The unity of the Christian faith across ages and denominations was the unique theme planners chose for the 2016 Reformation Sunday joint service of Christian Reformed churches in Sioux Center, Iowa. The service celebrated the faith held in common by the “holy catholic church” as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed.
The congregation sang the creed immediately after the greeting to express our faith and to set the theme for the service. The service followed a repeating pattern: the congregation recited a line of the creed, two people read related Scripture passages, and the congregation responded with a song expressing that belief.
The songs ranged from a sixteenth-century Genevan psalm setting to an Indonesian song about a decade old. The selection of appropriate songs for the service is so large that we have included below both our primary and alternate choices. For example, the service begins with a sung entrance psalm as is the custom on “high holy days” at the host church, First Christian Reformed, but a congregational alternative is included as well. For this festive service, a brass quartet accompanied the organ on some congregational songs, and a violin joined in on others.
The sermon focused on the “holy catholic church.” The congregational prayer was an elaboration of the Lord’s Prayer in which a young child spoke the lines one at a time and his grandmother expanded on each statement. The prayer’s source is cited below, but it is entirely appropriate for other churches to write their own elaborations.
Call to Worship
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give away
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the end of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Amen.
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace. Amen.
Passing of the Peace
Professing Our Faith: The Apostles’ Creed
Reader 1: Salvation comes to us by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. In the Apostles’ Creed, we join with Christians of all times and places to express this faith. Let us come together in heart and mind by singing the creed.
Singing the Creed
“Apostles’ Creed” PsH 519
God the Father
Reader 1: Hear, O people of God: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall have no other gods before him.
Reader 2: What do we believe about God the Father?
All: We believe in God, the Father almighty.
Reader 1: Who among the gods is like you, LORD?
Who is like you—majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory, working wonders? . . .
The LORD reigns for ever and ever.
—Exodus 15:11, 18
All: We believe in God, the creator of heaven and earth.
Reader 2: By the word of the LORD
the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
God the Son
Reader 1: What do we believe about God the Son?
All: We believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
Reader 2: The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (Hebrews 1:3).
All: He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell.
Reader 1: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” He bore our grief and carried our sorrows, and delivers us from the anguish and torment of hell.
All: The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
Reader 2: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
God the Holy Spirit
Reader 1: What do we believe about God the Holy Spirit?
All: We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Reader 2: “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.”
Reader 1: Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Prayer for Illumination
“Reformation: The Holy Catholic Church”
Reader 2: What do we believe about the Church?
All: We believe in the holy catholic church.
Reader 1: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”
—1 Corinthians 12:12
The Son of God through his Spirit and Word . . . gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.
—Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 54
All: We believe in the communion of saints.
Reader 2: All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
“I Love Your Church, O Lord” Dwight, LUYH 247, PsH 510
“Church of God, Elect and Glorious” Seddon, LUYH 252, PsH 533, WR 541
“In Christ There Is No East or West” Perry, LUYH 268, GtG 317, SSS 226
The Lord’s Prayer
An elaboration of the Lord’s Prayer, read by a grandmother and grandson, can be found at tinyurl.com/um8cnhe.
“Amazing Grace” arr. Gwozdz
Our New Life in Christ
Reader 1: What do you believe about our new life in Christ?
All: We believe in the forgiveness of sins.
Reader 2: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Reader 1: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
All: We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
Reader 2: But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
—1 Corinthians 15:20–23
Reader 1: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever!