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Freedom to serve: a service based on Paul's letter to the Colossians

BULLETIN NOTE

Our guide for worship is Paul's letter to the Colossians. This epistle celebrates the lordship of Jesus Christ, reminds us of our "Freedom to Serve," and calls us to live in the fullness of our union with Christ. The order of worship mirrors the outline of this epistle, with hymns and prayers that serve to help us live into the truth of Paul's message.

SERVICE NOTES

This service was designed by John D. Witvliet and Emily R. Brink for the 1993 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. The "sermon" is virtually the entire book of Colossians (due to space considerations, not all the verses were included here). Rev. Duane Kelderman carefully prepared the reading so that the message from Paul was largely memorized, and not so much read as declaimed from the pulpit. Rev. Andrew Bandstra prepared the commentary and served as liturgist, standing below the pulpit.

John Witvliet prepared all the prayers except for the Prayer for Discernment, which was written by Dr. John Kromminga. The several different prayer leaders spoke from microphones placed in the aisles in the midst of the congregation, to emphasize that these were the "prayers of the people."

Several musicians were involved: an organist on the traditional hymns, a pianist on the more contemporary songs, the Calvin College Alumni Choir on the anthems, cantors as indicated, and trumpet, flute, violin, and guitar players on various hymns.

This service could well serve as an ecumenical prayer service involving several congregations and different choirs.

PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP
Gathering of the People, with piano prelude

"Here, O Lord, Your Servants Gather"
[PsH 251, PH 465]

"Christ, You Are the Fullness"
[PsH 229, PH 346]

[The texts of these hymns may serve as a guide to personal prayers.]

Statement of Purpose

Liturgist: Fellow believers in Jesus Christ, we have gathered this evening to hear God's Word and to respond with our praise and prayers. We may represent many different cultures and languages. We may be accustomed to worshiping in different styles. But we stand as one body in Christ, gathered now around his Word.

Our guide for worship is Paul's letter to the Colossians. This letter celebrates the lordship of Jesus Christ, reminds us of our "Freedom to Serve," and calls us to live in the fullness of our union with Christ. The order of worship that follows mirrors the outline of this epistle, with hymns and prayers serving to help us live into the truth of Paul's message. In this time of worship, may this portion of God's Word be written on our hearts. And may God's Spirit inspire in us right and fitting response to the Word.

Entrance Prayer

Refrain (sing twice):

Song Title Here

Prayer Leader: Holy and merciful God, as members of this community of faith, we now bring you praise and adoration. We approach you through Jesus Christ; for by him you rescued us from darkness, offered us redemption, and ushered us into your kingdom. By your Spirit open our hearts and minds, that in this hour we may grow in the knowledge of your grace, be strengthened in the power of your Spirit, and be refreshed for new opportunities of service in your kingdom.

Repeat Refrain

Choral Prayer: "Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether"
[Harold W.Friedell]

Liturgist: Hear God's Word from Paul's epistle to the Colossians, at chapter 1:

Reader: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the holy and faithful in Christ at Colossae.

[Colossians 1:1-2]

Liturgist: And by the power of the Holy Spirit, also to us.

Reader: Grace and peace to you from God our Father [with hand raised]— For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

[Colossians 1:1-14]

Liturgist: Brothers and sisters, in these opening words from Pauls letter, we are reminded of why we are here this evening. We have gathered because in Jesus Christ, we are redeemed—we are freed! In Jesus Christ, we grow in spiritual wisdom and understanding. In Jesus Christ, we find ourselves in community, a part of his body the church. As we now turn our hearts to worship, let us affirm each other as a part of the body of Christ, standing to greet each other in the name of Christ.

