From our quarterly newsletter, St. Andrew's in Action. This is the first of four short articles, each one focussing on one of the four different stages we move through as we worship.
The assurance of forgiveness: are you wondering what this is? There have been a few changes to the order of worship this fall, and in addition to moving the place of the prayers of intercession there is this new piece in the service.
The assurance of forgiveness or pardon as some churches call it, is an element that is found in the worship services of many Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, following the opening prayers.
In the Presbyterian and Reformed Church traditions, worship is often shaped through four movements. The first of which is our approach to God. As we are gathered in together, we sing an opening hymn of praise and then incline ourselves in a prayer that is often two fold in its nature, blending together praise for who God is with confession. The nature of this confession is often both personal and communal as we acknowledge before God the way we as individuals and communities have turned from the ways of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit among us. When I craft these prayers for our worship together, the words I use often include, we are here, we are listening, we are sorry and please forgive us. The Lord’s Prayer often follows these prayers of approach and then we have the assurance of forgiveness.
This assurance is itself one of the proclamatory moments of the worship service. Taken (sometimes directly and verbatim) from the Scriptures, it is a simple statement assuring us of the Good News that in Jesus Christ we have been, as the old hymn says, ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven.
This completes the first movement of our worship, now we are ready to hear God’s word for us today and I will write more about that next time.
- Rev. Dr. Karen Dimock