How should a worship service begin? Part 2
In the last post, we explained what a call to worship is, and why we begin our worship service this way. This week, we will consider what immediately follows the call to worship in our service: The Invocation and God's Greeting.
What is an Invocation? What is God's Greeting?
An invocation is our response to God's call to worship. It is a prayer which invokes God, which means it is a prayer that calls upon the name of God. Typically, a prayer of invocation has several elements. It names the God to whom we are praying, hallows and exalts that name, includes a request that our worship be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and concludes with a full Trinitarian doxology.
God responds to our invocation by giving the assembled congregation his greeting (sometimes referred to as the salutation). The minister, speaking on God's behalf, says the following: "Grace and Peace to you from God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." This is significant part of the service, as it assures the congregation that God has not only heard the prayer of invocation, but that he will most certainly answer. His greeting gives us full assurance that, true to his word, God will be present with us throughout the service.
Just as significantly, the greeting also assures us that God is going to act for us during the service. In other words, God's presence in the service is not as a spectator who will watch us from a distance, but as one who is an active participant. God is not the audience for the worship service, God is the primary actor in the worship service. Through his Word and Sacrament, by His Spirit, he will act to bring us every spiritual blessing in Christ. He will use the seemingly ordinary activities of reading his word, preaching his word, and partaking of the Supper to build us up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.
If we believe this, it will give us a sense of expectancy about worship that we will not have otherwise. We do not go to worship only to give to God, but to receive his good gifts to us. When we worship, in other words, we are not merely remembering and celebrating what God did a long time ago for other people, we are also experiencing his saving power in the present. As theologian Michael Horton reminds us, worship is much more than "just talk about God and the wonders he has wrought,” it is primarily “another opportunity for God to work among us through the means that he has ordained."