Mutual Greetings
IN PRAISE OF JESUS CHRIST, OUR LORD AND SAVIOR
Hymn

"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"
[PsH 253,RL 145,TH 53]

Reader: Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God— He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
[Colossians 1:15-17]


Choral Anthem

"Song of Exaltation"
[John Ness Beck]

Reader: Jesus Christ is the head of the body, the church...by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
[Colossians 1:18-20]

Bible Song

"He Is Lord"
[PsH 633; followed without pause by:]

"Digno Es Jesus"/"Worthy Is Christ"
st. 1: cantors, in Spanish
st. 1,2: all, in English or Spanish
[PsH 629]


Reader: Once you were alienated from God... But... this is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

[Colossians 1:21-23]

Liturgist: The first theme of Paul's epistle is nothing less than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ alone is the Lord of creation. It is this Lord Jesus who sets us free, who reconciles us to God, and who presents us as without blemish and holy in God's sight. May we, as members of one part of

Christ's body known as the [name of your church or denomination], always stand firm in our love for the gospel. And may we never cease to celebrate the freedom we have in Christ.

Song

"If You Believe and I Believe"
first time: choir
second time: all

Text: from Zimbabwe, based on Matthew 18:20
Tune: Zimbabwean, adapted from English source, as Taught by Tarasai

Reader: Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you... To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me.
[Colossians 1:24-29]

Liturgist: This personal testimony from Paul is also the testimony we desire to claim for our ministry here at [name of church or organization]. Our joy is to suffer for the sake of Christ's body: to empathize with the neglected and abused, to minister to those who hunger and thirst, to heal those who are diseased. Our goal is to proclaim Jesus Christ, to admonish, to teach, to transform our world by the riches of the mystery of Christ. For the opportunity to share in this suffering and in the ministry of proclamation, we bring now our thanksgiving to God.

Prayers of Thanksgiving

Prayer Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, we praise you and thank you for the privilege of sharing in your sufferings. Our world is full of suffering and sorrow. Yet you entered our world, shared in its sufferings, and sacrificed yourself to redeem the world. We bless you for allowing us to participate in the ministry of both suffering and healing, through the work of [here name specific congregational or community ministry programs]. We are humbled by your goodness to us.

Congregation: We give you, O Lord, all praise and glory Amen.

Prayer Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, we praise you and thank you for the privilege of sharing in the proclamation of your gospel. Our world is lost in the darkness of sin. Yet you entered our world, enlightened our darkness, and died for the forgiveness of sin. We bless you for allowing us to bring this gospel to the nations through [here name missionaries, mission agencies, broadcast ministries, and seminaries]. We are humbled by your goodness to us.

Congregation: We give you, O Lord, all praise and glory. Amen.

Prayer Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, we praise you and thank you for the privilege of building each other up in the knowledge of your Word. We celebrate our place in God's family. We yearn to grow in knowledge, faith, and obedience. Thank you for the ministries of [here name congregational education programs and denominational schools, colleges, and publishing ministries]. We are humbled by your goodness to us.

Congregation: We give you, O Lord, all praise and glory. Amen.

Prayer Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, we praise you and thank you for the privilege of participating in your body the church. We thank you for the ministry of worship, of evangelism, of fellowship, of pastoral care, and of education that is carried out in hundreds of congregations across this continent. We thank you that we are members of this denomination. We are humbled by your goodness to us.

Congregation: We give you, O Lord, all praise and glory.

Reader: I want you to know how much I am struggling for you... See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

[Colossians 2:1-8]

Liturgist: Ministry in Christ is not an easy calling. The wisdom of this world taunts us, and we become weak in the wisdom of Christ. Human standards and traditions appeal to us, and our dependence on Christ weakens. Our prayers begin in thanksgiving and adoration but must continue in petition, asking God to sustain and preserve us and to give us the wisdom of Christ.

Prayer for Discernment

Prayer Leader: As we rededicate ourselves to the work of this congregation, give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand your will for the church.

We have become accustomed to discerning right from left in the church. Teach us always to discern right from wrong in your kingdom. Help us day by day to discern

— between progress and drifting, solidity and stagnation;
— between gentleness and cowardice, frankness and brutality;
— between orthodoxy and prejudice,
— between being open to the future and being without roots in the past.


As we pursue our personal agendas, let us not look exclusively on our own convictions, which so easily slide into bias, but let us, in the words of your servant Paul and in imitation of your Son Jesus Christ, look sympathetically on the desires of others and each count others better than ourselves.

