Pastor’s Message

2018 Harp Concert

We remember in prayer those affected by cancer. We also remember in prayer those affected by HIV/AIDS. We pray for travel mercies for all those on land, air, and sea.

A message from Linda Gaden:  

When I first arrived at First Presbyterian Church of Stillwater I offered to answer questions you might have regarding “things about church” or “things about being Presbyterian”. Few questions have come my way but in response to someone’s question… “Why do we do all those different things during our church service?”, I found (on the PCUSA website), the following information which has been shared with you all in the form of weekly bulletin inserts over the past two months. Consider this a little Christian education, if you will. Keep your questions coming so there can be more such inserts in the future.

God bless you,

Pastor Linda


Based on information written by Teresa Lockhart Stricklen, Associate for Worship, PCUSA

The order of worship that centuries of Christians have adapted from the pattern of Jewish worship is an ancient order that is intended to move us more deeply into intimate communion with God in Christ. There is a reason why we do what we do when we do it. Understanding this structure may help you move more fully aware into the divine presence as you worship.

God’s People Gather

WE ENTER: To Greet One Another in Love The church is not an institution but the gathered community of faith. “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name,” Jesus said, “there am I in the midst of them.” The church is a gathering of people who need God and are interested in participating in the journey of faith in Jesus Christ, the Way. When we gather together in worship, we are watching the body of Christ assemble like Ezekiel’s dry bones coming together in the resurrection power of God’s Holy Spirit. We should greet one another in love like family, for even if we haven’t met, in Christ we are brothers and sisters, children of God. As we come together, there may be announcements, instructions regarding the service, family news.

To Be Still and Know that God is God / Prelude              

Musical prelude provides a way of entering into a more meditative, receptive mood to examine our hearts as we prepare to meet our Maker. The prelude is like a curtained door into another place where we can meet God. Times of silence in worship are for your individual prayer and meditation. The prelude is a time to get quiet in your soul to prepare yourself to meet God in worship. Open yourself to God and ask God to speak during worship as you prepare to give God glory.

Hymn(s) of Praise We enter into God's presence delighting in the glory of the Lord and reveling in the humbling notion that the Almighty actually wants to be in relationship with us. So we sing praise with all we've got (even if that's a little out of tune), just enjoying God for who God is. As we open up the pathways of breath to sing praise, we make space for the Spirit breath to fill us.  

Call to Confession

God loves us enough to call us to confess whatever gets in the way of having a good relationship with the Holy One of Perfect Love. When someone wrongs us, we have the responsibility of calling it to their attention so that the relationship that has been harmed can be restored and healed. If we fail to say anything and just ignore them instead, we are not exhibiting love. A call to confession is a call to further love, which God does with a reassurance of divine good intentions toward us so that we're not afraid to confess our shortcomings in the light of God's love.

CONFESSION: Sin is not just what we’ve done wrong, though committing sins (wrongdoing) is the result of sin. Rather, sin is a condition in which we fall short of God’s hopes for us and in which we are separated from God. It is a state in which it is impossible to make amends on our own; The only thing we can do is turn to Christ and ask that he forgive and conquer sin for us in our current situation. Sin is both individual and social in nature. Sin is complex and inescapable. So Presbyterians are big on having confessions of sin in almost every worship service since the greatest sin may be the unwillingness to admit that we are sinful. Because sin is corporate in nature, as well as individual, we say a corporate prayer together for the sin we live in and sins we commit as groups; we also have time for silent prayer to confess our individual sin and sins and to offer up our shortcomings before God so that we might be drawn closer to God, live more in accord with the Lord’s good desires for humanity, and be transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON: As we confess our shortcomings and God offers us the assurance that in Jesus Christ—who lived, died, and was raised to show us the power of God’s love that conquers the power of sin—we are forgiven and loved regardless of what we have done in the past. We have the assurance that we are continually being made new into the Image of Christ. The slate is wiped clean and we can live in hope toward the future without being enslaved to our past failures. In Christ, we have the power to work with God’s Spirit who is continually making all things in accord with the divine purpose.

RESPONSE: Because the assurance of pardon in Christ is such good news, we’ve got to respond to the message of God’s love with joy and thanksgiving. Usually we do this in song that comes bursting forth with full-throttle praise or reflective wonder.  

Passing of the Peace: This is an ancient greeting of brothers and sisters in Christ. We greet one another with the peace of Christ as common forgiven sinners. As we are forgiven, so we forgive. This is also a good time to reconcile with those family members who drove us crazy trying to get to church on time, church members with whom we have tensions, or people we're not so happy to see. What is acknowledged as most important between us at this time in the service is the peace of Christ that passes all understanding (and misunderstanding!).   The peace may also come at other times in the service and function in different ways. A passing of the peace before the offering and communion, for example, is an opportunity to reconcile with our brother or sister before we present our gift at the offering. Regardless of where it comes in the service and how it functions, the passing of the peace stresses what the community has in common—the grace of God in Christ that holds us all in communion with one another regardless of how we feel about it.

God’s Word to Us

Prayer for Illumination:  This is a prayer for the Spirit to open our lives to really hear God’s Word among human words. Without the Spirit to help us discern God’s voice, the words that we hear are just a bunch of dead letters that cannot adequately convey the living, transformative nature of the Word of God.

