By Pastor Brian Phillips
What is the most important part of a worship service? Is there one aspect of the liturgy that stands out from the rest?
Not too many years ago, I believe I would have said, "The sermon." As a pastor, that answer would surprise almost no one. After all, I spend more time preparing that aspect of the liturgy than any other part. Writing a sermon takes far more time than delivering it - even on my most "long-winded" Sunday mornings. And delivering a sermon takes far more time than any other aspect of the liturgy - even on my most "short-winded" Sunday mornings.
But, that is not my answer today, and has not been for quite a while. So, what is the "high point" of the liturgy? That is hard to say because the liturgy is a conversation between God and His people. He speaks, and we respond. So, claiming one part of the liturgy misses that the liturgy is a conversation, and thus it cannot be so neatly divided. Rather, it comes as a whole, with each movement connected to the previous and the next.
Thus, the sermon is not the "high point" of the liturgy, but it is one of the many tools God has given to equip and teach His people. It is also a time of intense work - study, preparation, and delivery by the pastor; focus and attentiveness by the congregation.
This can be particularly challenging for little ones, who are a great number in our congregation! It is also one of the few aspects of the liturgy that changes each week. Children so quickly memorize responses, prayers, confessions, and creeds, but the sermon cannot be memorized. It is new each week.
So, to help these little ears in their great task, I venture to offer a word or phrase to listen for in each week's sermon. These will be sent out to the congregation in the Midweek Update and posted in our church Facebook page. Make sure to look for them, then pass them along to your children, asking them what they learned about that word or phrase in the sermon.