Worship Times: Sunday at 10:00 am
Welcome to an explanation of the Lord’s Day worship at Carmel Presbyterian Church. We hope this commentary will acquaint you with our order of worship and help you understand the meaning of what we are doing when we come together to worship in the presence of the Risen Lord on the day that weekly commemorates His resurrection.
Our service is built around scripture, preaching, sacrament, and the faith community–the ways Jesus Christ is present among us when we gather for worship. Notice how central scripture is to this service, including lessons from both testaments, a sung psalm, and other portions of biblical texts that give shape and form to the service. Often, the hymns and anthems are also interpretations of biblical texts.
The order of worship is called a liturgy, a compound of two Greek words–laos and ergon–which quite literally means “work of the people.” What we do together in prayer and praise, listening for and responding to God, proclaiming and confessing our faith, and engaging in forms of self-offering during this time of worship, is our work in this service. This is service in a twofold sense: as we serve God in this liturgy, God also serves us–speaking to us with words of comfort, challenge, and encouragement, and strengthening us to continue our work as Christ’s people in the world. Our work is strengthened by your presence as you join us in this service.
Upon finding your place in the Sanctuary, we invite you to briefly greet those near you, and then begin preparing yourself for the service. A Prayer of Preparation is printed on the outside of our order of worship to help you center yourself and prepare for our encounter with God in Christ.
The worship leader greets the gathered people of God and, after a brief word of welcome, reminds the congregation of important events in the life of the church that are coming up in the near future. Following the announcements, the congregation is reminded to prepare for worship.
During the Organ Prelude, please continue your prayer and meditation as our organist leads us in prayer. This is more than mood music–it is the beginning of corporate worship. The music has been carefully chosen to reflect the season, lessons, and themes of today’s service. Blessed with the artistry of our Director of Music & Organist, Abigail Palmisano, preludes at Carmel include great church music that has been written for the organ. Occasionally guest instrumentalists enhance this time of prayer and meditation with special music. This is also an appropriate time to look through the order of service. If you have children with you, this is a perfect time to help them begin to locate hymns, scripture lessons, the Lord’s Prayer, and responses such as the Gloria Patri and the Doxology.
The worship leader then leads the congregation in the Call to Worship using words printed in the bulletin, which remind us that Christian worship centers on God and not ourselves. This takes place from behind the communion table to remind us that worship is, in many respects, the Christian family gathering around Christ’s table to honor and worship our Lord.
The Processional Hymn is a strong hymn of praise and thanksgiving, selected for its ability to unite us in praise as well as tell of God’s greatness, majesty, love and goodness. It serves as a joyous reminder that we are a people formed and redeemed by God’s living Word, Jesus Christ. All that we do in this service will be done in and through him. The asterisk in the bulletin indicates that those who are able to do so are to stand for the hymn during the organ introduction.
Following the Hymn, the congregation joins in a unison Confession of Sin. Words of scripture call us to confess the reality of sin in our common and personal lives. After the Prayer of Confession there is silence for Personal Confession. During the seasons of Advent and Lent, the silence is followed by our choir singing the church’s ancient hymn text, “Lord, have mercy upon us…”. We are then reminded of the promises of God’s love and redemption, and that in Jesus Christ we are forgiven and part of his new creation. Hearing this Good News proclaimed, we sing either the ancient, Gloria Patri, either in the traditional musical settings or in the newer setting in our hymnal.
Peace: Because we have been reconciled to God in Jesus Christ, we are also called to be reconciled with one another. Having heard once again the assurance of God’s grace and pardon in our lives, and the new life to which we are called, we extend Christ’s peace to one another as signs of being reconciled and at peace with each other.
Service of the Word
A major part of Christian worship is listening for God’s Word through scripture readings, anthems, psalms, and the Word proclaimed in the sermon for the day. During this time, we are to listen for God to speak to us so that we may respond. At Carmel, we observe the Christian Year, which patterns worship after the life of Christ. Scripture lessons are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary–a table of scripture lessons used by Christian churches from many different denominations–which appoints an Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle and Gospel lesson for each Sunday of the year. The preacher for the day selects one or several of these texts as the basis for the sermon. Not only does this give the service a scriptural center, it enables coordination and planning between preacher, worship leaders and musicians, and links us to the same scriptures which are being read on a given Sunday in many other churches.
Story Time for Young Christians: At the conclusion of the Peace, the children are invited to join the pastor at the chancel steps for a lesson. This may be an interpretation of a scropture lesson or instruction in some portion of the worship service. Often this is an occasion for teaching children about the God and worship. The dialogue between children and preacher is frequently a time in which we hear God speak to us “out of the mouths of babes.” Following prayer, the children are invited to attend Church School classes.
Prayer for Illumination: Though the Bible is the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ and God’s word to us, Presbyterians believe it requires the power and illumination of the Holy Spirit for it to become God’s living word within us. This prayer calls upon the Holy Spirit to silence in us any voice but God’s own, that we may receive with joy what God is saying to us.
First Lesson: This comes from the oldest portion of the Bible, the Old Testament, which Christians share in common with Jews. Christians, however, order the books differently because of our differing theological perspective. Presbyterians believe that God continues to speak to us as well as witness to the Christ through these lessons, and that the New Testament cannot be understood apart from the Old.
Psalm: The book of Psalms is commonly called the prayer book of Israel. It is a collection of songs to be used both corporately and personally. Psalms can be sung or read both in unison and responsively, as well as used for personal prayer. During the Reformation in Geneva, John Calvin made provision for psalm texts to be set in paraphrased verse, which were sung in unison by the congregation in much the same way we sing hymns today. Most often the psalm in this service will continue this Reformed heritage and use, as such, a metrical setting, though occasionally a responsorial psalm text may be read.
