When you arrive at St. Matthew, expect to be greeted and to shake a lot of hands. Folks will probably ask your name and inquire about where you’re from. Don’t worry – we really aren’t trying to interrogate you. Martinsburg is a small town, with all of the wonderful hospitality and informality that a small town brings. We encourage you to seek us out too. Ask us about our congregation, our community and our history with the church. The more you know about us, the more comfortable we think you will be in joining with us in worship.
As you enter our worship space, you will be given a bulletin with our Order of Service. St. Matthew Lutheran Church practices a “liturgical” form of worship, consistent with the ancient tradition of the Western Church. “Liturgy” is a fancy word to indicate that worship is participatory – an active rather than passive undertaking. The liturgy is filled with Holy Scripture and prayers, both ancient and modern. The order of service includes four broad categories:
In this portion of the service, we are gathered and welcomed into worship through word, song and prayer. This portion of the service also typically includes an opportunity, as a congregation, to corporately confess to God our sinfulness and to hear God’s gracious word and promise of forgiveness.
In this portion of worship, we usually hear four separate readings from the Holy Bible. Normally this includes a reading from the Old Testament, all or a portion of a Psalm, a reading from the New Testament (other than the four Gospels) and a Gospel reading from either Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Our readings cycle on a three-year basis (referred to as a “Lectionary”) so that we are exposed to a very broad part of God’s Word as recorded in Sacred Scripture. This portion of the service also includes the Pastor’s sermon, in which the Good News of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to the congregation. In our tradition, the sermon is usually about 15 minutes long.
Here at St. Matthew, we partake of the Lord’s Supper (also referred to as “Communion” or the Eucharist”) on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month, plus special days (“Festivals”) on the Church Calendar, like Christmas and Easter. As Lutherans, we believe that the bread and wine of Communion are the real body and blood of Jesus Christ, as promised in John 6. How do this happen? We do not pretend to know or understand, but in faith we do believe. If you have been baptized and believe in the real presence of Christ in the elements of the Lord’s Supper, we invite you to commune regardless of whether or not you are an “official” member of St. Matthew or whether you consider yourself a Lutheran. If you do not want to commune, come forward to the communion rail with a bulletin in hand, as a signal to the Pastor that you would like to receive a blessing rather than commune.
This brief portion of the service includes a final blessing upon the congregation and is the time when we can recall that we have been blessed by God during worship and are now sent out into the world by God to bless and serve others.
During worship there will be times when the congregation stands and other times when everyone sits. The purpose of standing is to indicate our reverence toward God and our particular focus on the liturgy. For example, we stand during the reading of the Gospel and the praying of the Lord’s Prayer. This can be confusing to folks who are new to liturgical worship. But don’t worry - the bulletin will indicate when you are to stand, and you can simply watch everyone else and stand when they stand. If you don’t get it exactly right. It isn’t a test and no one is going to laugh at you. (But if you catch Pastor Scott not standing or sitting at the right time, you have his permission to make fun of him as you shake hands following the service!)