Unceasing Worship (a liturgy)


[photo by p*p on flickr]

[This was a liturgy I delivered at my church this past Sunday as we continued our series from Luke called “conversations with jesus”.  Here is the audio from the message that followed this opening liturgy.  Much of this opening material I stole from the incredible book Unceasing Worship by Harold Best]

Greeting and Preparation

Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.

Hello, my name is Paul, and I want to welcome you Liberti Church. Liberti is a community of individuals still trying to figure out this Christian faith we’ve found ourselves in. And if you’re around here long enough you’ll see that we all do this to varying degrees of imperfection, more often than not. So, whether this is your first time here, or you are firmly rooted in this community, I hope that your time here today is meaningful; that you feel warmly welcomed and that you are able to experience the God we love in a tangible, real way.

In a few moments we’re going to stand and do the whole traditional, super structured, church thing. We’re going to read things back and forth, say them together, sing some songs, stand up, sit down, stand up again, say hello to one another and listen to a sermon. It’s easy to look at all this and begin to think that all these trappings and movements are what it means to be a Christian; that this is the substance of our faith. It’s easy; after all, we can see, observe, and measure our participation of these things.  But that’s not why we do this.

We do this because we are all worshippers at heart. All worship is is the outpouring of ourselves toward some thing or some one, and we are always doing this. The only question is: what are we directing this outpouring towards? Our default mode–our most natural state–is to direct this outpouring (our worship) towards everything else in the world but God. And we get into a rhythm of doing this day in and day out. We become accustomed to participating in the storyline of our lives as the story of us worshipping things other than God. And that’s why we do what we do here on Sunday. The movements we are about to go through are the movements of God’s story of grace and redemption that he has accomplished for us and is declaring over us today.

Call To Worship

So will you join me in responding and participating in God’s story and God’s call, not simply to worship, but rather proper worship of Him for who He is and what He is done for His People? These words are from Psalm 95. I will read the plain font, if you will read the bold font. Let’s hear:

Leader: Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
People: For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
Leader: In his hand are the depths of the earth; the peaks of the mountains are his also.
People: The ocean is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Leader: Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
People: For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
Leader: Today, if you hear his voice, draw near to him and do not harden your hearts!
People: Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Prayer of Invocation

Father, you have made us worshippers and have called us to direct our worship to you, but we are weak and cannot do this unless you meet us and draw us to yourself. Holy Spirit, we pray that you would be in our midst and would allow us to taste of your presence. Jesus, Lord, we pray that you would meet us in your word and your sacraments, for your people have gathered and we wait with eager expectation for you to strengthen and nourish us once more. We love you, one God, now and forever, Amen.

Now let’s offer musical worship to our God.

Songs of Praise
Call to Confession

Hear this gracious invitation from God…

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
— Psalm 34:18, NRSV

Prayer of Confession

We now enter into a time of confession. We have offered so much of our hearts and worship to things other than God. And it would be far too easy for some of us to approach this moment prepared to bear the full weight of condemnation for these shortcomings. Perhaps worse yet, it would also be just as easy for others of us to have become so accustomed to this moment that we use this comfort to numb ourselves from the sting of our sin. But in confession, God shows us that our debt is large and failings are many; but His grace is infinite and His salvation is sure. Let’s join our voices and pray this prayer of confession:

Holy Father, we want to enter your presence, worshiping you face-to-face, awed by your majesty, greatness, glory, encouraged and ravished by your love. Still, there is a coldness in our hearts, a hardness toward you, an unwillingness to admit our sin and need for you. Forgive us, for Jesus’ sake. Come near and strengthen us until Christ shall reign supreme within us, in every thought, word and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens us to you, and always clings to the cross. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Now take a few moments to silently confess your sins.

Silent Confession
Words of Encouragement

Look up and hear these words of encouragement as God responds to your confession:

4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
— Titus 3:4-7

Now let’s continue to sing to our good God

Pass the Peace
Sermon
Eucharist
Benediction

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