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No. 56: A Visionary Liturgy, Part 2

Rite Reasons, Studies in Worship, No. 56
Copyright (c) 1998 Biblical Horizons
March, 1998

The Worship Service

Then the one speaking with me took me by the hair and lifted me into the air in the middle of the great room. And as I watched, I saw people entering the room to the sound of the great bells outside. Then entered from all four sides, trampling down the serpent as they entered, though most entered through the red doors. As they entered, a few took a folding chair or a cushion, or both, according to his or her liking, and set it up facing west; though none took a position on the colored carpets.

I noticed that the women embraced and kissed each other, while the men gave each other a firm handshake, and then, drawing each other close, kissed each other on the neck or cheek. There were many children, including babes in arms.

Then I heard a trumpet sound, and a man dressed in white with a green sash over one shoulder called out from the center of the room, "Attend! Let us worship God!" Immediately the orchestra began playing through the music of a mighty psalm, and the fountain was turned off. As the congregation began singing the psalm, the doors to the west of the great room were opened, and men began to enter. Each was dressed in a white robe. All but one walked to the center and then to the south, and stood before the collection of thrones on the right of the southern door. The other mounted the platform on which the baptismal laver rested, and stood behind the pulpit.

Meanwhile, the deacon (for so he was) in the center of the room walked to the man on the laver platform, carrying a green stole. When the hymn was over, he approached the pastor (for so he was) and placed the stole around his neck, saying "His yoke is easy, and his burden is light." Then he lighted the candle.

Then the pastor spread wide his arms and called out in a loud voice: The Lord be with you!

And the people answered: And also with you.

Then the pastor called out:

Come, let us sing for joy to Yahweh;

Let us shout to the Rock of our salvation;

Let us come before His face with thanksgiving;

With songs let us shout to Him.

For a great Mighty One is Yahweh,

And a great King above all gods.

In His hand are the depths of the earth,

And the peaks of the mountains are His.

His is the sea, for He made it,

And the dry land His hands formed.

Come, let us worship and bow down;

Let us kneel before Yahweh our Maker.

For it is He who is our God,

And we are the people of His pasture,

And the sheep of His hand.

And when the pastor had said these things, all the people fell to the floor and knelt. Then the pastor continued:

Today His voice you will hear: "Do not harden your hearts as at Striving Waters,

"As in the day of Testing Place in the wilderness,

When your fathers tested Me;

They tried Me, though they had seen My work.

For forty years I abhorred that generation,

And said: `A people who wander in their heart are these,

And they do not acknowledge My ways.’

Therefore, I swore in My anger:

`May I be cursed if they enter into My rest.’"

But we are persuaded of better things concerning you, brethren; things that accompany salvation. Therefore, let us enter our Lord’s presence with fear, confessing our sins, as is right, and receiving forgiveness and cleansing from the Lord.

And at this point, all the people fell forward on their faces, and joined in praying:

O Almighty God, we poor sinners confess to You that we are sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against You in many ways; not only in outward transgressions, but also in secret thoughts and desires, which we are not even able to understand, but which are all known to you. For this reason, we flee for refuge to Your infinite mercy, imploring Your grace through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then the pastor said:

Almighty God is our heavenly Father, and He has had mercy on us, and for the sake of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ our Lord, He forgives us of all our sins. By the office entrusted to me, as the representative of the Messiah, Jesus, I therefore declare to you who to truly repent, the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Grant this, O Lord, to us all.

And the people said: Amen.

Then, after receiving a tone from the musicians, the pastor sang: Lift up your hearts.

And, rising to their feet, the people sang: We lift them up to the Lord.

And the pastor sang: Let us give thanks to Yahweh, our God.

And the people sang: It is proper and right to do so.

Then the pastor sang out, with his voice becoming louder at the end:

Surely it is proper, right, and life-giving, that we should at all times, and in all place, give thanks to You, holy Father, Almighty and Everliving God. But especially is it our duty and privilege to offer praise to You on this holy Day of the Lord, which You have appointed for Your worship.

Therefore we join with the angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and singing:

And, receiving a chord from the orchestra, they all sang the great hymn, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee. . . ." As the hymn began, the deacon extinguished the candle, and led the pastor down the aisl across the great room to the platform on which the Word was enthroned. Between each stanza the pastor sang out specific praises to God. Meanwhile, the people turned to face the new area from which the worship would be led.

