Bethel United Methodist Church
Thursday, June 20, 2013
God's House in the Heart of Bethel
Worship at Bethel United Methodist Church
The central feature of our life as a congregation is our congregational worship of God. Our primary services of worship are on Sundays, the "Lord's Day", which is a weekly commemoration of Easter, the day of Christ's resurrection. Three important liturgical traditions shape our worship: the lectionary, the calendar of the Christian year, and the pattern of Word and Table. The Lectionary is a three year cycle of Scripture readings. Four readings are designated for each Sunday. The first is usually from the Hebrew Scriptures, the second from the Psalms, the third is from letters in the New Testament, and the fourth from the Gospel. Matthew is the primary Gospel in year A, Mark in year B, and Luke in year C. The purpose of the lectionary is to help us faithfully listen to the full story of the Word of God over the course of three years and remind us of God's mighty acts for our salvation.
The Christian Year is focused on the two great festivals of our faith, Christmas and Easter. It begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which is always the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is a season of hope and expectation, recalling the promise of a Savior "born for us in Bethlehem". The twelve days of Christmas celebrate Jesus' birth, and are followed by the season of Epiphany, a word meaning "manifestation". The feast of Epiphany, January 6, commemorates the visit of the magi to Bethlehem.
Preparation for the second great festival, Easter, occurs during the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday begins the season, and Lent climaxes with Holy Week, stretching from Palm Sunday to Easter. Especially significant are the services of the Tritium, "Three days", referring to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Eve. Lent is the season for self-examination and penitence. The Easter season lasts for fifty days, and is followed by the festival of Pentecost, "the birthday of the church". The season after Pentecost is sometimes called "ordinary time" and is focused on our life as Christians in the world.
Other festivals in the course of the year include: The Baptism of the Lord (the Sunday after Epiphany), the Transfiguration (the last Sunday before Lent), All Saints' Sunday (the first Sunday in November), and the Reign of Christ (the last Sunday before Advent). The colors of the lectern, pulpit, and altar hangings (Paraments) change with the seasons, as follows: Advent - blue, Christmas, Easter, and other festivals - white; Lent -purple; Pentecost - red; Sundays in ordinary time – green. The pattern of Word and Table derives from the experience of the people of God in Biblical times. The Service of the Word, including prayers, the reading of Scripture, and the interpretation of Scripture, is based on the service of the synagogue. The Service of the Table is based on the command of Jesus and the experience of the first Christians, who gathered weekly to remember Jesus and experience his continuing presence with them in the sharing of bread and wine. The experience of corporate worship is an opportunity for fellowship and community as we are nurtured by God's Word, fed by the sacraments, joined in prayer for all God's people, and strengthened for service in God's world.