This week has been one of the most difficult in the history of Grace Fellowship Church. On Monday we learned that Beti Mubili, a young lady who had been long-time member of the church, had been killed in a recreational skydiving accident. We met spontaneously on Monday evening to just be together in our grief and our hope; we gathered yesterday for a memorial service; and, of course, we gathered today for our weekly worship service. But because of the circumstances we changed our service a little, breaking away from our series in Exodus to turn our attention to be reality, the beauty, and the hope of the resurrection. Here is how we worshipped in our grief.
(The cast of characters this week included myself as service leader, Paul as preacher, and Murray who led the pastoral prayer. Josh played guitar and led singing backed up by keyboard, guitar, bass, accordion (yes, accordion), and three female vocalists.)
Welcome & Call to Worship (Tim)
“Welcome to Grace Fellowship Church. We have come together this morning to worship the name of our Savior Jesus Christ.”
“When Jesus was crucified and buried, it was a time of terrible grief for his followers. After they buried the body, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to visit his tomb, but something unexpected happened. Listen to what it says in Luke 24:”
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!” (Luke 24:1-6a)
“Friends, we worship a resurrected King, a living Savior. So please take your songs sheets and let’s sing to our risen Lord.”
“We know you are eager to greet one another, so please take a few ministers to do that now.”
Opposite Text Reading (Tim)
“Listen to the Word of God.”
Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
“This reading was taken from Job chapter 19.”
Service Explanation (Tim)
I explained to the church why this service deviated from our series in Exodus and why it was structured a little bit differently from our typical services. I also explained to visitors why there may have been a few more tears than usual and why our focus for the service was on the reality and importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This was a brief prayer to ask God to bless and comfort us through our worship. I prayed something like this: “Father, you call us to worship, you invite us to worship, you command us to worship. So we worship you. We live to worship you. We worship you in our joy and in our grief. Today we are sad but hopeful, grieving but rejoicing, sorrowful but not without hope. We feel our need of you very deeply and long to know your presence and power. We long to know your wisdom and comfort. We pray that our worship today would benefit us and glorify your name.”
Pastoral Prayer (Murray)
Usually the elder who reads Scripture also leads the pastoral prayer, but on this Sunday we felt there was benefit in having more rather than fewer elders serve the congregation. Therefore Murray led the pastoral prayer and prayed specifically about the needs of the congregation while I then led the Scripture reading.
Scripture Reading (Tim)
“Please take your Bible and turn to 1 Corinthians 15. That will be on page 961 if you are using one of our church Bibles. If you do not have a Bible, please just raise your hand and one of our ushers will be glad to bring one to you. I don’t know if you have ever thought about this before, but our worship services are a conversation. We speak to God through prayer and praise; he speaks to us through the Word as it is read and preached. We are going to hear now from God himself as he speaks through the living Word.”
“This is what Holy Scripture says…”
[I read 1 Corinthians 15]
“This is the word of the Lord.” Everyone responded: “Thanks be to God.”
Paul preached on 1 Corinthians 15 and the hope of the resurrection. He challenged apathetic and hypocritical believers and called upon unbelievers to repent and believe.
Commission and Benediction
“What we learned from our text today and what was reinforced in our songs is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. It changes the way we live and changes the way we die. As we leave here today it’s my hope and prayer that each one of us has considered what it means that Jesus has triumphed over death. This is a historical fact we must believe; this is a spiritual reality that will change everything. Considering what to do with the life and death of Jesus Christ is a matter of life and death for each of us.”
“There will be a sermon Q&A immediately after the service in the overflow room. Please go there if you have questions about the sermon, about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or about how Christ’s resurrection is meant to change your life. We would also love to have the opportunity to pray with you or for you.”
“A couple of other things to know about the week ahead: The men will be meeting on Wednesday evening for a men’s fellowship; also, later this week the members of the church will receive a package for our upcoming members’ meeting on September 24—please be sure to read that thoroughly.”
“Now receive this blessing of the Lord from His Word: ‘Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word’. Amen.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).