If liturgy is new for you, think of it like joining in on someone else’s family dinner. Their food, conversation, traditions, and quirks may seem odd at first. But after joining them a few times you may feel more comfortable with the way they do things. Over time we hope you’ll feel at home with us.
Anglican worship is ordered in a “gospel shape.” The service is designed as a series of movements that trace the arc of becoming a Christian: moving from alienation to fellowship with God. In these movements, Sin is revealed, Grace is proclaimed, and Faith is expressed. Traditionally, this Sin-Grace-Faith sequence happens in three cycles during a service, as we move further up and further in to the gospel and our fellowship with God.
Here’s a brief-ish primer on why we do what we do, in the order that we do it.
Call to Worship
We are not passive observers in worship. God calls us to be actively engaged in praising him; in singing, in wrestling with the readings and sermon, in prayer, and in partaking of communion. All of these great ways of worshipping God must begin with a heart prepared to enter into his presence.
The Bible is loaded with stories of people singing, from songs of joy to songs of sorrow, and everything in between. We join in this tradition of using music and song to direct ourselves in all circumstances towards God in praise and to anchor our hearts in God’s truth.
Jesus has welcomed us into his kingdom with grace and mercy. We turn to those around us to warmly welcome each other. As Romans 15.7 says, “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.”
During this time we share stories of God at work within our community, and share opportunities to take steps of faithfulness as an expression of God’s saving power in our lives.
We believe God invites us to offer our lives to him – our souls, relationships, time, gifts, and finances – and to give them generously. We don’t give under compulsion but freely because God invites us to use every part of our life to participate in his eternal and infinite kingdom.
Summary of the Law
The Christian life can be summarized with the words “love God” and “love people.” Each week, as we repeat these words, we are reminded of this call upon our lives.
The collect-prayer collects our individual prayers together as one. It affirms God’s character and we pray together in light of that characteristic. There is a set prayer for each Sunday of the year.
Confession of Faith
Think of this like a national anthem. As we say this ancient creed written in the 4th century, we acknowledge the historical truths of the gospel, and the unifying and non-negotiable aspects of our faith which have been passed down throughout the ages. Just in case you’re wondering, catholic means the universal Christian church of all times and all places.
Scripture & Sermon
We listen to Scripture read publicly to hear God speak to us. We acknowledge this as a gift and respond with thanks. Some view the sermon as a way to get principles for “right” living, or as a chance to take a nap, however we preach from all of Scripture to encounter Jesus.
Prayers of the People
The Bible calls us to pray at all times and to persevere in prayer. Through prayer, we offer up our supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings (see 1 Timothy 2.1-4). Members from our church lead us in prayer for our church, our city, and for the world.
Through confession we acknowledge our failures, shortcomings, imperfections, struggles, and sin before God. Together we ask for God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, as we are equally in need of God’s mercy. The point of confession, however, is not to dwell in guilt or shame. Even at our worst, Jesus loves us and gave himself for us.
Because of the cross of Christ, as an act of faith, we stand for the announcement of the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus has graciously forgiven us and lifts us out of our sins. As far as the east is from the west, so far has God put our sins away from us (see Psalm 103.12).
After confession and absolution, we celebrate the mercy and grace lavished upon us in Christ. Rejoicing is frequently commanded throughout Scripture. It is an emotion. It is also an action (such as shouts of joy and clapping). Heaven erupts with joy when sinners return to God with repentance (see Luke 15). Sometimes we rejoice in response to joy we already feel. But other times we rejoice to cultivate joy in our hearts when it may be absent.
The prayers of communion explore and explain the wonder of Jesus’ death for us. As St. Paul writes, “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” These prayers can be traced back through the centuries, and they also contain the precious words Jesus used during The Last Supper. As we hear these words and go forward together, we feed on him, in our hearts, by faith, with thanksgiving.
When Jesus was asked to teach his disciples to pray, he taught them what we now call the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 9.9-13). It has been handed down generation to generation teaching us to pray.
These lyrics were originally penned in 1674 by Thomas Ken, and they anchor us in the reality that our only proper response to God is worship.
God always gets the last word in our service. First, He blesses us. Then he sends us out into the world, to live a life that reflects his love, mercy, and truth.
Here are some further resources about liturgy: