even more explicit (than the order of Confession and Forgiveness) that we gather and assemble here because of our baptism.

      It praises God for God’s actions to save us through water and the word with

      texts drawn from baptismal references in the Bible.

      We remember how “God has joined us to Christ through baptism and so clothes us with mercy and forgiveness.”


      Which reminds me to briefly mention the alb, just like what Jim, our assistant minister, is wearing (and I’m wearing it under my chasuble).

      The white alb is a baptismal garment for all, it is white, symbolizing purity and freedom from sin.

      When we are clothed anew; it’s like we’re putting on a baptismal garment (think you are a baby again, reborn, re-baptised)

      So in theory, when we gather in worship, we all could put on a baptismal gown when we come in off the street. 

      Since this is not very practical, the leaders do it symbolically for all of us.


      Another thing to mention:

      the audible pouring of water during the prayer.

      It is a multi-sensory piece which is so important for us heady Lutherans, who are so focussed on the brain, and doctrine and Word…

      it’s good to remember that God touches us through different senses as well.

      We hear that loud pouring during baptism,

      the sound of living water,

      and baptism becomes something alive to us again, 

      not just a distant memory.

      Some churches even have a waterfall at their font which is always flowing as background noise to remind people of their baptism.


      Enough now about entrance rites of baptism.

      I invite the children to come forward

      and join me at the steps.


      Good morning.

      Hard or easy getting here this morning?

      Often Sunday mornings can be stressful, waking up on time, 

      getting out the door…

      when you could be just lounging around in your pyjamas.

      Suddenly you have to be quiet and pay attention in church

      and today was particularly long and boring.


      I have a question for you.

      Do you like coming to worship? Why?



      Do you like coming to worship? Why?


      Shy adults?

      Why aren’t you participating?

      put on the spot…


      Children’s time: nerve wracking, stressful for the kids.

      everyone’s staring at them,

      they’re on the radio if they respond.

      Sometimes, there’s laughter that they don’t understand

      They’re being put on the spot with some difficult questions

      they’re on display > 

      have you thought of that?

      That’s why sometimes we have the children’s message in our side area it’s more comfortable

      less stressful, no spotlight

      children are more willing to hazard a guess, participate.


      I’d like you to ponder: who is the children’s time for?

      for the kids, for the adults?

      a litlle of both?

      Originally, the children’s message was designed as one time a week where the children can spend some time with the pastor

      and to acknowledge the children’s presence in worship,

      instead of just going to Sunday School immediately when they come to church.

      It is a mixed basket

      But Jesus said “let the little children come to me”

      so we continue this practice, at least as long as there are children that are brave enough to come forward, and those here this morning are very brave.


      Let us pray:

      Dear God, help us to use our time in worship wisely, and listen to your Word carefully. Amen.


      Thank you. 

      You may now go down to Sunday School and Confirmation.

      Don’t forget the Candle!


      We now sing our 

      *Gathering Hymn “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” # 886

      Please stand.


      Please be seated.GATHERING HYMN

      Our Gathering Hymn or song is not a musical performance.

      It’s not a concert

      The gathering hymn “encourages participation, fosters unity, knits individuals into an assembly promoting a communal voice, and links us with fellow Christians from past generations”.

      It is an action for the whole assembly, whether you are a professional musician, or whether you cannot sing at all.

      Churches that sing together, stay together.

      And esp. when singing old hymns, we remember all those who have sung that hymn over the centuries…we are joined to thousands upon thousands of saints who have gone before and sung those very lines.


      Singing hymns, I think is one of the best parts of worship.

      For Luther, “singing in the local language was a way to teach the faith”

      hymns have a subtle way of educating us.


      And finally singing “praises, thanking God for wonderful things God has done” is a very Biblical thing to do.

      Mathew 26 describes Jesus and his disciples singing at the Last Supper , and there are other passages that come to mind, for example Paul and Silas singing in prison, and then of course there are all the Psalms.





      And now after we have sung a hymn,
      we turn to the formal Greeting.

      At any meeting or gathering, someone says hello to make you feel at home.

