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Unpacking the Mystery (Philippians 3)

Christian maturity eagerly reaches forward to the full hope of glory that Christ by his resurrection has provided for us.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Christian maturity eagerly reaches forward to the full hope of glory that Christ by his resurrection has provided for us.

We Gather In Worship

Prelude/Gathering Music: “You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd
[see also HW 248]

Call to Worship

*Song of Praise: “Christ is Risen
[see also HW 202, ELW 383, TWC 169]

*God’s Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Song of Adoration: “You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd
[see also HW 248]

We Are Renewed in God’s Grace

Call to Confession

Prayer of Confession:

God of Light,
We have been so blind when truth has been so clear.|
When we could have looked ahead we fell behind.
When we could have viewed the wider picture we saw only a part.
When we could have sensed the Spirit leading we missed the way.
Forgive our dim apprehension of love’s clear leading.
Give us faith that trusts when it cannot see,
Through the light that lingers when all eels fails,
Even the Bright and Morning Star of our faith,
Jesus Christ, the Savior,
(E. Lee Phillips, Breaking Silence Before the Lord, 1986)

*Assurance of God’s Pardon

* Passing the Peace to One Another

*Song of Thanksgiving: “Holy Gift of Love” [GSW 22]

Call to Grateful Obedience: Colossians 3:1-4.

Anthem: “Guide My Feet,” Avis Graves

Psalm of the Day:

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;

he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night,
or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,

but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.

With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.
[Psalm 91, NRSV]

God Speaks Through His Word

Prayer for Illumination

Reading of Scripture:

First Reading:  II Peter 3:10-15

Second Reading: Philippians 3:12-14

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: Unpacking the Mystery

Prayer of Application

We Respond to God’s Word

*Song of Devotion: “Ahead of Us A Race to Run” [Dwelling with Philippians 3:12-14, sung to SOLID ROCK] [see music notes]

*Profession of the Church’s Faith:

As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world –
which some seek to control,
and others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust:
Our World belongs to God!
From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until the kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever;
Our world belongs to God!
God is King: Let the earth be glad!
Christ is victor: his rule has begun!
The Spirit is at work: creation is renewed!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
(A Contemporary Testimony: Our World Belongs to God, art. 1-2)

Prayers of the People

Song of Faith: “Pues si vivimos/When We Are Living
[see also ELW 639]

Offertory and Offering:

Pues si vivimos/When We Are Living” [see also ELW 639] or
O God, Our Help in Ages Past[see also ELW 632, HW 79]

We Leave To Live Out Our Faith

Prayer of Sending: [see liturgy notes]

Eternal God,
you call us to ventures,
of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us:
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Eric Milner-White and George Wallace Briggs, Daily Prayer, 1941)

*Song of Faith: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” [see also ELW 632, HW 79]

*God’s Parting Blessing and Congregational Amen!

 Postlude: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” [see also ELW 632, HW 79]

*Indicates standing if you are able.

The materials included here from THE WORSHIP SOURCEBOOK are used by permission from THE WORSHIP SOURCEBOOK, © 2004, CRC Publications. This permission is granted for one time worship use in an order of service for a congregation, or in a special program or lesson resource, provided that no part of such reproduction is sold, directly or indirectly. For all other uses, please contact the copyright holder.

Liturgy Notes

1.      “When We Are Living:” this very personal song has been selected because it wraps up the message of the sermon, the profession of the church’s faith, and the spirit of the prayer just preceding.

2.      Prayer of Sending:  though worship services often end with “words of sending” in which we receiving an exhortation from Scripture to live faithfully, these words today are formulated as a prayer for courageous faith as we are sent out. You will notice they come from the book, Dwelling with Philippians.

Sermon Notes

We are given a variety of insights into Paul in this short passage. On the one hand, we hear the athlete coming through, the one who presses on, straining toward the goal. We hear the humble Paul candidly admitting he is not yet where he would like to be. But we also hear the passionate heart of Paul which strives to participate in the resurrection Christ has for us.

It is important to remember that the resurrection of Christ (and our own resurrection) is prominent in this short passage. That’s the thought with which he ended verses 10 and 11. He is sharply aware of the fact that he has not yet arrived at the point he so deeply desires. He convinces us that becoming a mature Christian does not mean we settle back, assuming there is no more traveling to do. As N.T. Wright suggests, “True maturity…actually means knowing that you haven’t arrived, and that you must still keep pressing on forwards towards the goal.” (Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters, N.T.Wright, Westminster/John Knox Press, 2004, p.123) Paul sees full maturity to be found in a complete participation in the sufferings of Christ, knowing the power of his resurrection, and a participation in the resurrection from the dead.

This full maturity is the source of the deepest joy in which he wants the Philippians to participate, but also a most profound mystery before which they can only marvel and wonder.

As we ponder on these ideas communicated by Paul, it is helpful to remember again that this is a prison epistle and the author of these words is imprisoned. In contrast to the frustration, even despair, that a prison might bring, here is an apostle whose faith rises to the highest level imaginable. While the circumstances of a prison cell may drag him down, the beauty and anticipation of the mystery that will be revealed not only buoys up his spirit but fills his heart with joy.

