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The Church - Bigger Than All of Us

The first service plan in a Pentecost series, focusing on the statement in the Apostles' Creed concerning the "holy catholic church, the communion of saints" based on Acts 2 and Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 2.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

The Church

This series of worship services explores the nature and the life of the Christian Church as the place where faith is fed and nurtured.

Theme of the Service

Since Pentecost marks the beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing the Christian Church together (the story throughout the book of Acts), we will spend the next seven weeks looking at the nature and the life of the Christian Church as the place where faith is fed and nurtured. In this process we will first examine the catholic (worldwide) nature of the church. Then we will look at the fact that faith is given and must be fed. For two weeks we'll focus on the nurture of our faith in the sacrament of baptism, and for two more weeks we'll examine the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Finally, we will focus on the church's exercise of the keys of the kingdom. These messages will be built on the teachings of Scripture as expressed in the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism.

We begin this series with a service focusing on the statement in the Apostles' Creed concerning the "holy catholic church, the communion of saints." The Church of Christ is larger than our local congregation and our denomination. It spans time and space beyond our imagination!

* * * * *


Prelude: "Great Is the Lord Our God" or "We're Marching to Zion" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*The Call to Worship:
Let us acknowledge the company in which we meet:
the church on earth and in heaven;
the faithful who worshipped here before us;
the hundreds of thousands
of every place and language
who, on the Lord's day, seek to set their lives
within the atmosphere of renewing grace.
As we think of them,
let us take deliberate encouragement
from our unity with them all. TWS, S.l.2.3

*Song of Praise: "Great Is the Lord Our God" PsH 48 or "We're Marching to Zion" TWC 596 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, who do you trust?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Song of Praise: "There's No God as Great" PsH 517, RN 261, SFL 240

The Children's Moment [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

Anthem: "We Are the Church," Young [see <href="#music" >music notes]


The Call to Confession

The Prayer of Confession: [see <href="#music" >music notes]

Sung: "Ososo / Come Now, O Prince of Peace" SNC 209

Across the barriers that divide race from race:
reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross.
Across the barriers that divide rich from poor:
reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross.
Across the barriers that divide people of different cultures:
reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross.
Across the barriers that divide Christians:
reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross.
Across the barriers that divide men and women, young and old:
reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross.
Confront us, O Christ, with the hidden prejudices and fears
that deny and betray our prayers.
Enable us to see the causes of strife,
remove from us all senses of superiority.
Teach us to grow in unity with all God's children. Amen. TWS, S.2.2.2

The Assurance of Pardon
You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people,
in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him
who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people;
once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
People of God,
all of us together have received God's mercy in Christ.
In Christ we are forgiven, redeemed,
and made to be a community united in faith.
Thanks be to God. TWS, S.2.4.1, based on 1 Peter 2:9-10, NRSV

Our Song of Dedication: "In Christ There Is No East or West" PsH 540, PH 440, RL 410, TWC 695, UMH 548
or: "God, You Call Us to This Place" SNC 14 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

God's Guide for Grateful Living


*Song of Preparation: "Christian Hearts in Love United" PsH 513

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: Acts 2:42-47 and 10:34-35
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: The Church-Bigger Than All of Us!

The Prayer of Application


*Our Affirmation of Faith [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Song of Faith: "Somos uno en Cristo / We are One in Christ Jesus" SNC 179
or: "O Christ, the Great Foundation" PH 443, SNC 177, TWC 709
or: "The Church's One Foundation" PH 442, PsH 502, RL 394, TH 347, TWC 689, UMH 545
[see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Prayers of the People [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

The Offertory Prayer
The Offering of Music: "O Christ, the Great Foundation" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
We offer our gifts for..


