The twin peaks of the liturgy are Word (Scripture readings and sermon) and Sacrament (Lord’s Supper). There is preparation prior to the Word, which I have discussed in previous posts. And there is a conclusion after the Lord’s Supper. Between each of these sections there is a transition element, formally called Salutation, based on 2 Timothy 4:22. It also became the formalized greeting of Christians in the early church (and throughout church history). The pastor says, “The Lord be with you” followed by the congregational response “and also with you.” So, the liturgy follows the pattern:
As our attention now turns to the first great section (Word), we are reminded of the affirmation in this transition, “The Lord be with you.” It is in a sense a farewell to what has happened (Invocation, Confession/Absolution, Hymn of Praise). But even more, it draws us along to the key element, God speaking directly to us in His Word. Likewise the transition between Word and Sacrament signals the changed emphasis, leaving one part (Word) and an embrace of the next part (Sacrament). After the Sacrament, the same moving forward occurs. It might be expected that it should be the final element in the service, but the service concludes with the greatest transition, the benediction. The original use of the Benediction of Numbers 6:24-26 comes not at the end of the Israelites’ journey in the wilderness, but at the beginning. I will write more when we get to this part of the service. For now, this first transition includes and moves forward with the Collect, a prayer which sets the theme for the day. The Collect is a short prayer but includes five elements: the address to God, the basis for this prayer, the actual petition (which contains the theme), the desired result/benefit (often with the words “so that…”), and a conclusion based on the trinity. To illustrate, we note that each Sunday of the liturgical church year has its own prayer and focus. For instance, this coming Sunday is April 10, 2011; liturgically it is the Fifth Sunday in Lent.
Almighty and eternal God (address to God)
because it was your will that your Son should bear the pains of the cross for us and thus remove from us the power of the adversary (basis of the prayer)
help us to remember and give thanks for our Lord’s passion (actual petition)
that we may receive remission of sins and redemption from everlasting death (desired result/benefit)
through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen (trinitarian conclusion)
With this transition we now know what to expect throughout the Word section of the service.