Sunday, December 19, 2010


The portion of Christian liturgy labeled “Gathering” has numerous ritual possibilities, as I rolled out in my last post. The part called “Sending” is considerably skimpier.

As often as not, the Sending is treated abruptly as the Ending. The Word is read and proclaimed, the Eucharist is celebrated and shared, we sing a hymn, a blessing is pronounced. The End. We’d be better off, however, thinking of the Sending in terms of “To Be Continued….”

The Book of Common Worship (1993) does provide some Sending suggestions, the first being that everyone sing a hymn. But not just any hymn. It should be a hymn that picks us up, riles our souls, and inspires us to carry our service of worship into the next week by worshipping God with our service.

There are any number of hymns that can lift a congregation up and send them out into the world as Christ’s disciples. “Lift High the Cross” (371 in The Presbyterian Hymnal) is one of my favorites. This is a great recessional hymn as choir and clergy lead the parade out into the world.

The other suggestion in the BCW is the Charge to the congregation, composed from a collection of Scripture texts (See 1 Cor. 16:13; 2 Tim. 2:1; Eph. 6:10;
1 Thess. 5:13-22; and 1 Peter 2:17.):
Go out into the world in peace;
have courage;
hold on to what is good;
return no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted;
support the weak, and help the suffering;
honor all people;
love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I have found this charge, over the years, to have powerful impact. It’s repetition has cumulative effect, and staying power. I remember well, for example, the man who grasped my hand after the service one Sunday, quietly saying that he needed to speak with me for a moment, in private. When we stepped into my study, this is the story he told. “A while ago,” he said, “one of my colleagues at work undercut me, really knifed me in the back on a project. Well, last week I had a chance to get even, and I was poised to let him have it….” He paused, fought back a tear, and continued, “…when I heard in my head, those words I’ve heard so many times on Sunday: ‘return no one evil for evil.’ And I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it.” He went on to express his astonishment and appreciation for the power of those words.

The Sending is the other half of the Gathering. As we are gathered to be God’s people at worship, so we are scattered to be God’s people in the world. Both gathered and scattered, however, God’s people are praising God, serving God by serving God’s children. One is no more or less worship than the other.

Roman Catholics dip their hands in holy water and cross themselves as they enter the church, as a reminder that by baptism they first came into the church. They do the same leaving, as a reminder that they are to go into the world to live out their baptism. Whether or not we like that ritual, remembering our baptism coming and going is worth serious consideration.

Why not put a strong recollection of our baptisms as part of the sending. Here’s a suggestion. Add something like this unison prayer, based on a model offered in the Service of Reaffirmation of Baptism—Growth in Faith (BCW p. 483), just before the Charge and Blessing:

Faithful God,
in baptism you claimed us;
and by your Spirit you are working in our lives,
empowering us to live a life worthy of our calling.
We thank you for leading each of us
to this time and place
of reaffirming the covenant you made with us in our baptisms.
Establish us in your truth,
and guide us by your Spirit,
that, together with all your people,
we may grow in faith, hope, and love,
and be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.

This would strengthen the sense of “Sending”, making us worshippers more aware that our being the people of God is not finished, but is really “to be continued….”

Do you hear a Charge to the congregation as you are sent out to follow Christ each Sunday? Does your church’s liturgy have any ritual to strengthen the Sending?

1 comment:

  1. The liturgy provided by the Graymoor Institute for theWeek of Christian Unity has a strong "sending" portion that we will use.


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