Communion between God and his people
Call to worship
Blessed are those You choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. (Psalm 65:4)
Doxology: Hymn no 23 : “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of hosts”
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love. (2 John 3)
Hymn No 246: “Crown Him with many crowns”
All sing verses 1, 3, 5
Ladies sing verse 2
Men sing verse 4
Adoration, Invocation and the Lord’s Prayer
Gracious God, Creator of heaven and earth,
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled. O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. (Psalm 65:1-2; 5-8)
May the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, our Rock and our Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17)
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn No 467: “O what can little hands do?”
Scripture Reading: Exodus 20:1-17
Prayer of Confession
Declaration of pardoning
When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. (Psalm 65:3)
Hymn No 251: “I heard the voice of Jesus say”
Offering and Dedication
“Give to the Caesar what is the Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)
All remaining seated, sing
Hymn 477: “Take my life and let it be”
Prayer for others
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 10: 19-25; 12:14-29
Sermon Christian worship: Communion between God and his people
My dear brother and sister,
Much is said about Christian worship. Even more is said about the form of worship. It is the experience of many Christian churches that the numbers of people who come to worship are showing a decline. Even in our own presbytery, we heard not so long ago, that in all congregations attendance figures are significantly lower than say 15 years ago. Those of you who had a look at the exhibition in the hall last week would have notices that attendance figures of the evening services in the not so distant past exceeded 250 people at times.
Falling attendance numbers is a concern for all churches. Our evening services are also a source of concern.
Now, when the numbers are falling we can become panicky about it. Preachers and church leaders begin to look at alternatives.
8 The argument goes like this: “Worship services need to become more attractive and user-friendly. After all, we live in a modern society and the things of the past cannot dictate the present.”
There is a hunt for new worship styles, and services reflect the character of entertaining sessions. 8 Well, we need to keep people interested – specially the young people; at least that’s the argument.
8 Biblical worship
We have read the Ten Commandments earlier in the service this morning. One of the documents prepared by the Westminster divines in the 1600 and recognised by most of the reformed churches in the English world, 8 the Larger Catechism, asks and gives answers about the Ten Commandments. In question 102, referring to the first table of the law, it asks: 8 “What is the sum of the first four commandments which contain our duty to God?” The answer is this: 8 “The sum of the four commandments containing our duty to God is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind”.
Further down, when it considers the 8 Second Commandment, the question is, “What are the duties required in the second commandment?”
The answer: 8 “The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof …” and further, 8 “… opposing all false worship; and, according to each one’ s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.”
We will come back on these elements of worship as it is spelled out in this answer. But let’s look a bit further for the moment.
8 What then is forbidden by the Second Commandment? Part of the answer is, 8 “... any religious worship not instituted by God himself; 8 the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; 8 anything corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever.”
E Any religious worship not instituted by God himself.
One of the lessons of the Old Testament is the detailed specifications by which the ark had to build. Exact measurements were given by God to Moses; even the exact material was important to God. Later, with the tabernacle, once again God’s command was important. Then, with the institution of the sacrificial system, once again the command of the Lord was the only measure of worship. Where these were not followed, God was displeased and in some cases He visited his people with terrible plaques or even death. In God’s eye it was nothing short of idolatry.
E Representation of any one of the Three Persons of God
Some decades ago it was unthinkable for any protestant to tolerate any form of representation of any one of the Three Persons of God. Some Presbyterian churches today sport stained glass windows with all sorts of representations of God. We go even further: dramas are performed in place of the preaching of the Word. In some instances members of the church would even represent the Person of God; little children play the role of our Saviour while pride moms and dads take videos and clap for there sons and daughters. And after the whole show, the minister announces the benediction of God upon the people! How dare we!
E Anything corrupting the worship
If it is only for us that we worship on Sundays, we are doomed. If the worship is targeted at the word outside, we have corrupted it. If we are adding to it any human measure to make it more attractive, we have lost the plot and we live under condemnation of God. If we are adding to what God has ordained as acceptable worship, we stand to be punished. If we are taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever, God will not bless our worship. Churches will run dry and the world will eventually find a foothold right within the people of God, becoming the Trojan horse destroying us from within.
So important is this matter to us that the Catechism adds another question about the Second Commandment: “What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it?”
The answer, “The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, 8 … besides God’ s sovereignty over us, and appropriate response required from us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful righteous anger against all false worship, as being a spiritual whoredom; He accounts the breakers of this commandment such as if they hate Him, and He threatens to punish them for many generations; He esteems the observers of it [true worship] such as loving Him and keeping his commandments, therefore He promises mercy to them for many generations.”
All of this is of the utmost importance for office-bearers of the church of Jesus Christ. Upon their ordination and induction to the offices of preaching elder (ministers) and ruling elders, they are asked the following question: “Do you own and accept the purity of worship as practiced in this church?” Why would they be asked this question? Because they are not only responsible to lead God’s people in worship, but also to exercise oversight over God’s people to see that no unbiblical worship slips into the church.
8 Reformed Worship
Early in the piece, Martin Luther who instigated the reformation, but unfortunately did not brake with everything unbiblical concerning Roman Catholic worship, argued that God gave man five senses to use in worship. Hence his use of candles, organ music and other practices in worship.
John Calvin, who really understood the meaning of true Biblical worship, argued differently. No, he said, what is important in worship, is not man. 8 We worship for God’s glory, only secondary for our edification and not in the least for our pleasure. 8 He said, “The more it delights human nature, the more it is to be questioned by believers.” Simply stated: whatever we do in worship must have support from the Bible.
My question is this, are those who strayed from the church where they are because of true and pure worship, or have they strayed because of unbiblical worship? If it is so that they have strayed because of pure worship, we must ask why God would institute a form of worship that will lead to the destruction of his church. If people have strayed because of unbiblical worship and impure worship, why do we think we are going to win them back by unbiblical worship?
We must not be trapped into an argument to believe that everything traditional is bad. What is bad about tradition is that it may not be based upon the Word of God. 8 Further, if we do not understand the underlying principles of worship as the Word teaches us, worship definitely becomes boring, heartless, emotionless and cold. And that my dear brother and sister, is enough to make people do something else during the time of indifferent worship.
8 Elements of Worship
The Worship service is God’s appointed way to commune with his people. When God speaks, his people listen and respond. 8 In this sense the worship service is a dialogue between God and his people. What we do in the service is important as it represents and gives expression to the elements of communion and dialogue with God. Let’s look at these elements. 8 Liturgy=service
· Doxology – praise to God
· Call to worship
· Song of praise
· Invocation and the Lord’s prayer
· Scripture Reading:
· Prayer of Confession
· Declaration of pardoning
· Hymn No 251:
· Offering and Dedication
· Prayer for others
· Scripture Reading and sermon
· Singing as response
8 Let’s remember this verse then:
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)