Scripture: Since before the time of Christ, the Jewish tradition, which Jesus participated in, has had a list (a lectionary) of appropriate readings (lections) for daily prayer services. The Christian church continued this tradition.

The New Revised Common Lectionary is a three-year list of an Old Testament, Psalm, Gospel, and Epistle reading for each Sunday and special holy days. When the three years are up, we start over again with Year A. What the lectionary does is help us experience the broad sweep of God’s salvific work over the course of the church year. The lections are designed to run continuously through a book of the Bible to help form our faith through one particular Biblical book.  

Sermon: Though spoken through a person, we are to hear the sermon as God speaking to us. Thus, some sermons begin with the Triune ascription: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Preaching is the announcement of God’s good news in Christ who invites us to participate in the ongoing activity of God at work in the world to bring about redemption, not only for us, but for all of creation. The sermon is usually based upon one or more scripture readings and unfolds the Bible in such a way that we see how God is continuing to speak to us today in ways that are similar to those experienced by our ancestors of the faith. Basically, the sermon is God’s dynamic, eternal Word spoken to us in such a way that we might hear what God has to say to us and be encouraged to follow the Lord in faith.

Responding to God’s Word in Joyful Service

Affirmation of Faith: The affirmation of faith is when we declare what it is we believe. We have faith as a result of God’s Word. As Paul writes, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God.” This faith is not just our individual belief, but that of the community that nurtures faith. Thus, the affirmation may be a creed of the ancient church or a modern statement of faith that is a consensus of what the church believes. We stand as a way of saying, “This is where I stand,” and as a way of standing in continuity with the people of God of ages past, even if it means we're martyred like some of them were.  

 Hymn: This is usually a hymn of reflection in which we pledge ourselves to the Lord. It may serve as an affirmation of faith or precede it.

*Prayer of Intercession: Belief isn’t just affirmation; it’s also action. Saying “I believe” means we care enough to do something as a result of our belief. Thus, the first thing we do is pray—for our world, the church, other people. The prayer is our prayer as a church. One person may pray for us, but we are all praying together as one in our hearts, continuing Christ’s ministry of prayer for the world.

The Lord’s Prayer:  This was part of the early, early church’s communion liturgy. Even as we praise God, we pray for others, for only when we’re in communion with others can we be in communion with God. The Lord’s prayer is also one of the tradition’s closest links to Jesus Christ whose prayer helps us be in communion with God through its focus on what’s important: praising God, straining forward in anticipation of God’s will and new order that ultimately rules the earth, asking for the bread of heaven to sustain us, asking for forgiveness, recognizing the need to forgive others, praying for deliverance from the things that destroy true life, and acknowledging that God is God forever. It’s a great prayer to really pray, not just recite, at any time. Sometimes the Lord’s Prayer follows the prayer of dedication for offering.

Offering: This is the time when we give ourselves, all that we are, and all that we have, to God’s service. As a symbol of power and of what is value to us, we make an offering of money to help others and promote the gospel. During the time of musical reflection (known as the offertory), we are also encouraged to think about ways we can give of ourselves in what we do every day to help out with God’s project of healing the world.  

Doxology/Song of Praise: As we offer our gifts for God’s service, we praise God for letting us have use of all the resources the Lord has provided for us, and we praise God for the opportunity to serve on God’s behalf. The Doxology is an ancient chorus of praise with a vision of joining all the created beings of all times and places who forever sing praise to God. (Imagine joining the grand chorus of praise ringing through all of creation.)  

Prayer of Dedication: The offering prayer interprets the action of giving by naming the gifts as larger commitment to serve God in the world. The prayer acknowledges that God is giver of all good things and that money itself cannot accomplish good in the world without God’s blessing. The prayer can also express specific petitions for the ministry that the offering will support. This prayer may be given by the pastor, deacon or other member of the congregation.

*Sacrament of Baptism, Sacrament of Holy Communion

God’s People Go into the World

Hymn: We go forth to serve God in all of life, confident in our hope in God, singing as we go, come what may.

Charge: These are the final words with which we are charged (or charge one another) to be faithful ministers of Christ in the world we’re going back into. The word “charge” has several appropriate meanings and images that apply to this part of worship: (1) to fill or furnish a thing with the quantity, as of fuel, that it is fitted to receive; (2) to supply with electrical energy; (3) to fill an atmosphere with other matter in a state of diffusion or solution; (4) to lay a command or injunction upon; (5) to instruct authoritatively, like a judge does a jury; (6) to ascribe responsibility for; (7) to list or record as a debt; (8) to impose or ask for a price.

Benediction: The minister raises hands over the congregation to simulate laying hands on each person’s head. Biblically, laying hands on people was done in prayer for healing and at ordination as a way of symbolizing God’s giving of power to accomplish our ministry. We have hands laid on us in baptism, ordaining us all as prophets and priests in Christ, the King’s, behalf. The words invoke God’s blessing upon each of us.

Postlude: We exit through the curtain of music in which we came. Like God’s omnipresent Spirit, the music that draws us into God’s presence and undergirds the worship experience also goes with us as a morale booster and a spring of joy as we depart to blend the work of our individual lives with that of the chorus of praise continually offered up to the ruler of all creation.

We go forth to love and to serve our God!