Arriving at the platform, the deacon lit the two candles on either side of the pulpit. Then pastor read a psalm responsively with the congregation, and then that psalm was sung. Then another psalm was chanted by all together. Then all sang the Te Deum, and several hymns, clapping their hands in time to the music when appropriate. Interspersed with the singing were several readings from the scripture by the pastor.

By this time, some of the elderly and infirm had opened their chairs and sat down, but most of the people remained standing. Occasionally a baby would begin to wail, and a parent would take him outside the great room behind the glass walls, observing and participating from that place.

As the last hymn began, the deacon extinguished the candles and led the pastor down the aisle back toward the west and then southwards to the platform of the throne and lampstand, where the deacon lit the seven candles. Then the pastor led the people in singing the Nicene Creed, saying, "Let us now join with the Church of all ages, confessing our faith this week by singing the Nicene Creed." Then he offered a collect, gathering the people’s praises into one last offering, afterwards bidding the people be seated.

The people moved to the outer walls and selected chairs and cushions, and set them up facing the Levitical throne of the pastor. Sitting down himself, he offered an exposition of the Scripture. Surprisingly, perhaps, this did not last very long, and was focussed on the gifts of God. He closed with an exhortation to prayer and self-offering, and encouraged the people to receive Jesus Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

At this point, the deacon arose and called out, "Let us now offer ourselves to God, along with our tithes and gifts." While the orchestra played and the choir sang, men moved among the seated worshippers and collected their tithes and gifts, bringing them to the deacon. Meanwhile, the deacon extinguished the seven-fold candelabra, and led the pastor directly across the room to the communion platform, lighting the candles next to the table. The pastor bade the people rise, and all sang a hymn of dedication, while the deacons brought the offerings of money, along with loaves of bread and bottles of wine, to the pastor. After the hymn, the pastor and the deacons lifted the offerings toward heaven and the pastor prayed:

Blessed are You, Yahweh, God of all creation, age after age.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty.

All that is in the heavens and on the earth is Yours.

Yours is the dominion, Lord Jesus, and You are exalted as head above all.

Both riches and honor come from You, and of Your own gifts do we give to You.

Then the pastor placed the offerings on the table on the platform.

Then the pastor called the congregation to join him in prayer while they stood before the Lord. After an opening prayer, the pastor bade the congregation pray silently for one matter after another, for several minutes. Then the pastor called on the people to pray as God’s Son had taught, and they all sang the Lord’s Prayer. During this time of prayer, four deacons with four censers sent up incense from the four sides of the fountain in the center of the room.

Then another hymn was sung. The people sat down facing the north, many reclining on the cushions. The pastor spoke a few words about the Supper, and then took one of the loaves of bread, offered a prayer of thanksgiving, broke it, and began the distribution. The elders, who had gathered with him, took the bread and began distributing it to the congregation.

The loaves were passed from hand to hand. As each person gave the loaf to his or her neighbor, he said, "The Lord be with you," and the person receiving the bread said, "And also with you." Each ate as he or she received the bread.

Meanwhile, the pastor began pouring wine from the bottles into the glasses. By the time the bread had been served to all and the leftovers returned to the table, the glasses were all ready. The elders, assisted by other men (deacons, it seemed) took the glasses of wine to the people. When all had received a glass, the men returned to stand by the table with the pastor.

The pastor stood forward, and offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of Christ’s blood. Then with a loud voice he raised a toast: "To the King!" he shouted; and the people replied, "To the King!" and drained their glasses.

Then they all stood and sang the Nunc Dimittis, while the deacon extinguished the last candles and the pastor and elders moved to the center of the room.

Then the pastor offered a final prayer, and then charged the congregation:

Now go forth and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe everything God has commanded us.

Then the pastor blessed the congregation with the Aaronic benediction, after which they all began to sing a final hymn. During the final stanza, the pastor and elders walked back out the way they had come in, past the laver of cleansing water, and the fountain resumed its music.

And the one speaking to me said to me, "O Jim, have you seen all these things?" And I replied, "I have, sir!" And he said to me, "Write what you have seen, and do not seal it up, that others may see as well."

Then I awoke, and behold, it was a dream.