Christians gather on the Lord’s Day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The service is divided into two major parts. The Liturgy of the Word derives from the Jewish synagogue service and is made up of scripture readings, psalms, and prayers. In Luke we have an account of Jesus in the synagogue, reading from the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:14-21). The Liturgy of the Meal is the sharing of bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Holy Communion has its roots in Jesus’ Passover meal with his disciples on the night before his death (Matthew 26:26-29). Our experience of worship is similar to the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The risen Jesus breaks open the word for us, and then is made known in the breaking of bread (Luke 24:13-25). With Easter faith, we confess that Christ appears to us as the scriptures are read and the eucharist is celebrated. (See also Luke 24:27, 30-31a.)
The book of Psalms is central to Christian worship. Most or all of the psalms are usually printed in hymnals. Not only are psalms used as a response following the first reading from scripture, they often form the basis for hymns and other responses.
Each Sunday three scripture readings are included in worship. These are appointed in a lectionary, which is a cycle of Bible readings spread over a three-year period and shared by the majority of the world’s Christians.
The individual components of the liturgy developed over the centuries, but most of the texts have some kind of origin in the scriptures. The core phrases and images of the liturgy derive from the Bible and provide an important connection to the scriptures. Listed below are direct or indirect biblical references used in the liturgy of Holy Communion.
GATHERING: Psalm 149:1; Joel 2:15-17; Isaiah 48:14; Matthew 18:20; Acts 2:1-13
LITURGY OF THE WORD: Matthew 4:4; John 1:1-5; Colossians 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:1-5
LITURGY OF THE MEAL: John 6:48-50; Acts 2:42
SENDING: Matthew 28:19; John 20:21
Other References and Resources
For references on the foundations for the Christian assembly from the writings of the early Church and the Lutheran confessions, consider The First Apology of Justin Martyr, Chapter LXVII: Weekly Worship of the Christians (c. 150 A.D.), and the Augsburg Confession, article VII (1530).
Other frequently asked questions that discuss the foundations of Christian worship and the shape of the liturgy are: Why worship on Sunday? and What is the shape of the liturgy?
Links to scripture passages are to oremus (oremus.org); the passages are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. The link to The First Apology of Justin Martyr is to the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (ccel.org).