Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reformation Liturgy for Evening Service October 31, 2010

On Sunday evening, we remembered the 493rd anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the doors of All Saints' Church in Whittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, which created the spark that would become the blaze known as the Protestant Reformation. To try and help the church see our Reformation roots in worship, we utilized one of the first Reformed liturgies that was developed for providing distinctively Reformed worship. I put together a liturgy that was based on the initial reforms instituted by Martin Bucer in Strasbourg, which have been recorded in his work Grund und Ursach from 1524, together with later insights from his reforms in his 1537 and 1539 liturgies.

To maintain some semblance with our normal service we included an explicit call to worship and response at the beginning of the service. So in the liturgy below, Bucer's liturgy begins at "Confession of Sin, Pardon, and Thanksgiving." Bucer began with the Confession of Sin because he believed that Reformed worship was premised on the recovery of the ministry of the Word of God. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ's ministry was built on the ministry of John the Baptist, which was a ministry calling sinners to repent. If Christ's ministry was built on calling for repentance, and Reformed worship was a continuation of Christ's ministry of the Word, then the worship service should be built on repentance and confession of sin.

Throughout the liturgy, we used prayers written by Bucer. We used his confession of sin, his assurance of pardon (with minor variation), his prayer of thanksgiving, his prayer of illumination and his prayer of intercession. Since we were worshipping in the evening, we also followed his pattern for Lord's Day evening services in doing a scripture reading from a Gospel passage and preaching from the epistles. Also, one of the particular features of the early Reformers was there emphasis on the law—not for pointing out sin from which one should repent (first use of the law), but they used it to set forth positive instruction for teaching the church to express thanksgiving to God by leading a holy life (third use of the law). We did this by singing the Decalogue. The arrangement we used was used in Strasbourg by Bucer and can be found in the Genevan Psalter. Another Reformed distinctive we did was praying the intercessory prayer after the sermon. By praying it at this point, it allowed the minister to apply the sermon passage in a specific way to the congregation. A final distinct feature of early Reformed worship was using a creed for corporate confession after the sermon in response to the Word. We did this by singing the Apostles' Creed, which Bucer typically would do.

Although it was different than the worship we typically offer on the Lord's Day, it was quite a blessing and very helpful for showing us our roots. It can be very easy to take worship for granted, but these men were recovering worship without having a direct example to follow. They had the scripture and the early church to help them, but none of them had ever worshipped in any other way than Medieval Roman Catholicism. In fact, at the beginning of the Reformation, typically what they did was translate the Catholic Mass into the common tongue, only discarding the most obvious features of the mass. What Bucer put together, with the help of Capito and Zell, was later picked up by Calvin and would eventually form the archetype of Reformed worship which has followed even to this day. We owe much to those early Reformers who risked their lives to do what we often complain about. May we recapture their Reformed ethos as we continue to stand on their shoulders seeking to reform the church's worship according to the Word of God.

The Silent Prayer Upon Entering the Church
O God, who has taught us that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us; Increase and multiply upon us Your mercy; that, with You as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Revised Liturgy of 1689)
*The Call to Worship                                                Psalm 100
    "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" (Psalm 100)         Hymn 1

*The Invocation and Lord's Prayer
Grant unto us, O heavenly Father, that the remembrance of our redemption may never leave our hearts, but that we may walk in Christ, the Light of the world, far removed from our foolish reason and blind wills, which are vain and injurious darkness. Almighty God, heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks that you have been so gracious unto us poor sinners, having drawn us to your Son our Lord Jesus, whom thou hast delivered to death for us and given to be our nourishment and our dwelling unto eternal life. Grant that we may never relinquish these things from our hearts, but ever grow and increase in faith to you, which, through love is effective of all good works. And so may our whole life, and especially our worship tonight, be devoted to your praise and the edification of our neighbor; through the same Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Confession of Sin, Pardon, and Thanksgiving
Make confession to God the Lord, and let everyone acknowledge with me his sin and iniquity.

    Prayer of Confession
Almighty, eternal God and Father, we confess and acknowledge that we, alas, were conceived and born in sin, and are therefore inclined to all evil and slow to all good; that we transgress thy holy commandments without ceasing, and ever more corrupt ourselves. But we are sorry for the same, and beseech thy grace and help. Wherefore have mercy upon us, most gracious and merciful God and Father, through thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant to us and increase in us thy Holy Spirit, that we may recognize our sin and unrighteousness from the bottom of our hearts, attain true repentance and sorrow for them, die to them wholly, and please thee entirely by a new and godly life. Amen.
    Assurance of Pardon                                 Acts 10:42-43
And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Let everyone, with St. Peter, truly acknowledge this in his heart and believe in Christ, and rest assured that you have received the forgiveness of all your sins. They have been loosed on earth that they may also be loosed in heaven, and for all eternity. God have mercy upon us and bless us. Amen.
    Psalms of Thanksgiving                               Psalm 103A
                                                                           *Psalm 46A
*Prayer of Thanksgiving
Almighty, gracious, heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks that, through your holy Gospel, you have again offered and presented to us your most precious treasure: our Lord Jesus Christ. And we heartily beseech you to grant that we may receive Him and partake of Him in true faith now and forever, and be so nourished that we may be set free from all evil and increase daily in all goodness, to thy glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
*Reading from the New Testament Gospel                     Matthew 5
    "Decalogue (Strasbourg)" from the Genevan Psalter See Insert

The Prayer of Illumination & Collection                  Psalm 19B
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. . . Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:14,16

The Lord be with you, let us pray.
Our gracious God, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Help us to be ever thankful for your beneficent providence and make us faithful stewards of your great bounty—for the building up of your Kingdom, for the provision of our necessities and for the relief of those who are in need. And as our needs are not merely physical but also spiritual, we give you thanks for your eternal Word. Almighty, gracious Father, forasmuch as our whole salvation depends upon our true understanding of thy holy Word, grant to all of us that our hearts, being freed from worldly affairs, may hear and apprehend thy holy Word with all diligence and faith, that we may rightly understand thy gracious will, cherish it, and live by it with all earnestness, to thy praise and honor; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Scripture Reading                                                           2 Timothy 3:1-4:5

The Sermon "Desperate Times Call for Divine Measures"
      *"The Apostles' Creed"                                                                  Hymn 742    
                                                   (Tune for: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken)

*Benediction and Response                                                   Numbers 6:24-26
    *Congregation: Amen
    "Give Thanks unto the Lord, Jehovah" (Psalm 118)             Hymn 613 (Verse 1)

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