      The Greeting helps us realize why we have come together today:
      because of Grace, love and Fellowship/ Community.

      The Greeting welcomes us 


      The so-called “apostolic greeting” we use is Paul’s greeting from all the churches, to the churches in Corinth and is found in 2 Corinthians 13.

      And the greeting is in the plural: 

      It is a greeting to you all, to you and you and you!

      The Greeting is an important part of the Gathering section, 

      and is never omitted.

      Its “words mean to do what they say”

      that is,

      its “words convey the very grace, love and communion of which they speak”.

      It is a deep and powerful greeting.


      In the Greeting, 

      the primary relationship of the Presiding Minister to the assembly is established.

      Presiding minister and assembly say a “hello”, back and forth, rooted in the nature of the Trinity.

      And it reminds us what the Christian life is all about:

      the “communion of the Holy Spirit around the Grace of Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, spoken and given in word and sacrament.”


      After the Presider says those words of greeting,

      the assembly responds: And also with you.

      thereby acknowledging and welcoming the pastor as presider.

      It’s kind of like a mini-renewal of call: it’s like saying: 

      “we’re still OK that you’re our pastor, you may proceed to lead worship!”


      And the relationship is established that worship is mutual: 

      you need both a leader and an assembly. 

      Because things get a little chaotic without a leader and clear process, 

      and alternately, worship is pointless without an assembly.

      At the response, the presiding minister bows, 

      to “indicate honor and respect for the assembly as the body of Christ”.


      Please rise.


      The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…


      We now sing a brief prayer of mercy for us and others, 

      the Kyrie found on page 120.



      The Kyrie, Gloria and “This is the Feast” are traditional liturgical elements in the gathering section of worship. 

      They are all optional, and some are more appropriate for various times of the year. Simple summer services might not have any of them. 

      Next Sunday, for brevity’s sake, they will be all omitted.


      Kyrie means “Lord” in Greek

      “People used this word to greet their King when he came to visit them” , “they were honoured by this visit and hoped he would help them.”

      The Kyrie is a Greek Christian Hymn to Christ already known in the 3rd century: so, it’s very old!

      It is a plea (a supplication) and a litany (a prayer for various topics).

      “As God’s family we say “Lord Have mercy” to greet the risen Lord Jesus and ask him to continue to love and care for all things and all people.”


      As Martin Luther writes (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”!



      Next we turn to the Canticles of Praise: 

      The Gloria and the “This is the Feast.”

      These canticles are generally not sung in Lent or Advent, 

      which as seasons are more sombre and introspective.



      The Gloria, or “Glory to God” is the song the angels sang when Jesus was born, and is appropriate for the time between Christmas and Epiphany of our Lord. It is an old, traditional canticle of praise, going back to 6th century Latin text, with origins even further into the 4th to 5th century in Greek.



      “This is the Feast” is a new canticle of praise introduced in the Green LBW in 1978, with words from the books of Isaiah and Revelation and is a summary of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death.
      It “reminds us what God has done for us and tells us Jesus is our Saviour”.


      Please stand as we sing both Canticles of Praise. 

      First the Glory to God, on page 121, and then the This is the Feast.


      *Glory to God p. 121


      *This is the Feast p. 122


      Please be seated.PRAYER

      We now reflect on the other important element in the gathering section (besides the Greeting): the Prayer of the Day.


      It is a summary prayer which concludes the gathering section,

      highlights the theme of the day or season,

      and anticipates the scripture readings that follow.

      Or in other words, the Prayer of the Day is a “key that opens the door to the 3 readings”.


      After the prayer, to show that this prayer is ours too, we respond “Amen”, which means “So be it” or “may it be so”.


      Sometimes, I must admit, the prayers of the day are a bit bland and non-specific, or hard or even complex to follow. 

      That is a result of the fact that they are in a very old traditional format, 

      and some of them are over a thousand years old.

      But perhaps, even if they are hard to understand, 

      ”try to receive the ministry of prayer as a gift” , 

      that is, this is a prayer present for you.


