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A Liturgy from the Book of Hebrews 3

In my experimental liturgy drawn from the language of the book of Hebrews, the Service of the Word begins with the following prayer for Illumination:

Prayer for Illumination

Your word, O God, is living and active,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing until it divides soul from spirit,
joints from marrow.
May your word judge the thoughts
and intentions of our hearts. (Heb 4:12)
Amen.

Scripture Lessons

(The first and second lessons conclude with: )

We have tasted the goodness of the word of the Lord. (Heb 6:5)
Thanks be to God!

(The Gospel lesson concludes with: )

For indeed the good news has come to us. (Heb 4:2)
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!

Sermon

After the readings and the sermon, we move to the Affirmation of Faith and finally the Prayers of the Faithful:

Affirmation of Faith

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors
in many and various ways by the prophets,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,
whom he appointed heir of all things,
through whom he also created the worlds.
He is the reflection of God’s glory
and the exact imprint of God’s very being,
and he sustains all things by his powerful word.
When he had made purification for sins,
he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
having become as much superior to angels
as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Heb 1:1-4)

Prayers of the Faithful

In the days of his flesh,
Jesus offered up prayers and supplications,
with loud cries and tears,
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Heb 5:7)

Brothers and sisters, let us pray to the God of peace (see Heb 13:20).

For the concerns of our nation and of the world. May we not grow weary or lose heart as we look forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Heb 11:10; 12:3).
God of peace:
Hear our prayer.

For this fellowship and for the church in every place, that mutual love may continue. (see Heb 13:1)
God of peace:
Hear our prayer.

That we not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.  (Heb 13:2)
God of peace:
Hear our prayer.

For those in prison and those who are being tortured. May we remember them as though we ourselves were tortured or imprisoned. (Heb 13:3)
God of peace:
Hear our prayer.

That marriage be held in honor by all, and the marriage bed undefiled. (Heb 13:4).
God of peace:
Hear our prayer.

That our lives be free from the love of money, and that we may be content with what we have. (Heb 13:5).
God of peace:
Hear our prayer.

That our leaders [especially N., N.] may keep watch over our souls, remembering that they will give an account. May they do this with joy and not with sighing. (Heb 13:17).
God of peace:
Hear our prayer.

For those who endure hard struggle with sufferings [and especially for N., N.]. (Heb 10:32).
God of peace:
Hear our prayer.

For the spirits of the righteous ones made perfect. May we consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith, that we may have a part with [N., N., and] the great cloud of witnesses enrolled in heaven. (Heb 12:1, 23; 13:7).
God of peace:
Hear our prayer.

The Peace

Greet all your leaders and all the saints. (Heb 13:24)
Grace be with you. (see Heb 13:25)

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7 Comments

  1. Anne says:

    You nailed it on my vision for the prayers. My vision is to let the original text set the agenda.

    So can we hope to see this in a worship service anytime soon?

    Take care & God bless
    Anne / WF

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  2. Thanks, Anne. I appreciate your comment about the prayers. It’s the one section I’m not entirely satisfied with. I doubt anybody will be using this liturgy any time soon, although perhaps if my pastor still lurks here occasionally you never know when a familiar turn of phrase may show up.

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  3. Anne says:

    Well, y’know, the book of Hebrews is big. It would take awhile to be satisfied with the prayer section. not gonna happen in a first draft.

    I found myself thumbing through Hebrews today thinking, “Isn’t there a proper *confession* anywhere?” Lots of “I repent” stuff, but where’s the “I blew it” part of a proper confession? But the book of Hebrews is far more about Christ than anything else …

    At any rate, I’ve been excited, watching from the sidelines, seeing some of that vision vision of liturgy take shape and take root here. For your friend who mentioned he isn’t “convinced”, I was like “Convinced? Were we arguing? I just think liturgy is still a living art form of how to worship the Scriptures”.

    Take care & God bless
    Anne / WF

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  4. Anne says:

    Hmm, that last was badly phrased, maybe should’ve been “liturgy is still a living art form of how to worship in the words of Scriptures”.

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  5. I found this very interesting. I grew up Lutheran and the liturgy just WAS. It just was in the book, every Lutheran hymnal that I’ve seen, but there was never any scriptural references listed, as you listed them. In contrast, when I’ve visited neighboring non-liturgical churches, I’ve often seen scriptural references listed with hymns and some suggested prayers/readings.

    In the last several years, our church bulletin and the hymnals have shown section headings, like you used, that have helped me understand the parts and purpose of the liturgy. Since I’m in the choir, I’ve also learned from the extra practice we’ve had for some of the parts that are sung. But it seems to me that the purposes and scriptural references for the parts of the liturgy should be more obvious to people who might be new to this form of worship.

    Our pastor has mentioned that sometimes people from a non-liturgical background might have a nose-in-the-air attitude regarding liturgical worship, but when they attend, they may be surprised to learn that the service is very scriptural based. They may actually understand that better than a Lutheran pew sitter who isn’t Biblically literate.

    The repetition of the liturgy each week can become too rote. But it is also like the family who gathers for a glad event who tell the family stories over and over and the family memory is strengthened and the stories are passed down to the young ones. If this is the case, then we need to view liturgy as both WORSHIP of God, and therefore properly worshipful, and also simple enough to convey just why we are worshiping this great God of Grace to any new and young attendees.

    When we have a baptism, as we did yesterday, there are always family members present. It is often obvious that some are unchurched and some are, perhaps, non liturgical in background. I always wonder what they are thinking and getting out of our worship service.

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  6. Thanks, PS. You’ve put your finger on two (perhaps related) problems: (1) members of liturgical churches who don’t understand their worship (and thus fail to be truly transformed by it) because they’ve somehow missed the necessary biblical background, and (2) members of non-liturgical churches who dismiss the idea of liturgical worship because they’ve never taken the time to understand the biblical roots not only of its language but its very rationale. Both groups need pastors and religious educators who will make solid worship education a priority.

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  7. Exactly, and you said it more succinctly. 🙂

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