One goal of worship is to enable people to be renewed in grace, by engaging God personally, deeply, and honestly. Worship engages the mind, the heart, and the emotions. While worship transcends time and space, it is never to be an escape from our real and present situation. If we read the psalms we see that those who worship God engage him in the midst of a wide array of circumstances. The psalms are a reminder to us that God is near not only in good times or bad times; God is present with us, and at work in His people, at ALL times.
As always, our worship this week is focused on God, His glory and His grace. But our service also subtly reflects an acknowledgement of this unsettling time in our culture. The Words of Approach remind us of the ultimate reality – that our world belongs to God. But both our Song of Approach and our Prayer of Confession reflect our recognition of a broken world.
The second verse we’ll sing in our Song of Approach includes the words:
“Though the darkness hide thee; though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see…”
These words remind us of the reason why the world we live in, with all it’s beautiful aspects, is the way it is – why it is not the way we wish it would were; not the way it should be. But we can accept that truth because we know that God will one day make everything the way it is supposed to be.
The Prayer of Confession this week is responsive, and the various petitions lament various ways in which our world is broken. It would be beneficial to take some time before Sunday morning to read through the prayer, and to consider the various points, and then consider them in relation to our present cultural problems.
As Christians we do not just point our fingers at the unbelieving world; we first consider, and then confess, how we ourselves, and how the Church, is part of the problem. As the late John Stott notably quipped:
“When society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: Where is the salt?”
In honesty and humility we own our share of the problem. But we do so in the context of, and with the promise of, being forgive, renewed by God in God’s grace; and then empowered by God, and commissioned by Him, to make a positive difference in this world. We are empowered and renewed in grace when we stand not on our own righteousness and the merits of our goodness (as if there are any), but when we understand that Christ is our righteousness. And we are credited with Christ’s righteousness only by grace through faith. So as always, our service is designed to re-root us in grace, centered on the Cross.
The service as a whole will have a familiar feel. There will be a few differences, however, as we begin to transition back toward in-person worship. For instance, for a few weeks, at least, we will be singing fewer songs – only two at first – so that those who will be projecting and streaming can get acclimated. Further, since we are moving this week to live services that will be LiveStreamed, some parts of the service that families and groups have been leading on their own will instead be led by a worship leader. (For those who have enjoyed the format we have been using, we would be more than happy to connect you with resources for family worship.) But other than these relative minor adjustments, the service should feel quite familiar to any and all who have been worshiping with Grace Covenant for any length of time.
Resources for our June 7 worship can be accessed here:
…those who will be participating in-person, in the Grace Covenant sanctuary, that we will not be printing bulletins. You will need to either print out the .pdf and bring it with you, or pull up the .pdf or the digital worship outline in the sanctuary to be able to fully participate.
…those who will be participating via LiveStream, as always, it is best if each person in your home or group has a worship outline, whether printed or digital. LiveStream can be accessed on Sunday morning, at 10am, through a link on the home page of the Grace Covenant web page.