Epistle Lesson: A portion of one of the letters written to the churches of the New Testament is read. These are among the earliest writings of the New Testament and contain not only important theological affirmations about Jesus as the Christ, but also instructions for how to live as Christ’s people. Frequently the lectionary will schedule the continuous reading of a book over a series of Sundays, so that the entire letter can be heard in much the same way it was heard being read in the church in the second half of the first century.
Gospel Lesson: From Advent through Pentecost, this lesson will be taken from the portion of the gospel, which witnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry as he makes his way to Jerusalem for his death and resurrection and ascension. After Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, the lessons will focus on Jesus’ teachings. The lectionary focuses on one of the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark or Luke) for an entire year, using the Gospel of John on occasions or in seasons when it is particularly appropriate. In this way, the major portion of one synoptic gospel is read throughout the cycle of the Christian year, with each of the gospels having been read once every three years.
Sermon: God’s Word is proclaimed, using the day’s biblical text as foundation for addressing the needs, concerns and questions of our day. Reformed Christians believe that God speaks to us as readily through the sermon as through scripture read and sung. Dr. Thornton is a Christocentric expository preacher, staying close to the biblical texts while proclaiming them in contemporary context, making application for daily living. The sermon may challenge, inform, encourage, comfort, and inspire, but always it will call for deeper commitment to faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Responding to the Word in Self-Offering
Hymn: Having heard God’s Word, we respond in song. Often this hymn will repeat major themes or points, which have been made in the sermon, or form a means of deepening one’s personal commitments.
Baptism: The response to and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is also a sign and seal of God’s grace, which joins new believers to Christ and his body, the church. In Reformed worship, baptism is ordinarily celebrated in response to the proclamation of the Word in the midst of the worshiping community. When baptizing or when welcoming new members, we use the Apostles’ Creed, an ancient Trinitarian statement confessing the faith of the apostles, which was initially formulated for use in the baptismal rites of the western church.
:Other special liturgies: From time to time the church celebrates other special moments, from the celebration of fifty-year members and receiving of new members, to the ordination and installation of officers or the commissioning of mission trip participants.
Minute for Mission: One of the ministries or mission projects supported by Carmel is interpreted to the congregation in this brief statement of how the members of Carmel are corporately seeking to respond to, live by and enact God’s word in Glenside, Philadelphia, or beyond it into the larger world.
Pastoral Prayer: We share concerns of the congregation. There is an opportunity for the congregation to write their prayer concerns in a paper before the service at the table in the Narthex. These concerns are given to the pastor during the hymn following the sermon. Other concerns are also mentioned and the congregation is asked if there are others that need to be included. In the midst of the prayer, we intercede on behalf of the church, the world, our nation and its leaders, as well as others living in hardship or distress, including those known to the congregation to be hospitalized or in special need. We also remember those who have recently died, who are now a part of the church triumphant, praying for the comfort of the Spirit for those whose lives are bereft because of their death. After these intercession, we pray for ourselves, often asking God to complete in us what the scriptures have challenged us to on that day. We close by praying together the Lord’s Prayer.
Offering: Another form of response to the proclamation of God’s word is the offering of our tithes and gifts to God. The money received in the offering is used for the support of the church–its staff, facilities, and programs–as well as Carmel’s ministry: locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Through the gift of giving, worshipers are serving God in each of these places and joining us in serving God in the name of Christ in this place.
Offertory Anthem: Through the gift of music, the gospel is proclaimed by our choir. Most often, the anthem is an interpretation of one of the scriptural texts for the day, though the text may also reflect the great wealth of inspired religious poetry from across the centuries. The music that is sung by the choirs at Carmel covers a range of sacred choral repertoire from the Renaissance to the present day.
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper: Celebrated at least monthly at the morning service, the sacrament is both a commemoration of Christ’s last supper before his betrayal and death and an enactment of his table fellowship with followers after his resurrection. For the Reformed tradition, the Lord’s Supper is a time of joyful thanksgiving (Eucharist) and holy encounter (Communion) with our Risen Lord in which we are nourished by his real presence. Through bread and wine, the Risen Lord gives us the gift of himself–his body and blood–to nourish and strengthen us in faith and faithfulness.
The Eucharistic prayer begins with the ancient invitation “Lift up your hearts,” and continues with a blessing and thanking God for the gift of his Son, and Christ’s faithfulness. The history of God’s acts of salvation is remembered in prayer, and we respond with the celestial hymn of thanks as well as acclamations of belief. The prayer includes with the Lord’s Prayer. Bread is broken, wine poured, and worshipers are invited to partake the gifts of God. The sacrament is served in one of several ways at Carmel. On most occasions, the sacrament is served in the pews using trays of bread and trays which include both grape juice and wine.
On other occasions, the sacrament is celebrated by the congregation coming forward for intinction. Worshipers may come forward, down the center aisle, to receive bread and then either dip their bread in a cup of wine in a brass chalice. Or they may eat the bread upon reception and then drink from individual cups of grape juice or wine that are provided nearby. Those who are unable to come down the aisle, or who prefer to receive in the pew, are served bread and an individual cup of grape juice or wine. After all have communed, we conclude in prayer thanking God for the gift of the meal, and praying for Christ’s final coming. Baptized Christians of any age or church affiliation are welcome at Christ’s table, where Christ himself is the host.
Bearing God’s Word into the World
The congregation responds by singing the final hymn.
After words of exhortation to the congregation, the pastor offers final words of Blessing, using one of several Trinitarian Benedictions, and we are sent forth to love and serve the Lord.
A short musical Organ Postlude is played, suitable for dismissal, as worshipers greet one another and make their way from the Sanctuary to a time of further fellowship.