Rather than just making up an order of worship that follows our own preferences, we believe that it pleases God for us follow the patterns for worship He has given us in the Scriptures. Everything we do in worship has a Biblical basis, and has a long history of practice in the Church. You can read more here.
Three times in the New Testament we are commanded to sing the Psalms (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Jam 5:13). We believe that means that the Lord wants us to sing all of the Psalms. The Psalms are God’s own inspired hymnal, and you can never go theologically astray singing the very text of Scripture.
Some of the Psalms we love to sing are paraphrases of the Psalm texts set to hymn tunes. At least once each week we sing every word of a Psalm using the order in which the Holy Spirit arranged the text. We do this in a way that the music serves the text in an ancient form of song called “plainchant”, rather than rearranging the words to make them fit a tune.
The Scriptures refer to the eating and drinking at the Lord’s table as something that happens “often” (1 Cor. 11:25-26), and weekly is “often.” The Lord’s Supper is the continual affirmation of our fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, a sign of our protection under His sacrifice, and an essential step in the weekly renewal of the covenant between us and God.
No one would say that saying “I love you” to your spouse daily, or often kissing or hugging them makes it less special. In fact, the more regularly we do it, the more “special” it becomes, and we could never imagine worshipping together without it.
On the last night of his earthly ministry Jesus took real bread and real wine and He passed it around to His seated disciples and He said “do this.” Christians have spent the last 2000 years trying to do everything but that.
About the Bread
It is true that Israel used unleavened bread at Passover, and the bread Jesus used at the Last Supper was likely unleavened, but leaven and yeast are not the same thing. “Leaven” in the ancient world came from a bread “starter”, the way that sourdough is still made today. The Lord commanded Israel to use unleavened bread at the Passover because they were required to clean out all the old bread, and all the old leaven, before they left Egypt. God had new bread waiting for them in the Wilderness. So no sourdough bread, and no bread made from a starter could be used at Passover. Whether or not it was fluffy bread was not the issue. It had to be new bread at Passover.
So when we sit at the table of the Lord today, to feast with our King and with His Bride, we do not have bitter herbs the way Israel did when they celebrated Passover, nor do we serve saltines, or matza, or styrofoam wafers. We rejoice with a loaf that is easily identifiable as bread that you would not hesitate to serve at your own table.
About the Wine
The first miracle of Jesus was when He made around 120 gallons of wine for a wedding. Jesus did not bring 120 gallons of Welch’s grape juice to a wedding. Pasteurized grape juice as we know it today did not even exist until the era of Prohibition in this country. Before then, everyone understood that “wine” in the Bible meant “wine.”
Today, at our weekly rehearsal for the marriage supper of the Lamb we too drink real wine, in good cheer, in expectation of the greater feast to come.
The minister who officiates in the ministry of word and sacrament ought to be dressed in a way that identifies him as the representative of the Lord Jesus. The robe helps to emphasize the office of the pastor and de-emphasize the personality of the man. When the pastor is robed it is not just “Bob” or “Joe” preaching and administering the sacraments, it is the Lord’s ordained minister who is leading us into God’s presence. This is not for the purpose of exalting the man who bears the office of pastor, but rather, of diminishing the man and underscoring the importance of the office over the man.
We are used to seeing all kinds of uniforms worn in the world, which make various servants and authorities instantly recognizeable. Judges have their robes, policemen have their blues, doctors have their long white coats, and even UPS drivers are identified by their tan shirt and pants. All of their jobs are important and therefore they dress the part. Why then would a pastor wear an untucked shirt and jeans? It is reasonable that if the office of pastor is one of importance and weight in the world, that the minister of the gospel ought also to have an easily-recognizeable uniform and dress to the significance of the job.
The creeds are the ancient summaries of the Christian faith that define the boundaries of orthodoxy. We boldly affirm the universal, historic faith of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and teach our children to do the same. We do this right before the Lord’s Supper to be examined and confirm that we are “in the faith.” (I Cor. 11: 28; 2 Cor. 13:5)
For further study: http://hornes.org/theologia/jeffrey-meyers/in-whom-do-you-trust
On the day of Pentecost, Peter quotes Psalm 16:10, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” which he connects to the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:25-31). Peter uses the word “Hades” where David used “Sheol” to preach that in His Resurrection, Jesus was delivered from “Sheol” or “Hades”.
The place the Bible refers to as Hades (Greek) and Sheol (Hebrew) isn’t the same as the place of eternal punishment we call “Hell”, or the “Lake of Fire” or “Gehenna”. The words “Hades” and “Sheol” refer
to the place of the departed dead and are a synonym for death, or the grave, and are associated with the depths of the earth, or in Jonah’s case, the depths of the Sea (Jonah 2:2).