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Here from All Nations" PsH 235, RL 582, TWC 680

Postlude: "In Christ There Is No East or West" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

Rick Warren, in The Purpose Driven Church, captures the intent of the passages we read: "Many American Christians are what I call 'floating believers.' Anywhere else in the world, being a believer is synonymous with being connected to a local body of believers-you rarely find a lone-ranger Christian in other countries. Many American Christians, however, hop from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. They have not been taught that the Christian life involves more than just believing-it also includes belonging." (pp. 309-310)

There is implicit tension built into these Scripture passages. On the one hand, church members pull tightly together. Notice how Acts 2 describes common activities and the caring that expresses the Spirit-directed bond with each other. These believers obviously spent considerable time with each other in worship. They "belonged" to each other and treasured that sense of belonging. But, on the other hand, this bond should never be so tight that it becomes exclusionary. Acts 2:47b shows they were always ready to include others, and Acts 10:34-35 illustrates that including others even means accepting Gentiles, those who previously were considered excluded. This tension runs throughout the book of Acts-the centripetal force of pulling together as the "body of Christ" and the centrifugal force that propels outwards to embrace others. This tension is not easy to live with, as the conflict in Acts 15 clearly illustrates. For that matter, even Peter had a struggle with it, and the vision of Acts 10 is designed to help him see that the church is bigger than he thought.

For the members of the local congregation, this tension is played out in our need to be committed to the local body while having a worldwide identity and seeing the body of Christ as including many others with cultures, languages and practices that are very different from ours. We are loyal to "our church," but at the same time we don't want it to be only "our church." What binds us together in our unity is that the Holy Spirit has given us faith which must be expressed, nurtured and lived out in the world.

The large view of Scripture helps us to see that from beginning the Spirit is preparing the church to be a worldwide body. The promise of Jesus at his ascension (see Acts 1:8) and the multiple languages spoken at Pentecost (see Acts 2:8-11) point to the same process. Once the church captures the view of God's widely gathering work, many references in the Old Testament take on new life and meaning (see Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 42:6-7, 54:2, and Jonah 1-4). We see the final culmination expressed in the vision of Revelation 7:9ff. From beginning to end, the Bible teaches us to think of a "holy catholic church."

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

The prelude and alternative accompaniment suggestions are based on hymn tunes associated with Psalm 48.

DIADEMATA ["Great Is the Lord Our God"]
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Easter Season Hymn Improvisations. Morningstar MSM-10-403 [1990]
Callahan, Charles. Partita on Diademata. Morningstar MSM 10-409 [1991] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Hymn Preludes for the Pentecost Season. Concordia 97-5517 [1979] (E-M)
Lutkin, Peter. Christian Hymn Tune Transcriptions. H. W. Grey [1908] (E-M)

Boertje, Barbara. Piano Improvisations for the Church Year. Unity 70/1194U [1998] (E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 1. Ludwig O-05 [1975]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

MARCHING TO ZION ["We're Marching to Zion"]
Farlee, Robert Buckley. Many and Great. Augsburg 11-11033 [2000] (E-M)
Ferguson, John. Three Nineteenth Century Revival Hymns. Augsburg 11-10976 [1999] (M)

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

"We Are the Church" arranged by Carlton Young for two part children's choir is published by Agape AG 7182 [1975]. It is also arranged congregationally in the children's hymnal "Songs for Life."

The sung prayer of confession could be sung preceding the spoken prayer, or it could be sung as a conclusion to the spoken prayer. Additionally, you may wish to consider alternating verses of the sung prayer with segments of the spoken prayer.

