2Corinthians 2:14- But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
A few weeks ago, we shared some thoughts concerning the order of worship, the Liturgy of the Church. We explained that the word “Liturgy” not only means “service” but that it also means “duty.”
We said that because God IS LOVE, that he is compelled by his own nature to supply for all our needs. And that in order to satisfy our GREATEST NEED, he gives us of himself during the Liturgy- through Word, Sacrament, and the fellowship of believers. We also said that the OLD COVENANT of the Jews had it’s own Temple Liturgy for it’s priests to perform on behalf of the people… But that when Christ Jesus resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven, that he received from God the NEW LITURGY (Greek λειτουργίας)of the NEW COVENANT in HIS BLOOD (as it says in Hebrews 8:6).
We also said that although the Liturgy of the Christian Church is filled with symbols, that it’s very substance is NOT Symbolic- but rather, that it is a TRANSCENDENTAL PARTICIPATION of the Priestly Liturgy of Jesus in Heaven, and a joining with all the Angels and Saints of all ages in their worship of the Divine.
We said that in the Liturgy, there is a joining of the heavenly and the earthly. That the eternal reality of God and the spirit realm, is present in our temporal existence– and that our temporal consciousness transcends time and space, becoming aware of things that lie beyond external appearances. We also said, that in this time of eternal, heavenly worship…that Angels gather around us, as you and I gather around the throne of God- worshipping the glorious Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
For the sake of expediency, our hymnals divide the Liturgy into two MAIN parts: The Service of the Word and The Service of the Eucharist. But The Historic, Christian Liturgy is composed of 5 basic parts:
The Entrance, The Service of the Word, The Offertory, The Service of the Eucharist, and The Benediction.
These 5 basic parts of the Historic Liturgy point toward the redemptive work of a LOVING GOD, who in our need for Salvation, sent his only begotten Son to die on a Cross. And who’s LOVE compelled him to raise himself from the grave- sealing and assuring our salvation in his blood forever- proclaiming HIMSELF by means of His resurrection, THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, not only of spiritual things, but also of time and space.
This is the God we serve- and this is the fullness of the Gospel.
And for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear– the Liturgy of the Church expresses the fullness of the Salvific work of God. And so, the Liturgy of the Church begins with the Rite of Entrance.
The Rite of Entrance officially begins with the Procession, and continues with the Confession and Absolution, the “Lord Have Mercies,” the Hymn of Praise and ends with the little prayer called “The Collect,” before The Service of the Word. I think it’s important to make clear that the Entrance Rite does not begin during the procession—the little “parade” we do in the beginning…but rather that the Entrance begins when we’re waking up on Sunday morning—and the Holy Spirit is tugging us to get ready to come to Church.
In the beginning of our hymnals there is a prayer titled: “On Entering the Church” which says-
Lord, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells. In the multitude of Your tender mercies prepare my heart that I may enter Your house to worship and confess Your holy name; through Jesus Christ, my God and Lord. Amen.
This little prayer is a response to God’s call on Sunday mornings. The Entrance Rite begins in our homes… and it is there on Sunday mornings that we decide to either respond to God’s loving invitation or to resist it. It is there, in our homes that we decide to either act like the ancient people of Israel, ignoring God’s invitation- or to respond to God’s invitation and enter into His Courts with Thanks and Praise…
As it says in Psalm 95: 6-8-
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…”
We are here today, not by our own, independent volition, or ability. We are here today because God CALLED us to Enter into His Courts. In the same way- you and I are saved…not because we “chose” God out of our own, independent ability…but because God “chose” US and “called” US to Himself.
John 6:44- No one can COME to me unless the Father who sent me DRAWS HIM.
So don’t think for one minute that you are here out of coincidence. You are here because God has DRAWN YOU to the real presence of Jesus Christ. And it doesn’t matter how UNWORTHY you feel- or how INEPT- or how WEAK, or how SINFUL you might be…
If you are HERE it is because God has DRAWN you NEAR in order to HEAR his ASSURANCE of SALVATION by means of the Cross. This is why it says in
Hebrews 4:16- “Let us then with confidence DRAW NEAR to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
You have probably noticed that we begin every Sunday service with an Entrance Hymn and a Procession. Although there are other parts to the Entrance– for the sake of expediency, we will only concentrate on the Procession.
