I hear it almost every Sunday, “Great service, pastor!” For this month’s newsletter article, I thought it fitting to explain just how these services are put together here at Living Word. What the service is all about is the same as what our mission is all about. The key element of the service is to proclaim the living Word of Christ. The Holy Spirit works through this word to invigorate faith to all who hear it. We seek to arrange these services is such a way that ALL can hear it. The result is walking in the newness of life. Opportunities for the celebration of this newness of life also abound in the service through “singing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in (y)our hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16b)
The first step in planning the service is the Word that will be proclaimed. The services are built around the Scriptures assigned to each Sunday that take us through the church year. The part of the church year we are currently in is the time of the church as we live our lives as God’s people walking in newness of life.
Once the Scriptures of the day are examined, the order of service, which is also called the liturgy, is worked on. The purpose of the order of service is to serve the proclaiming of the Word and prepare for the receiving of the sacrament. It supports, points to, and celebrates the Word that is proclaimed.
For the foundation of the order of service, one of the different settings in our hymnal (Settings 1, 3, or 4), or the setting that former music director, Ellen Peterson, composed, or a setting that sets the parts of the service to hymn tunes is chosen. These different settings are usually alternated to provide variety. For special occasions a special setting can also be put together.
After the lessons have been examined and the setting chosen, a resource put out by our Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod publisher CPH, called Creative Worship is made use of. What Creative Worship does is provide some options of themes based on the lessons of the day. It also provides worded sections and different wordings to weave into the liturgy which communicate the theme of today. There are also possibilities of substituting hymns for different canticles in the liturgy to better communicate the theme. This all works together to sharpen the focus of what the Word of the day is saying so that it is heard and remembered by all who hear. I sit down each month with the music director to make selections on the themes and parts of the liturgy from Creative Worship as we plan the services for the month.
Occasionally there will also be opportunities to move elements of the service to different locations within the service to help emphasize those parts. For example, on a few occasions during the year, the Confession and Absolution is moved. It is important here to note that the Confession and Absolution is not really a part of the service. It is a preparation for the service. Most of the time it comes before the service to prepare for the whole service. But occasionally it can be moved to where it serves as a preparation for the service of the Sacrament of Holy Communion for greater emphasis on the Lord’s Supper.
Once the order of service is set, the process moves to our music director and organist/accompanist to select hymns and special music. Hymns are selected based on the theme of the day from the Scriptures of the day. Often the hymns will have parts the readings for the day in them. The opening hymn, sermon hymn, and closing hymn are usually, but not always, chosen from our LSB hymnal. Occasionally another source will be used. For example, when I preach on the beatitudes from Matthew 5, I like to use the song, “Blest Are They” which is not in our hymnal, but proclaims the message of the beatitudes quite well. After these three hymns are selected, songs from different genres are chosen, usually sung during communion. Gospel hymns, praise hymns, children’s/Sunday school songs, and somewhat contemporary hymns are included. Then special music for choirs, soloists, or small groups are placed in the appropriate locations in the service. Once the service is complete, it comes to my desk for final approval.
It all works together to proclaim the living word of Christ so that all who hear may walk in newness of life. The proclaimed word is heard and celebrated. All have the opportunity to receive it from the various ways it is proclaimed throughout the service. That word centered in God’s grace in Jesus, restores and invigorates, makes us new, and gives us newness of life to walk in as we go from the service into our daily lives. When someone says to me, “Great service, pastor!”, I believe that is what has happened.
See ya in church. I believe it will be a great service!