When we do and say right tilings—for we want to do what is right—help us to look on them not with pride as an adornment, but with gratitude, as on a talent you have loaned to us that we may return to you.

When we do and say wrong tilings—for there is not one of us who does not slip or stray—let us not justify them in the name of righteous indignation or by any version of the excuse that our holy aim justifies unholy practices.

Whether we seek to persuade or to be persuaded, help us to discern between prophetic insight and demagoguery between pastoral concern and sheer emotion, between depth of conviction and volume of bombast.

And, Lord, whether we sit on the platform or in the pews, may we all see, far above and beyond our individual agendas, the interests of the church—its worship, its instruction, its compassion, its outreach—the church that is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. And discerning that body, may we also see with it and above it, the Head, Jesus Christ, whose body we the church are. For of him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory, both now and forever. Amen.

Choir

"The Lord's Prayer"
[PsH 207, PH 571, TH 725]

Reader: For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form... [You were] raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised im from the dead.

[Colossians 2:9-12]

Song Title Here

Hymn

"Christ, You Are the Fullness," st. 1 and 2
[PsH 229, PH 346]

Reader: When you were dead in your sins... And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

[Colossians 2:13-15]

Song

"Oh, Que Bueno Es Jesus"/"Oh, How Good Is Christ the Lord"
st. 1: cantors, in Spanish
st. 1,2: all, in English or Spanish
[PsH 401]




Hymn

"Amazing Grace"
st. 1: cantor
st. 2: men
st. 3-4: all
st. 5: all, in four-part canon, at two measures, as directed



[Sung unaccompanied.]
[PsH 462, PH 28ft RL 456, TH 460]


OUR UNION CHRIST AND OUR LIVES OF SERVICE

Reader: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above— When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
[Colossians 3:1-4]

Hymn

"We Know That Christ Is Raised"

st. 1: choir
st. 2-4: all, standing to sing
[PsH 271, PH 495, RL 528]



Reader: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature... Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

[Colossians 3:5-10]

Prayer of Confession

Prayer Leader: Almighty God, we confess that we have sinned against you. Too often our lips speak lies. Too often we have slandered even our brothers and sisters in Christ. These evils have left us weak and tired. We can only turn to you, our Lord and God.

Sung Prayer

"Precious Lord, Take My Hand"
[PsH 493, PH 404]

Prayer Leader: For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us, that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.

Declaration of Pardon

Liturgist: Friends in Christ, hear the good news:

Reader: The new self is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.... When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
[Colossians 3:10-11, 3-4]


Hymn

"To God Be the Glory"
[PsH 632, PH 485, RL 355, TH 55]

Reader: Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience— And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

[Colossians 3:12-14]

Choral Anthem

"Not for Tongues of Heaven's Angels"
[Roy Hopp]

Reader: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts... And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
ICnlii-sians 3:15-17]


Prayers of Dedication

Prayer Leader: Lord our God, we now respond to your Word, dedicating ourselves to your service and renewing our commitment to obedience. We promise to remain rooted in your Word. We promise to take every opportunity to promote peace in our world. And we promise to give all praise and glory to our only Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Repeat Refrain

Prayer Leader: Lord our God, we now respond to your Word, dedicating ourselves to your service and renewing our commitment to obedience. We dedicate each ministry of this congregation to your service. Guide us by the power of your Holy Spirit, we pray that we may minister to the needs of our pain-ridden world and be bold in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Repeat Refrain

Reader: Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful... Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

[Colossians 4:2-6]

Hymn

"Christ, You Are the Fullness," st. 3
[PsH 229, PH 346]


Benediction

[spoken in languages representing the worldwide church]

Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Grace be with you.
[Colossians 3:1, 14:18]


Parting Song

"Lead On, O King Eternal"
st. 3: all in unison
[PsH 555, PH 447-448, RL 423, TH 580]



Postlude

"Organ Voluntary on "Lead On, O King Eternal'"

[Alice Jordan]