The Procession is not a fanciful parade up the isle in which some of us pretend to be Roman Catholic. NO!!
The Procession itself is a METAPHYSICAL AND MULTI-DIMENSIONAL response of the Church to God’s invitation AND a PROCLAMATION OF VICTORY to all creatures…
First of all, you probably have noticed that during the procession, we approach the symbol of the Throne of God, the Altar of the Lamb with a Processional Cross leading the way… The Armies of Old would march into war or into a city after a great victory with long staffs called “Standards.” These Standards would display banners and other symbols that represented their kingdom or their army. For example, the Roman Empire displayed the symbol of an eagle with open wings on their standards.
When we Process during the Entrance Hymn, the Processional Cross proclaims that we boldly approach the throne of God only by the MERITS of JESUS. Jesus says in
John 14: 6- I am the way and the truth and the life. No one COMES TO THE FATHER except through me.
During the Procession- we see that the Acolyte (also known as the Crucifer and other titles) carries the Standard of the Faith, the Cross while the Pastor walks at the end of the line. There is also a great mystery connected to this.
Historically, the office of the Pastor has been the highest in rank within the local church, while the office of the Acolyte has been considered one of the lowest.
As the Presbyter or Elder of the church, the Pastor is supposed to be a living symbol of Jesus. But during the Procession, the LOWEST IN RANK (the Acolyte) becomes the HIGHEST IN HONOR…leading the way of Victory in Christ Jesus… The Acolyte becomes in essence, a John the Baptist— Preparing the Way of the Lord! The Acolyte is also an Evangelist—Proclaiming to both Angels and Men that Jesus is Lord and that He is Victorious.
And the Highest in Rank…The Pastor, becomes a slave- following the procession from the back-
And this is for two reasons:
1. Because He who was in his very nature GOD, made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a slave. He stood in the back of the line like a slave… becoming a man in order to die on a Cross like the worst of men, for the sins of all mankind… (Phil. 2: 6-8)
2. The pastor follows in the back of the Procession, in order to remind him of the words that Christ shared with his Apostles.
Mark 9:35 says:
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the SLAVE of all.”
But the Procession itself gets even deeper… during the Procession, we are mystically united to Christ’s procession toward Mount Calvary when he was carrying his Cross to die for you and me. And with Jesus, we mystically join him in his resurrection, as he triumphantly walked out of the grave where once he laid- defeating death and hell forever.
But there is another reason for the Procession…
When victorious armies processed, they were usually followed by the defeated- as they were publically displayed in chains.The victorious soldiers would process, burning sweet incense as offerings of thanksgiving… To some- the smell of incense was the smell of sweet victory…but to the captives…the smell of incense was the smell of their shame and imminent death. Whenever the Church processes in victory before the angels…the demons that watch are reminded of their DEFEAT by the Cross of Christ, and that THEY- are OUR SLAVES.
That we who were once slaves of sin and demonic powers, have been led to victory by the King of Kings… and that now, they are SUBJECT TO US—in the Name of Jesus. And because they are subject to us…they no longer can have power over our lives unless we allow them.
If you understand these things, and you live a life that spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ…then believe you me, that whenever demons see you…they are reminded of their defeat and the great day in which with Satan, the False Prophet and the Antichrist—they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone- in condemnation for the ages of ages. Amen.
So lift up your heads! Lift up your eyes! Keep your gaze upon Christ Crucified—knowing that by the Cross, we are participants of the Victorious Kingdom that will have no end.
That Christ Jesus has given you VICTORY over EVERY principality and power of the air…that YOU no longer have to live as a victim to demonic entities…because CHRIST JESUS has given us the Victory.
Let us end today by remembering the words of one of my favorite hymns:
“Come, Christians, follow where our Captain trod, Our King Victorious, Christ the Son of God… Lift high the Cross, the love of Christ proclaim, Till all the world adore His sacred name.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.