Last week in my newsletter, I began a Lenten series on the different elements in a typical worship service. I am hoping that by elaborating on these in this format that I will be able to help each reader appreciate more deeply why we do the different parts of worship the way we do.
This week, I want to focus on the confessional part of our worship service. Typically, early into the worship service, we have the prayer of confession. This is both corporate and personal. We read a printed prayer together, and this prayer usually connects to the pastor’s message in some way. This is followed by a silent prayer of confession, which allows each worshiper to confess their sins before God in a more personal way.
Confession is a very important part of worship. It reminds us many things – that we need God’s forgiveness, most of all. In 1 John 1:8,9 we read, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The prayer, the actual act of confessing, is the first part, the one that brings us to a place of humility seeking forgiveness. The second part is the assurance of pardon. The assurance reminds us that God has forgiven us. After speaking words of assurance (typically from scripture), there is this response – Leader: Friends, believe the good news of the gospel; Congregation: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven!
Then comes the response. This has two parts. Usually we sing some rousing, affirming chorus. Then we pass the peace. The passing of the peace is important. God’s reconciliation with people is best seen among God’s people. So, we pass the peace, and this is meant to be a little symbolic. We are celebrating what God has done for us in Christ. Of course, this can get a little out of hand, so it is important to remember that when we pass the peace, it should be done with our nearest neighbors. It is not a time to catch up with friends on the other side of the sanctuary. One of the reasons we have a time for connecting with others between Sunday school and worship is precisely so we can catch up. Passing the peace is meant to be a worshipful celebration with those worshiping nearest to us. Be sure to notice the flow – corporate confession, individual prayer, corporate assurance, corporate celebration.
This is actually one of the most important aspects of our worship service. It is meant to prepare us to receive God’s Word and the working of the Spirit. And so, I encourage all of us to remember to take the confession and the responses seriously, and to remember to keep the passing of the peace, “local,” as it were.
Next week I will cover offering and its significance.
Have a Blessed Lent,