What We Do When We Do Church – The Preface & Proper Preface

2 Timothy 4:22

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

Colossians 3:1

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Psalm 136: 1

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

For the next set of devotions, we’ll be exploring the Service of the Sacrament (as it is called in the Lutheran Service Book).

The “Sacrament” is the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper Christ comes to us in His body and blood which is “hidden” under the bread and the wine.

The previous devotions in this series are:

Part 1 – Hymnody
Part 2 – Invocation
Part 3 – Baptism
Part 4 – Confession of Sins
Part 5 – Absolution
Part 6 – Introit / Psalmody
Part 7 – Kyrie
Part 8 – Hymn of Praise
Part 9 – Scripture Readings
Part 10 – Sermon
Part 11 – Confession of Faith
Part 12 – Offering
Part 13 – Offertory
Part 14 – Prayer
Part 15 – “Our Father”
Part 16 – “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
Part 17 – “Thy Kingdom Come”
Part 18 – “Daily Bread”
Part 19 – “Keep Us From Evil”
Part 20 – “Amen and Amen!”

The sermon is completed. The offerings have been gathered. The Lord’s Table has been set. Now is the time to celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Called by several different names – Eucharist, Holy Communion, the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the Breaking of Bread, the Lord’s Table – the Lord’s Supper is a precious gift given by Jesus Christ to His Church.

To prepare ourselves to receive the Sacrament, we begin by saying or singing an exchange of Scripture Words with pastor presiding at the worship service.

First, the Pastor and people exchange a “salute.”

“The Lord be with you.”

“And also with you.”

Image result for we salute the rank not the manLike a military salute that focuses the person giving the salute on the rank of the person being saluted (“We salute the rank, not the man” – Major Richard Winters to Captain Sobel, Band of Brothers), the “salutation” focuses us on the Lord who is coming to us in the Sacrament.

Next is an exchange that is based on Colossians 3:1

“Lift up your hearts”

“We lift them to the Lord.”

Notice that we are all saying it together. We are about to come to communion – not at individuals but as a family.

The Third Century AD Christian theologian Origen is thought to have said that a Christian must, “lift up his soul before lifting up his hands; lift up his mind before lifting up his eyes, and, before standing to pray, lift up his spirit from things of earth and direct it to the Lord of all.”

The final part of the Preface is a call to give thanks, based on Psalm 136:

“Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.”

It is right (sometimes “meet and right”) to give Him thanks and praise.”

Then the Proper Preface is prayed by the presiding minister. It is “proper” because it changes to match the season or special day in the Church Year.

The ending of the Proper Preface is always the same:

“…therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying [or singing]…”

Now we have moved into full communion. Not only are we together in the sanctuary/church building, but we are in communion with the angels, the archangels, and all those Christians who have come before us and have died and gone to heaven.

Just recently, the sister-in-law of a dear friend died. She was a baptized believer in Jesus Christ and there’s no doubt in our minds that she is now in heaven.

So I comforted the family with this thought: The next time they come to the communion rail to receive the sacrament, Margaret (the sister-in-law) is right there with them!

We are now in the company of all of heaven when we receive the sacrament. This is truly “a little heaven here on earth.”

What happens next is the singing of the words the prophet Isaiah and the apostle John heard sung in their vision of heaven – the Sanctus.

That’s what we’ll explore next time.

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