Paul’s expression of “the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” is not merely the hope of “getting to heaven” and away from this world (and its prisons). It is an expression of the total hope that he will refer to in the next section. He is aware that his real citizenship is in heaven, that his Savior will return from there, that he will transform our bodies by his glory, and in the process will make all things subject to himself. Peter refers to this as “a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (II Peter 3:13)

Music Notes

1.      The suggested prelude, “You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd” is paired with different tunes. We have provided resources on both PICARDY and REGENT SQUARE.


  • Organ:
    • Burkhardt, Michael. Four Hymn Improvisations for Holy Week. Morningstar MSM-10-318 [1995] (E-M)
    • Callahan, Charles. Five Improvisations on Communion Hymns. Concordia 97-6126 [1991] (E-M)
    • Kosche, Kenneth T. Four Organ Preludes for Advent. Morningstar MSM-10-020 [2004] (E-M)
    • Travis, Albert L. Prelude on Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. Morningstar MSM-10-821 [1991] (E-M)
    • Warner, Richard. Organ Music for the Communion Service. Concordia 97-1395 [1956] (E-M)
  • Piano:
    • Carter, John. Favorite Hymns for Piano. Hope 8823 [2007] (E-M, jazz influenced)
    • Carter, John. Merrily on High. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-2347-9 [2006] (E-M)
    • Davenport, Rudy. Darkness and Light: Seasonal Reflections for Piano. Morningstar MSM-15-839 [2010] (E-M)
    • Eithun, Sandra. Abide with Us. Concordia 97-7277[2008] (E-M)
    • Larkin, Michael. Be Thou My Vision. Morningstar MSM-15-832 [2004] (E-M)
    • Marohnic, Chuck. Piano Meditations. Morningstar MSM-15-823 [2000] (jazz styled; M)
    • Stevens, Wendy Lynn. How Sweet the Sound. Augsburg fortress ISBN 978-0-8066-9696-6 [2009] (E-M)
  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
    • Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]
    • Hopson, Hal H. The Creative Use of the Piano in Worship. Hope 8392 [2008]


  • Organ:
    • Johnson, Edwin C. (1999) Augsburg Organ Library – Christmas. Augsburg 11-11074 [2001] (E-M)
    • Johnson, Edwin C. Organ Music for the Seasons. Vol. 2 Augsburg 11-11010 [1999] (M)
    • Kerr, J. Wayne. Christ Is Born! Augsburg 11-11037 [2000] (E-M)
    • Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice. vol. 5 SMP KK323 [1984] (E-M)
  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
    • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ. bk. 1 Ludwig O-05 [1975]
    • Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Hopson, Hal H. The Creative Use of the Piano in Worship. Hope 8392 [2008]
    • Maynard, Lynette. Let It Rip! At the Piano. vol. 2 Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

2.      The anthem “Guide My Feet” by Avis Graves is published by GIA as part of its African American Church Music Series, G-5952 [2002]. It is scored for SATB voices and keyboard.

3.      The text of “Ahead of Us a Race to Run” is found in “Dwelling with Philippians” p. ???. We are pairing it with the familiar tune SOLID ROCK for congregational use.

4.      Offertory music could be based on either “Pues si vivimos/When We Are Living” or “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”  Resources follow, for offertory, alternative harmonizations and postlude possibilities.


  • Piano:
    • Carter, John. World Music for Piano. Hope 8249 [2005] (E-M)                                                             
    • Kolander, Keith. When Our Song Says Peace. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-2345-2 [2006] (E-M) 


  • Organ:
    • Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving. Set 7 Morningstar MSM-10-764 [2007] (M)
    • Callahan, Chales. Partita on St. Anne. Morningstar MSM-10-553 [2002] (E-M)
    • Cherwien, David. Postludes on Well Known Hymns. Augsburg 11-10795 [1997] (M)
    • Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice. vol. 1 SMP KK234 [1978] (E)
    • Manz, Paul. Partita on St. Anne. Morningstar MSM-10-838 [1991] (M)
    • Parry, Hubert. Seven Chorale Preludes. set 1 Novello 13684 [1940] (M)
    • Young, Gordon. Eight Voluntaries. Presser 413-41034-30 [1961] (E-M)
  • Piano:
    • Albrecht, Mark. Timeless Hymns of Faith. Augsburg 11-10863 [1998] (M)
    • Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (M)
    • Page, Anna Laura. Blest Be the Tie. Morningstar MSM-15-838 [2008] (E-M)
  • Handbells:
    • Dobrinski, Cynthia. O God, Our Help in Ages Past. Agape 2117 [1999] (3-5 octaves, level 3)
  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
    • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ. bk. 1 Ludwig O-05 [1975]
    • Goode, Jack C. Thirty-Four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Caraway, Jeff. Let It Rip! At the Piano. vol. 2 Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]
    • Hopson, Hal H. The Creative Use of the Piano in Worship. Hope 8392 [2008]

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations

  • CSW: Contemporary Songs for Worship (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Augsburg Fortress Publishing)
  • GSW: Global Songs for Worship (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • HW: Hymns for Worship (Calvin Institute of Christian worship; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • 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)
  • SNT: Singing the New Testament (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • SWM: Sing With Me (Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • TWC: The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing)
  • TH: Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
  • UMH: The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
  • WOV: With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
  • W&R: Worship and Rejoice (Hope Publishing)


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