You’ve purchased a new piece of furniture. The box indicates “some assembly required”. You open it up the box and lay out all the parts contained therein. You locate the package with all the fasteners, sort them and arrange them according to size. What’s the next thing you do? Some of us locate the instruction sheet and set it aside. Perhaps it’s stubborn pride, perhaps it’s an overinflated sense of ability. whatever the reasoning we seem to think “I can do this, I don’t need instructions”.
Part way through the assembly we find that we are not the mastermind we once thought and we dig through the packing material and open the instructions. Those instructions provide the steps and process to accomplish the task. In the same way, God has given us a process and steps to accomplish His task as we enter His church. Over the next few months, we will look at these steps and what they mean during our time in the Divine Service.
First, we identify that this is God’s divine service for us. We gather to receive His gifts, Word and Sacraments, to refresh, restore and fill us with His love. We are given the gift of responding to His gifts with our praise and thanksgiving.
The first step in God’s process is preparation. Just as we prepare by arranging and organizing our tools and parts in the item we wish to assemble, so also God arranges His people and items for worship. He gathers us into His house, and we make ourselves ready to receive. This gathering is accomplished as we welcome one another and greet one another in love. It is also accomplished as we begin in prayer and quiet meditation. This preparation is identified by the way our church building is arranged. The “Family room” is the place to greet, welcome and catch up with one another sharing the events we have experienced over the past week. We move from there into the “Sanctuary” where we begin with prayer and a more quiet and reflective reflection on God’s goodness to us and our greatest need to be refilled with His love. It is important that we recognize these two areas and use them as such. We desire to respect those who need to connect and share in the family room as well as those who wish to quietly reflect and prepare. As our service begins we desire to have our hearts stilled and open to receive all God has for us.
We pass by the baptismal font as we enter, reminding us that through His Word and the waters of Baptism all of us are gathered into His family and His church.
The music begins, the candles are lit, the bell rings inviting people to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise! That praise is celebrated as we join in song and Father welcomes us, placing His name upon us in the invocation. Here we as individuals with our various experiences, needs, hurts, joys and differences are called one body in Him. Our identity is proclaimed as we are joined together in the bonds of our God’s love “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The sign of the cross reminds us that we have access to this great gift only on the merits of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
This preparation continues as we acknowledge that we have not lived as His children over the past week. We are in need of His forgiveness. We gather to confess “Speak together” our sins not only to God but also to one another. The world, the devil, and yes, our own sinful selves have said, done and thought things against God and one another. This preparation concludes as those words of God are spoken to us, “Your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”! Again, the sign of the cross reminds us of our baptism and that only by the sacrifice of Jesus and His resurrection do we receive such an awesome gift.
Until this point Pastor has remained outside the communion rail as He also needs to confess and receive such forgiveness. Entering the communion rail at the conclusion of the confession He enters the communion rail and from the mercy seat of God, speaks on His behalf those precious words!
Thanks are to God for preparing us not just on Sunday, but every day, placing His name upon us, forgiving us and giving us His love.
Serving Christ with you,
Pastor Bob Weidmayer +++