The Immeasurable Riches of God's Grace - Reformation Day - Ephesians 1-3

A service of worship for Reformation Day Sunday, focusing on the richness of God's grace in Jesus Christ.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Since this is the Lord's Day on which the Protestant Reformation is remembered, we've provided this service of worship that focuses on the richness of God's grace in Jesus Christ.

We are indebted to Dr. Mariano Avila, Associate Professor of New Testament at Calvin Seminary, for pointing out the liturgical character of the first three chapters of Ephesians. Not only does Paul extol the greatness of God's grace, but he also does so in a manner that is consistent with the worship of God. The content of Ephesians 1-3 is printed out within this service from the NRSV Bible. See the liturgy notes for suggestions on how to incorporate these readings.

The format of this worship service may be somewhat different from what our churches normally are used to. We have allowed the structure of the epistle to dictate the structure of the service. It will be helpful to explain this to worshipers before the service begins.

WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Prelude: "Amazing Grace" [see music notes]

The Welcome and Introduction of the Service.

*The Greeting: Ephesians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

*Song: "God, You Call Us to This Place" SNC 14

*Adoration: Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.

He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,

so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;

This is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.

*Song: "Praise Him! Jesus, Blessed Savior" SNC 48


WE GATHER BEFORE GOD IN PRAYER

The Call to Prayer: Ephesians 1:15-19

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

The Prayer of Thanks


GOD SPEAKS TO US THROUGH HIS WORD AND WE RESPOND

Sermon: "Celebrating the Riches of God's Grace" [see sermon notes]

God's Power in Christ: Ephesians 1:20-23

God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Response: "We Will Glorify" RN 33, SNC 21, SFL 18, TWC 118

God's Power in Salvation by Grace: Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.

All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-

by grace you have been saved-

and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Response: "Amazing Grace" (st. 1-2) PH 280, PsH 462, RL 456, RN 189, SFL 209, TH 460, TWC 502, UMH 378

God's Power in a New Humanity: Ephesians 2:13-22

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Response: "Somos uno en Cristo /We Are One in Christ" SNC 179

God's Power in the Unifying Gospel: Ephesians 3:7-13

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.

The Prayer of Intercession: Ephesians 3:14-19

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ's love, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Our Prayers of Intercession

The Offertory
The Offering of Music: "Amazing Grace" [see music notes]
The Offering of our Gifts


WE GO OUT WITH GRATEFUL HEARTS

*The Doxology: Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more that all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

*Song: "Praise the Savior, Now and Ever" (st. 4) PsH 400, TH 243
or "Lord, We Hear Your Word with Gladness" (st. 3) SNC 89

Postlude: "Amazing Grace" [see music notes]
or "Lord, We Hear Your Word with Gladness," Held, Wood, or Carter

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

Though this is a worship service that is shaped by the reading of Scripture, we suggest that it also be a preaching service for an exposition and application of what is read.

The sermon can be incorporated in this service in two different ways. A sermon can be inserted in one location and serve as an overview of the message of grace. In this case, it can be located as indicated at the beginning of the section "God Speaks through His Word," with the Scripture readings to follow, or it can be placed at the end of the readings before the Prayer of Intercession. Another method is to include four shorter messages at multiple locations throughout the service after each of the readings about the dimensions of God's power.

In either case the sermon should aim to (1) recreate the historical setting in Ephesus in which this letter was originally read and heard; (2) create the theological setting for hearers to receive this message by explaining such concepts as "dead through the trespasses and sins," "by grace you have been saved," and "he destined us for adoption"; (3) praise and honor God for these spiritual blessings, and (4) describe the practical implications for Christian obedience as spelled out in the last three chapters of the book.

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)

  1. We suggest that all the service music be based on "Amazing Grace" [AMAZING GRACE/NEW BRITAIN] so that the theme of that text surrounds and permeates the entire service. Listed below are a variety of resources you can draw on as you plan. The choral anthems could be inserted into the given order, or could be sung as part of the prelude or the offertory.

    Organ selections on the tune can be found in
    • Haan, Raymond H. The King of Love. SMP KK277 [1983] (E-M).
    • Held, Wilbur. Preludes and Postludes, vol. 1. Augsburg 11-9318 [1972] (E).
    • Hobby, Robert A. For All the Saints. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7537-1 [2002] (E-M).
    • Martin, Gilbert. Two Preludes on American Hymn Tunes. H.W. Grey GSTC 962 [1972] (E).

    Piano selections on the tune can be found in
    • Albrecht, Mark. Timeless Hymns of Faith. Augsburg 11-10863 [1998] (E-M).
    • Carter, John. Folk Hymns for Piano. Hope 240 [1987] (E-M).
    • Leavitt, John. How Sweet the Sound. CPH 97-6891 [2000] (M).
    • Sanborn, Jan. Piano Music for the Care of the Soul. Ron Harris RHP0403 [1997] (M).

    Handbell choir selections on the tune can be found in
    • "Amazing Grace," arranged by Cynthia Dobrinski for 2-3 octaves, published by Lake State HB 00067 [2000] [E-M].
    • "Amazing Grace," arranged by Ronald Kauffmann for 3 octaves, published by Flammer HP-5207 (1986) [E-M].

    SATB anthems on the tune can be found in
    • "Amazing Grace," arranged by John Coates Jr., published by Shawnee A-1130 [1971] (E-M).
    • "Amazing Grace," arranged by Daniel Kallman, published by Morningstar MSM-50-9073 [1995] (E-M).
  2. The alternate suggestion for postlude, "Lord, We Hear Your Word with Gladness" [HOLY MANNA], can be found in the following sources:
    • Held, Wilbur. Preludes and Postludes, vol. 1. Augsburg 11-9318 [1972] (E-M, organ).
    • Wood, Dale. Wood Works, bk. 2. SMP KK400 [1989] (E-M, organ).
    • Carter, John. Folk Hymns for Piano. Hope 240 [1987] (E-M, piano).

Liturgy Notes:

  1. Worshipers need information before the service begins to enter this time of worship meaningfully. Perhaps information can be provided in the church bulletin a week ahead of time that points to the unique character of this service, and the congregation can be encouraged to read the chapters from Ephesians privately in preparation for worship. At the least the worship leader should begin the service with an explanation of and introduction to the intent of the service.
  2. The entire text of Ephesians 1-3 is printed in this service and should be printed on the worship sheet for each worshiper. It is intended that the regular print be read by a worship leader, the italicized print by an alternate reader, and the bold-faced print in unison by all worshipers. There is opportunity here for multiple lay readers to participate.
  3. After Paul's Call to Prayer (1:15-19) there is room for an extemporaneous prayer by a worship leader that expresses praise and thanks to God and asks for God to enlighten our hearts and minds that we may know the riches of his grace.
  4. For various possible locations for the sermon(s) see the Sermon Notes above.
  5. After Paul's Prayer of Intercession there is opportunity for our Prayers of Intercession. Multiple prayer leaders can be included to focus on different needs of the church and community; or prayer requests can be received and incorporated in this prayer; or the prayer leader may begin the prayer and suggest that worshipers merely speak out the name of a person, cause, or need they are concerned about to be lifted up before God.

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