A Prayer for my people.

Sunday’s prayer for my people, based upon the call to worship from Psalm 144:1. Our call to worship, as well as our benediction, ends with an Amen and Amen. The congregation joins in on the second with all their hearts.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,

who trains my hands for war,

and my fingers for battle.

Eternal Lord of Hosts. You who regard man. You who touch the mountains and they smoke, yet you take regard for man. You are our stronghold. You train our hands for war. You rescue our children from palace of the devil. To you we sing a new song today. Give us eyes to see the battle raging against the knowledge of God in the world where we live and give us courage to stand and fight against it. We are in need of workers for the harvest, athletes for the race, soldiers for the battle. God, please raise them up among us. Take us – we sideline sitting, Monday morning quarterbacks – and send us out into the game, send us into the battle…and may the gates of hell not prevail against us. God, there are people we love, a community we love, a nation we love, that are all in great danger because they are captive to the devil to do his will. Free them by the Word of your Gospel. We ask this so that you would be seen as a great savior. In the name of Jesus, who already stands in victory, ruling heaven and earth, Amen and Amen.

A Service of Worship for my People and Place

Every church and every tradition has an order of worship, a liturgy, to use the old formal word. The word liturgy simply means the “service of worship.” It is a good word because it uniquely belongs in the sacred setting.

The service of worship that we follow is doing something to us, whether we know it or not. It is forming our hearts, shaping what we love. It is leading us from being a loosely connected people who, by heroic efforts have made it to church this Sunday, to being the people of God, together, with hearts, minds and hands dedicated to His glory between Sundays.

Preparation

The worship service begins with preparation of our hearts for the act of worship.

Song of praise. The worship service opens with a corporate song of praise that engages us in the theme of the service, which is set by the passage to be preached.

Call to worship. The call to worship is the divine invitation to leave the cares of the world and join the angels of heaven in the worship of the one true God. It involves five parts for us.

  • The invitation. “This hour is not like every other hour. In this hour, we gather as the people of God, according to the command of God in order to worship God.”
  • The exhortation or charge. The exhortation of the passage at hand is directly introduced so as to engage the hearts of the congregation.
  • (The confession). On those days that the exhortation finds us in present sin, we take time for personal and corporate confession. A biblical assurance of pardon may be offered.
  • The Scriptural call. A passage of Scripture with a corresponding theme, often a psalm, issues the formal call to engage our hearts in worship. We often use the lectionary Psalm of the day.
  • The pastoral prayer. The pastoral prayer addresses the God spoken to in a Psalm, confesses sin, asks for God to work the aim of the Word in our hearts this day. This is asked in the name of Jesus.

Adoration

Prepared hearts turn to direct acts of worship of the Triune God. We take advantage of wisely designed forms, both ancient and modern, which will support God’s aims in our hearts as a congregation.

Songs of adoration. Songs of corporate worship, both old and new, which are biblically accurate, historically valuable and corporately singable, allow us to worship God in congregational unity.

(Testimony). Testimonies are sometimes engaged to give praise to God for the good that He is doing in our congregation and to celebrate what we want to see more of in maturing believers.

(Reading). Corporate readings from the Heidelberg Catechism, Apostle’s Creed, book of Common Prayer or Book of Common Worship, serve to focus our minds and hearts and to unite them with the church across history.

Prayer. A prayer is offered in praise of this God, on behalf of the needs of our congregation and in preparation for the offering that follows.

Offering. We receive an offering from the congregation as an act of gratitude for what God has provided to our families and so that more good can be accomplished with our pooled monies that otherwise might. Offerings are free will for attenders and expected for church members.

Exhortation

Having prepared our hearts and offered praise to our God, we are ready to hear the Word of God preached to us and to receive it as the Word of God.

Scripture Reading. The day’s Scripture passage is read by a congregant with the following introduction. “Today’s Scripture reading comes from the book of ___, chapter ___, beginning in verse ___.”

Sermon. A expositional sermon, prepared to bring the Word of God to bear on the lives of this local congregation is preached.

