“Liturgy” is the word used to describe our participation in the rhythms of the Sunday morning gathering. If you are new to Saint Peter’s, or are simply interested in understanding more about the liturgy, this guide will help you appreciate the meaning behind what we do during our worship services.
The liturgy has its roots in the Old Testament, New Testament, and the early Church. It has been adapted throughout generations, but its basic form has remained the same since the days of the apostles. From the beginning, the liturgy has been designed to express the beauty of God and the important role of Christians in worship. We gather together to worship God through song, prayer, responsive reading, reflection, and celebration of the Eucharist.
ENTERING GOD’S HOLY PRESENCE
During the opening song or hymn, a cross is carried into the sanctuary down the main aisle to symbolize the entrance of God’s people into the presence of God through Christ.
“Blessed be God…” This exchange is our corporate proclamation of the primary purpose in gathering together—to worship God and celebrate the coming of His Kingdom.
Prayer for Purity
“Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open…” This prayer prepares our hearts to enter into true worship. The prayer of purity acknowledges our need for cleansing and the role of the Holy Spirit in worship that is true and holy.
The creed summarizes the Christian faith as it has been proclaimed through every generation. When we recite the Creed we are affirming our link with generation after generation of Christians through the ages. We say it weekly because the creed informs us how to think about everything in our life.
CELEBRATING GOD’S GOODNESS AND POWER
The songs at the beginning of the service are intended to proclaim the glory and majesty of God that our minds and hearts might be filled with joy and wonder before Him.
The Collect is a prayer that “collects” our hearts and guides our thoughts to a single theme that also follows through the reading and usually the sermon.
HEARING GOD’S WORD
God’s Word is foundational for all that we are and all that we do. We want to hear from God so that our lives might be conformed to his will. We read from the Old and New Testaments because God continues to speak to his people through all scripture. We read from the Gospels because the coming of Christ is the central event of our faith.
The sermon is to be an explanation and application of God’s Word for God’s people. Through inspired preaching, God encourages, comforts, corrects and transforms lives.
RECEIVING GOD’S LOVING GRACE
Prayers of the People
God’s people are called to be “a kingdom of priests.” During the prayers of the people, we express our priesthood by thanking God for the many ways he has shown his love and mercy toward us and by offering up prayers for the needs of the world. Through the prayers of the people we look forward to the day when God’s good and perfect will is “done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Confession of Sin
When we sing about the majesty of God and listen to the wonders of his Word, we will inevitably come to recognize more deeply how sinful we are. The confession of sin gives us time to reflect upon our failures and seek God’s mercy and grace that our lives may more fully reflect his goodness. After confession, the leader proclaims forgiveness because scripture assures us that God forgives us when we confess our sins.
This is much more than a social moment. Jesus came that there might be “peace on earth.” As the gathered people of God, the church is a place where there is peace between all members of the congregation. Before we can appropriately celebrate the Eucharist together, we reaffirm that we are at peace with one another. We proclaim God’s peace to one another to affirm the peace that God has brought to us as a community through Christ.
RESPONDING TO GOD’S PROVISION
The offering is more than a time to get the bills paid for the church. It is an act of worship by which we acknowledge our dependence upon God for the many blessings in our life. We “give back” to God some of the things he has given to us in order to demonstrate our thankfulness for his mercy and grace, and to proclaim that indeed our whole lives belong to Him. We give because God sacrificially gives to us. The money given is used for ministry—to advance God’s Kingdom.
The Eucharistic meal is a celebration of the past, present, and the future of God’s grace towards us. The bread and wine are taken from the earth, reminding us that all creation is a gift from God. They are consecrated by the priest to be for us the body and blood of Christ, reminding us that Jesus died for our sins and the sins of the whole world. We receive the consecrated bread and wine, reminding us that we are united with Christ by faith, and that it is by the grace of God given in Christ that we live and grow and become the men and women we were created to be. We go forth into the world after the meal, renewed by the hope that when Christ returns all creation will be redeemed and renewed. At that time, “the glory of God will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea” and all creation will be restored to perfect goodness.
SHARING GOD’S BLESSINGS
The service ends with the cross being led out first, reminding us that we are to go forth into the world and, like Christ, proclaim the good news for the coming kingdom of God to all of creation.