An alternative harmonization for the song of dedication can be found in:

Alternative Harmonizations for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations, bk. 5. Ludwig O-14 [1992]
Johnson, David N. Free Organ Accompaniments to Hymns, vol. 3. Augsburg 11-9189 [1966]

Alternative harmonizations and offertory suggestions based on the song of faith can be found in the following resources:

AURELIA ["O Christ, the Great Foundation" / "The Church's One Foundation"]
Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations, bk. 5. Ludwig O-14 [1992]
Thiman, Eric. Varied Accompaniments to Thirty-Four Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Oxford
ISBN 0 19 323210 3 [1937]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Cherwien, David. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

Barr, John G. Three Preludes on Hymn Tunes. H. W. Grey GSTC 01079 [1992] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-534 [1999]
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 5. AMSI SP-102 [1985] (E-M)
Hildebrand, Kevin. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 3. Concordia 97-7052 [2004]
(adaptable to piano, E)
Honore, Jeffrey. Classic Embellishments. Augsburg 11-11005 [1999]
(adaptable to a solo instrument, E)
Jordan, Alice A. Joyful Noise. Broadman 4570-62 [1984] (E-M)
Kemner, Gerald. Fantasies on Nine Familiar Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-5919 [1990] (M)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 5. SMP KK323 [1984] (adaptable for piano; E-M)
Peeters, Flor. Hymn Preludes for the Liturgical Year, vol. 10. Peters 6410 [1966] (E-M)

Postlude suggestions based on the song of dedication sung earlier in the service can be found in:

MCKEE ["In Christ There Is No East or West"]
Stearns, Peter Pindar. Twelve Hymn Preludes for General Use. Flammer HF-5145 [1987]
Wood, Dale. Wood Works, bk. 2. SMP KK400 [1989]

Liturgy Notes:

1. During the Children's Moment explain to the children that today we are going to think about members of our Christian family (i.e. the church) who live in other cities and countries. Use pictures or stories. Children are often not very aware of other cities, countries and cultures. Explain to them that many people we don't know are actually our "fellow family members" and are worshiping today just like we are. Consider leading the children in a prayer for God to bless Christians around the world.

2. To better express the worldwide nature of the Christian Church, we encourage you to search out the members of your congregation who may know languages other than English. Provide a place in the worship service where a Scripture verse or passage can be read in several different languages. By hearing multiple languages we catch a better glimpse of our brothers and sisters around the world. You may choose to do this with the Assurance of Pardon, part of the Response to the sermon, or with the benediction.

3. We offer two options for the Affirmation of Faith. Words can be taken either from the Belgic Confession of Faith or the Heidelberg Catechism. We offer both of them here. (The articles from the Belgic Confession of Faith are reformulated so they are in litany form for congregational use.) To reprint either affirmation, for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 27-28:
What do you believe about the Church of Christ?
We believe and confess one single catholic or universal church-
a holy congregation and gathering of true Christian believers.
And what binds them all together?
They await their entire salvation in Jesus Christ,
are washed by his blood,
and sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
When did this church begin?
This church has existed from the beginning of the world and will last until the end,
as appears from the fact that Christ is eternal King who cannot be without subjects.
Will God protect his Church from its enemies?
This holy church is preserved by God against the rage of the whole world,
even though for a time it may appear very small as though it were snuffed out.
How big is this Church?
This holy church is not confined, bound,
or limited to a certain place or certain persons.
But it is spread and dispersed throughout the entire world,
though still joined and united in heart and will,
in one and the same Spirit, by the power of faith.

How important is church membership?
We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation
is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it,
no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, regardless of his status or condition.
What is our obligation and duty toward the church of Christ?
All people are obliged to join and unite with it,
keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline,
by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ,
and by serving to build up one another,
according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body.

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 21, Q&A 54-55
What do you believe concerning "the holy catholic church"?
I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word,
out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end,
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.

What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?
First, that believers one and all, as members of this community,
share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts.
Second, that each member should consider it a duty
to use these gifts readily and cheerfully
for the service and enrichment of the other members.

4. In light of the theme of the service, the Prayers of the People should be intercession for the members of the worldwide church. Though local needs must be included for intercession, we encourage you to include the needs of the church in other lands. In order that worshipers may be able to better participate with you in this prayer, it would be helpful to explain some of the needs of other Christians before the prayer. If you are using PowerPoint technology, you may find it helpful to project pictures of Christians in other parts of the world. You may want to do this before the worship begins or during the offertory.