(Communion). Communion, or The Lord’s Supper, follows the hearing of the Word on two Sunday’s per month. Our traditional, Free Church, form is to pass plates to one another signifying our belief in the priesthood of all believers. We use words of institution taken from the book of Common Prayer, “The gifts of God for the people of God.” We, then, connect the passage preached with the celebration of the finished work of Christ, believing that every passage leads to the cross of Christ.

Dedication

The service closes and sends us into our daily lives with a dedication to believe what we have heard from the Word of God and obey it at home, at work and in our neighborhoods.

Songs of dedication. These songs pick up the tone of the sermon. If the sermon passage leaves us contemplative or enthusiastic or hopeful, these songs correspond. This leads us to sing our commitment back to God.

Charge. The closing charge serves as a summary reminder of the truth about God we have heard, what that makes us as the people of God in this place and obligation we are now under in having worshipped.

Benediction. The pastor then offers a benediction or traditional blessing from the Word of God. His hands are raised and the congregation reaches theirs out in a receptive posture. The benediction ends with “amen and amen,” the second is joined by the congregation in full voice.

You are the bread

{Finding a new perspective on my own place, my own people, in my own words}.

“You are the bread and the wine of your place. Do you hear the biblical hints in that statement? That is, God has put the place in you and you in the place. The place meets God through you and God meets the place through you in the local church”

I woke up early this moving to arrange a divine encounter between a few of my very best friends: flour, water and salt.

Flour travels for our weekly meetings in a 50 pound sack that usually lives in the cooler part of our home for about 6 months at a time. Wheat doesn’t well in Santa Margarita. It would grow, in fact a human friend just down the road grew, threshed and ground his own wheat for bread just a few years ago. They say it would take about 1/4 acre of wheat to feed one family for one year. We don’t have enough land and we probably eat more bread than your average family. That’s because we enjoy life more than your average family. Bread is life, at least it makes life worth living. 

50 pounds, divided evenly into two kitchen storage containers, enters our meetings in 900 increments. 900 bread flour join 100 wheat four for an even kilo. Somehow this makes the whole thing work in an easy and memorable way. So, flour travels, arrives, waits, and on joins the party every Friday morning.

Salt arrives in much smaller quantities to play its large role in a minor way. Sea salt does make a difference, though I could not tell you why. The simple, concentrated flavor that gives rise to so much in bread – just try to leave it out and see what happens. 20 grams of salt, always shows up 20 minutes late to the party. Flour and water need a little while to get to know each other before salt impedes the process and moves the whole thing toward flavor.

Water flows simply falls out of bed and rolls downhill from the town well that can be seen from the yard if you stand in just the right position. This is Santa Margarita water, fresh from the ground and solid with minerals. The joke is that the local water will either make you live forever or give you kidney stones. This is the water of life. It combines distant flour from the land and salt from the sea to create something wholly new – bread. Life. Joy. Fellowship.

Santa Margarita bacteria join the Santa Margarita water and the distant flour/ salt mixture to reproduce life. This bread began many years ago now when flour and water, mixed in equal measure by weight, was allowed to sit on the kitchen counter overnight. It was cut in half, again fed with water and flour, equal weight and allowed to sit. This process went on for impatient weeks to bring death to life. Still water. Dry flour. Now alive with bacteria and oxygen, combining into what we call flavor. A little bit of that fermented dough, combined with flour and water, began working on this loaf last night before I laid my head to bed. When I entered the kitchen it was awake, alive and ready for the day’s labor. 

And these Santa Margarita hands of mine engage in the providential act that becomes bread. Flour. Water. Salt. Bacteria and the labor of the hands of this man to make this bread that can only exist in this place. The flavor of a people and a place. My people. My place. The bread that gives life.

And this providential gift becomes a miraculous ritual on the table of communion the following Sunday morning. Local bread and local wine, brought together to make an ancient ordinance, an ordained rite, to nourish body and soul of local church. Well fed men and women feeding only on the good news the Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, now strengthened to love their people and their place.