This place is contrasted with heaven, the place of God’s throne, in places like Isaiah 14:15, but under the Old Covenant it seems that the experience of being in Sheol/Hades was different whether you were
righteous or unrighteous (Luke 16:23). Before the death of Jesus there had not been a perfect sacrifice for sin, and thus, no one could enter the heavenly courts of God. So those Old Testament saints who died believing and trusting in God for their salvation went to be with Abraham to wait for the day of redemption when Jesus would offer Himself as a sacrifice for their sins, descend into the place of the
dead, and announce their deliverance.
So the phrase “He descended into Hades” means that Christ went to the realm of the dead to truly experience the reality of human death, to die like everyone before Him did, but then to win a victory there and to bring out the captives, defeating death and the grave – ““O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor 15:55).
Now, because of the work of Jesus, and His deliverance from the grave, we don’t go down to be with Abraham like the Old Testament saints. We go to the presence of the Lord (2 Cor 5:6-8). We have access to the heavenly courts because of the sacrifice of Jesus, which was not possible before the cross and resurrection (Eph 2:1-6).
When we confess our faith using the Apostles Creed, we include this phrase to remind us that Jesus descended into Hades so that we would not have to. He descended to Hades so that we might ascend to Heaven. Jesus entered the realm of death, the realm of the strong enemy, and came away with his keys. The keys of Death and Hades are now in our Savior’s hands.
The word “catholic” simply means “universal” or “undivided”, as opposed to “sectarian” or “schismatic”. The church is not restricted to one location or institution. We are confessing our unity with the whole Church of the Lord Jesus Christ wherever and whenever she might be.
We have no affinity for the Roman Catholic Church, whose very name is an oxymoron. If the church is Roman she cannot truly be catholic, nor if she is catholic can the Roman church be her only expression. In this sense, the Roman church is not catholic, but very sectarian.
One might argue that we should just use “universal” in the place of “catholic”, but that would be very un-catholic since the whole of Christendom uses this word in the creed, and we do not think it necessary to give up good words just because someone else has misused them.
Whenever Israel gathered for worship or to renew covenant with the Lord, they were often explicitly required to bring their children to the assembly (Joel 2:16). Children are included in God’s covenant promises (Acts 2:39), and Jesus wants them to come to Him (Matt. 19:14). By keeping our children in worship with us we demonstrate that we do not view them as second-class Christians, but that they are essential members of the body of Christ. If Jesus has blessings of Word and Sacrament for His people on the Lord’s day, we want our children to receive those benefits. Rather than shuffling them off to playtime every Sunday, we are training them from their earliest days to grow up as worshippers of the Lord Jesus so that they can never remember a time when they did not worship on the Lord’s Day.
There are parts of our Sunday service that little ones grow accustomed to participating in even before they can read. Children absorb way more than we realize and even young children will sing pieces of our worship music or repeat sections of the sermon throughout the week. Even their cries and coos are welcome additions to our corporate praises, as they silence the mouth of the enemy (Psa. 8:2).
The Lord’s Supper is for the entire body of Christ. All baptized members of the Church are welcome to eat at the communion table, including children. In 1 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul warned about divisions among the church when they come to the Lord’s Supper, where the strong abuse the weak. Why would we do that very thing by deliberately cutting off and excluding our children who are united in covenant with the Lord Jesus?
For further reading: http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/rite-reasons/no-47-presbyterian-examine-thyself/
There are two principle postures of prayer spoken of in the Scriptures: kneeling (Psa. 95:6, Dan. 6:10) and standing, sometimes with hands raised (Psa. 63:4, 141:2; 1 Tim. 2:8). Our spirits are affected by our bodies and therefore taking on a physical posture of contrition by kneeling can soften our hearts and put us in a frame of contrition. Lifting our hands to heaven as we sing a doxology puts us physically in a frame of dependence upon the blessings of the Lord. Our bodies teach our hearts and minds.
We do these things corporately because worship is not primarily the time to engage in personal expressions of devotion, but in communal acts of public worship. We engage ourselves bodily in these acts of prayer and praise because worship is not simply an intellectual or internal act, but we present our whole bodies in the service and worship of God (Rom. 12:1).
Our goal is to mine all of the greatest music from all the ages of Church history, from the Psalms, to the canticles found in Scripture (like Luke 1:46-55 and Luke 2:29-32), to the songs of the early Church (such as the Te Deum and the Gloria Patri), to the great hymns of the Reformation, all the way to the most theologically-accurate and suitable compositions of this generation. With such an immense repertoire to pull from, we are constantly looking to learn the most time-tested and best of the best. We want Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, which artistically, reverently, and militantly give shape to our prayers and praises without introducing emotionalism, sentimentalism, or suspicious doctrinal content.
Occasionally we will sing something from the 21st century on a Sunday morning, but we are just as likely to sing something from the 4th century as well.