This is the sixth installment in a series on the sections of our weekly worship service. (See the June – September and November editions of the newsletter for the previous installments.) My intention for this series is to help you better understand not only what we do in our worship service, but also why we do it.
The Sending portion of the liturgy is easily the shortest in terms of time spent, and it might seem to be relatively unimportant. We’ve gathered, heard God’s word, responded in song, prayer, and creed, shared the peace, collected our offering, and experienced Christ present to and for us in Holy Communion – what can be left to do? Doesn’t that cover it all?
Only if there is no connection to what we do in worship and the rest of our lives. But of course there is a connection, and that’s exactly what the Sending portion of the service is all about. Having been reconnected to God through word and sacrament, encouraged and strengthened in faith, fed and forgiven together with our sisters and brothers in Christ, we are now sent out to be Christ’s presence in and for the world, sharing God’s reconciling love with all we encounter in our daily lives.
The first item in the Sending portion of the service each Sunday at Grace is the sending of Communion to those who are not able to be with us – those who are hospitalized, homebound, or in other care facilities. Bread and wine from what was just distributed is put into a communion kit that is taken to them by a lay minister or by me. It’s important to know that this important way of caring for our fellow members is not something that only the pastor can do. Just as we have lay assistants and acolytes who help with the distribution of Communion in our worship space on Sunday mornings, so we have lay assistants who help continue the distribution to those unable to attend. We are, effectively, extending the table so that all can partake.
Next comes the blessing. As we are sent out, we go with the promise that God goes with us, at work in and through us in our daily vocation. We are not saying goodbye to God until next week. God is going out with us to bless, keep, and empower us for faithful living.
The sending hymn that follows often reflects the significance of our sending, making a connection with our worship and our daily life.
Then come the announcements. If you’ve been at Grace for more than a year or two, you’ll remember that the announcements were not always done here, but rather earlier in the service. But if you think about it, they really fit the theme of what happens in the Sending better than in any other part of the service. As we are being sent back out into the world we are given concrete examples of what “go in peace, serve the Lord” can look like. We are given reminders of service projects, congregational functions, and other items relevant to our community of faith. We try to keep these verbal announcements short and to get most things the congregation needs to know into the written announcements in GraceNotes. Like the people of Israel eating the first Passover meal, we do this standing, ready to march!
And then we get sent out the door with the words, “Go in peace!” And so our worship continues throughout the coming week in all that we do.
+ Pastor Chris Repp