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"The Shape of Worship"

The shape of worship at Emmanuel will be familiar to many, as it follows the ancient shape of the liturgy, the shape of worship described in early Christian communities and in the scriptures. This form is the bones of the liturgy which is fleshed out with some freedom and flexibility, adding music, prayers, and other elements as the community and season call for. 

 

Typically, we enter worship with confession and forgiveness, remembering the entrance of all Christians into the body of Christ through the dying and rising of baptism. We’ll often sing a “Kyrie Eleison” ( or "Lord, have mercy") and a “Glory to God” as we enter into God’s presence with honesty about our shortcomings, and awe-filled thanksgiving for God’s acceptance of us through Christ. This way of singing the shape of confession and forgiveness opens us up to the presence of God as we are, whether grieving or rejoicing, lamenting or giving thanks. We trust that God's receives us into the community gathered at the foot of the cross just as we are. There is a place for you here.

We’ll hear scripture readings from the lectionary (a common 3 year cycle of readings used across denominations throughout the world), and preaching which opens this living Word of God as the means through which Christ encounters and transforms us to live in grace for this aching world. 

 

We’ll confess our faith “with the whole church” in the familiar and ancient words of the creeds, and we’ll pray in the Spirit with thanksgiving and supplication for a world in need. Our prayers on non-communion Sundays culminate in the familiar words of Jesus himself, the Lord’s Prayer, otherwise the Lord's Prayer is the prayer used as the capstone of the communion portion of the liturgy.

 

We’ll have the opportunity to give an offering as a grateful response for all God has given us, a gathering up of the gifts of the body of Christ for mission in the world. 

Then worship culminates in a meal (on Sundays when communion is celebrated, currently the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month). This is a meal gathered around "the Lord's table," where Christ gives himself to us in bread and wine that we might receive God's own mercy and forgiveness. In Christ's real presence at this table, we trust that we "become what we receive" (Augustine), the body and blood of Christ, a community transformed by the shape of this meal, a communion of saints reconciled in God's love as Christ's own body given for the life of the world. We glimpse in this meal a "foretaste of the feast to come," the promise that all creation will be gathered at this feast of heaven and earth as God's deepest intention for the world.

And we’ll be sent forth with God’s blessing, renewed in faith and love towards one another, confident that as we go from worship we will continue to encounter Christ in the joys, sorrows, and needs of friends and neighbors - and even strangers and enemies - whom we are called to serve. 

 

While the music and style of worship may change, the shape of worship will be very steadfast. This is a helpful reminder that our own style and charisma doesn't make worship, but instead we are called to trust that God is the main actor in worship, and that in worship God encounters us through the proclamation of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ so that we might be laborers in the vineyard and servants of the Kingdom wherever we might go. It's amazing what God can do with our worship, especially when we see all of our imperfections and mistakes! Through the death and resurrection of Christ God receives the called, sinners and saints all, by way of mercy and forgiveness and grace. Come and worship! Come make a joyful noise to the Lord, for the Lord is good!

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