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    "Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker." 
    Psalm 95:6

Third in a Series–

As The Service Begins

A Point Of Emphasis

As a pastor organizes a worship service, he does so with the worshipers in mind. It is planned with a desire to help supply the spiritual needs of God’s people. Therefore it is not simply a matter of throwing together a hodgepodge of scripture readings, hymns, sermon text, and prayers. Each service is carefully planned to center upon one point.

Generally speaking, this point of emphasis is dictated by the season of the church year. More specifically, the point of emphasis is determined by the sermon text and pin-pointed by the sermon theme and, possibly, a sermon outline. Thus, the sermon text and theme determine the thrust of the worship service. The Bible readings, hymns, and prayers are chosen carefully to emphasize this one central theme. After all, one is preparing a celebration–a celebration of God’s grace.

A Worshipful Atmosphere

Upon entering the church for this celebration, we should realize that we have come here for a special purpose. That purpose is to worship our Lord and receive special blessings from Him. One of the older liturgies which some may remember attempted to set the proper mood for worship by beginning with the words: “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Habakkuk 4:20).

We and our families should make a genuine effort to promote and maintain a worshipful atmosphere during the worship service.

We encourage parents to bring their infant children to the worship services. Being in worship services is something our children should grow to recognize as part of their lives. Obviously they will not understand why they need to be quiet so much of the time. Yet with the proper guidance they can learn to sit quietly. Think of it as training for a lifetime of regular attendance at worship services.

While our children are learning, however, we should try to prevent them from disrupting the worship of others. Such things as unruly actions and loud crying need to be disciplined promptly in a proper fashion in areas other than the sanctuary. A “parents’ room” is often available for that purpose.

Arriving late to worship services may also be disturbing to worshipers. For that reason ushers often close the doors to the sanctuary when the service begins. Latecomers may enter by direction of the ushers during the singing of a hymn. While one waits in the narthex, one may be involved in the worship service– particularly if audio speakers are positioned for such purposes.

Preparation For Worship

The worshiper finds time for personal prayer when he has been seated. Page four of the hymnal carries some suggestions for such prayers. A pre-service prayer is often printed in the bulletin. With all this, the best may be a prayer from the heart, asking the Lord to bless us with His Holy Spirit that we receive His gifts of love in Word and sacrament with a receptive and thankful spirit.

The first hymn is to help set the mood for worship.

The Lutheran Church has ever been the singing church. This may well be attributed to Martin Luther. He said, for example: “I give music the highest and most honorable place; and everyone knows how David and all the saints put their divine thoughts into verse, rhyme, and song.”

In contrast to those “reformers” who proposed that art and music be removed from worship services, Luther wrote: “I would fain see all the arts, and music in particular, used in the service of Him who hath given and created them.” For Luther believed that “music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men.”

Hymns have been a part of the Lutheran Church from its inception. Luther’s ringing declaration that all believers constitute a universal priesthood necessarily implied that the laity should participate in the worship. Congregational singing during worship services therefore became a natural happening.

The Welcome

As the pastors welcome the worshipers, they may briefly summarize the primary point of emphasis in the service. This coincides with the “welcome” which is often printed on the face of the service folder.

Worshipers are welcomed in the name of the Triune God–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit–in whose name we live, worship, and conduct the work of His Kingdom. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20).

Points To Ponder:

The worship service is made up of two primary elements– sacramental: God giving to us; and sacrificial: we giving to God in thankfulness.

God gives us, by grace, His spiritual blessings in Word and Sacrament. In thankfulness we give God our heart, our abilities, our possessions, our praise.

Much of our worship service dates back to the time of the apostles or to the first century. There is evidence also that the order of worship in the first centuries of the Christian era was fairly uniform. It is believed by some scholars that the Liturgy of Jerusalem, commonly known as the Liturgy of St. James, may have been committed to paper before A.D. 200.

–Pastor em. L Dale Redlin