      The Prayer of the Day, formerly known as the “Collect”,

      collects us in prayer before God and orients us to the scripture readings


      The Classic Collect has 4 parts:

      1. the address (that is, calling God)
      2. then second, an Acknowledgement and thanks to God for God’s acts
      3. then a particular request
      4. finally a conclusion (reminding us that we pray through Jesus and because of Jesus)


      I would draw your attention to the fact that in our current practice there is no:

      “The Lord be with You (And also with you)” prior to this prayer.

      While an option in the Green LBW, 

      this additional mini-greeting was eliminated in our Red worship book.

      The idea was to simplify things, 

      and the feeling was that by having this repetition of a greeting between Presider and Assembly, its meaning was diluted.

      Thus, the only time you have that:

      The Lord be with You (And also with you)

      is at the Great Dialogue prior to the Great Thanksgiving at the Meal.


      The Presiding Minister prays the Prayer of the Day in the Orans position. 

      The Orans is an ancient prayer posture: 

      traced back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

      It is open, expectant, joyful, it is a posture of praise and awe.

      It expresses openness and vulnerability

      However, sometimes it is misunderstood as a “look at me I’m so great pose”,

      but that’s not what it is at all:

      it is the shape of an empty chalice, ready to be filled with God’s grace and love, or alternately the sign of the cross, 

      following Jesus’ path of servanthood and love.

      The Orans position is not reserved for clergy, it is available to all, 

      and used here by assisting ministers as well.

      Pentecostal traditions have adopted it in the pews.

      Perhaps we can all try it as I pray?


      Todays’ Prayer of the Day

      refers to how we read scripture, and also Jesus’s reading of the Isaiah text that we’ll hear in our Gospel reading,

      and the prayer asks God to help us hear God’s word in a deep and meaningful way.


      Please rise, and I invite you to join me in the Orans position as you feel so inclined.


      *Prayer of the Day


      Let us pray.

      Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures to be written for the nourishment of your people. Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, comforted by your promises, we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.



      Please be seated as we listen to the Choir’s commentary on the themes of the day.



      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.

      Order of Service:


      Organ Prelude

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

      Words of Welcome & Service Announcements

      We gather in the name of the Holy Trinity, and inform ourselves about the worship service ahead.                                                                

      *Confession and Forgiveness                                                                                 p. 116

      We realize we need God’s love and mercy in our lives.

      *Thanksgiving for Baptism                                                                                    p. 119

      We are grateful that we are God’s children.

      Children’s Message

      We hear a simple message on the theme of the day for young and old.

      *Gathering Hymn       “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”                               # 886

      We sing a song to orient our minds, hearts and bodies to God’s presence in our lives.


      We greet each other in the name of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

      *Kyrie                                                                                                                      p. 120

      We sing a brief prayer of mercy for us and others.

      *Glory to God                                                                                                          p. 121

      We sing a song of praise with the angels and saints.

      *This is the Feast                                                                                                    p. 122

      We sing a festive song of praise, remembering God’s Easter triumph over death.

      *Prayer of the Day

      We pray to God in a brief prayer that summarizes the theme of the day.

      Anthem                 “Come[SM1] , Though Fount of Every Blessing (# 807)arr H. Hopson

      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 reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah    Luke 4:14-21

      *Prayers of Intercession                                                                                                   




      *Offering Presentation Hymn       “Oh, Worship the King”                    # 842, v. 1&5

      *Great Thanksgiving                                                                                              p. 129

      *Holy, Holy, Holy                                                                                                    p. 130

      *Thanksgiving at the Table II                                                                                p. 130

      *Lord’s Prayer (Our Father, who art in heaven…)                                               p. 134

      Lamb of God                                                                                                           p. 135                                                   

      Communion Hymns                                                                           # 461, # 507, # 496


      General Announcements


      *Sending Hymn        “Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness”                  # 843, v.1



      On Wednesday, January 30, 2019, Erika Sattler said:

      Although I was not able to be in church on Sunday, I found much in what I read that I didn’t know or had forgotten. It made me aware that there is so much more going on in our worship service than the mere words. Thanks for providing this insight.


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