The early Church, following Jesus, took three primary material elements of life — water, bread, and wine — to become basic symbols of offering life to God as Jesus had offered his life. Being washed with the water of Baptism, Christians received new life in Christ and presented their bodies to be living sacrifices to God. Eating bread and drinking wine they received the sustaining presence of Christ, remembered God’s covenant promise, and pledged their obedience anew.
The Reformed tradition understands Baptism and the Lord’s Supper to be Sacraments, instituted by God and commended by Christ. Sacraments are signs of the real presence and power of Christ in the Church, symbols of God’s action. Through the Sacraments, God seals believers in redemption, renews their identity as the people of God, and marks them for service. (Directory for Worship, W-1.3033)
In Baptism, we participate in Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Baptism, we die to what separates us from God and are raised to newness of life in Christ. Baptism points us back to the grace of God expressed in Jesus Christ, who died for us and who was raised for us. Baptism points us forward to that same Christ who will fulfill God’s purpose in God’s promised future.
The body of Christ is one, and Baptism is the bond of unity in Christ. As they are united with Christ through faith, Baptism unites the people of God with each other and with the church of every time and place. Barriers of race, gender, status, and age are to be transcended. Barriers of nationality, history, and practice are to be overcome.
Baptism is received only once. There are many times in worship, however, when believers acknowledge the grace of God continually at work. As they participate in the celebration of another’s Baptism, as they experience the sustaining nurture of the Lord’s Supper, and as they reaffirm the commitments made at Baptism, they confess their ongoing need of God’s grace and pledge anew their obedience to God’s covenant in Christ. (Directory for Worship, W-2.3009)
As there is one body, there is one Baptism. (Eph. 4:4-6) The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recognizes all Baptisms with water in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit administered by other Christian churches. (Directory for Worship, W-2.3001 – 2.3010)
THE LORDS SUPPER
(W-2.4001 – 2.4007)
The Lord’s Supper is the sign and seal of eating and drinking in communion with the crucified and risen Lord. During his earthly ministry Jesus shared meals with his followers as a sign of community and acceptance and as an occasion for his own ministry. He celebrated Israel’s feasts of covenant commemoration.
Around the Table of the Lord, God’s people are in communion with Christ and with all who belong to Christ. Reconciliation with Christ compels reconciliation with one another. All the baptized faithful are to be welcomed to the Table, and none shall be excluded because of race, sex, age, economic status, social class, handicapping condition, difference of culture or language, or any barrier created by human injustice. Coming to the Lord’s Table the faithful are actively to seek reconciliation in every instance of conflict or division between them and their neighbors.
THE FUNERAL: A SERVICE OF WITNESS TO THE RESURRECTION
When death occurs, the pastor and other ofﬁcers of the congregation should be informed as soon as possible, in order that they might provide appropriate consolation and support to the family and friends, and assist them in making arrangements for the funeral.
A Service for General Use
The following marriage rite is brief and may be used in a variety of settings, although a Christian marriage service should be held in the place where the community of faith gathers for worship.
As a service of Christian worship, the marriage service is under the direction of the minister and the supervision of the session.
WORSHIP IS AT THE VERY heart of the church’s life. All that the church is and does is rooted in its worship. The community of faith, gathered in response to God’s call, is formed in its worship. Worship is the principal inﬂuence that shapes our faith, and is the most visible way we express the faith. In worship, through Word and Sacrament, the church is sustained by the presence of Christ. Joined in worship to the One who is the source of its life, the church is empowered to serve God in the world. Because of the centrality of worship in the church’s life, the continuing reform of worship is of primary importance in maintaining the integrity of the people of God. In an age dominated by individualism and secularism, it is particularly important to embrace forms of worship that are ﬁrmly rooted in the faith and foster a strong communal sense of being united with God, with the community of faith in every time and place, and with a broken world in need of God’s healing touch. In other words, the concern for the reform of worship is, above everything else, a concern for the renewal of the church. Worship was prepared with the intention of seeking a liturgical expression that is faithful to the tradition of the church catholic, truly reformed, rooted in scripture, and related to life. The purpose of this preface is to know the Reformed worship in Presbyterian congregations.