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Suggested Forms for Particular Services

 

I. THE SOLEMNIZATION OF MARRIAGE

A. Guiding Principles

1. Marriage is an institution ordained by God for the honor and happiness of mankind, in which one man and one woman enter into a bodily and spiritual union, so long as both shall live. It is not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity prohibited by the Word of God.

2. Christians are to marry only in the Lord. Therefore, although it is not required, it is fitting that their marriage be solemnized by a minister of the Word in order that special instruction may be given to them and suitable prayers made, when they enter into this union. It is also well that, prior to the marriage, the minister give Christian counsel to those entering this estate. Ministers are admonished to emphasize the need of spiritual and confessional compatibility in marriage. When husband and wife differ on the essentials of the faith, their lack of harmony endangers the covenant nurture of their children and the unity of a truly Christian home.

3. Marriage is of a public nature. The welfare of civil society, the happiness of families, and the honor of the church are deeply intertwined with it. Therefore, the intent to marry should be sufficiently published previous to its solemnization. It is well that announcement of a planned wedding be made in the church of each of the two parties in each of the three weeks prior to the wedding. All ministers should take care in this matter to transgress neither the laws of God nor the laws of the state. In order that the peace and comfort of families will not be endangered and that no just objection may exist against their marriage, the parties applying should be properly certified to the minister. Moreover, the solemnization of marriage must always be performed before at least two or three witnesses.

4. Marriage is not a sacrament; nor is it peculiar to the church of Christ. For this reason, marriage ought not to be solemnized during the Lord's Day assembly for public worship, and it is best that it not be solemnized on the Lord's Day.

5. It is proper that every commonwealth, for the good of society, make laws to regulate marriage, which all citizens are bound to obey, if not contrary to Scripture.

 

B. Suggested Form for a Wedding Service

The following service is designed for those who are professing members, in good standing, of a faithful Christian church.

At the time and place appointed for the solemnization of marriage, the persons to be married shall take their place before the minister in the following or similar manner, the bridegroom having the bride to his left. The company may be requested to stand or be seated during the ceremony as may seem best in the circumstances.

1. Declaration of Purpose

The minister shall state the purpose of the service. He may use the following or similar words:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of God and these witnesses to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony.

God himself instituted marriage at the beginning in the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the world. He said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him." Thereupon God created woman of man's own substance and brought her to the man. Our Lord Jesus Christ honored marriage by his presence and first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. And he confirmed it as a divine ordinance and as a union not to be severed when he declared, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh'? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Moreover, the Holy Spirit sets forth the sacred and exalted nature of marriage when he likens it to the mystical union that exists between Christ and his redeemed bride, the church, saying, "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church."

Accordingly, God has designed marriage for the enrichment of the lives of those who enter into this estate, for the orderly propagation of the human race, for the generation of a holy seed, and for the avoidance of sexual immorality, all to the glory of the covenant God.

Husbands and wives thus have responsibilities befitting God's purposes for their relationship. The Holy Scripture says, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for [her]." The husband is to love his wife as his own body, to care for her, and to cherish her. The Holy Scripture says also, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." The wife is to submit to her husband, to respect him, and to entrust herself to his loving care. Both husbands and wives are to be faithful to each other, to assist each other in all good things, to heartily forgive each other their sins and shortcomings, and to love each other as themselves. Thus united in love, they will more and more reflect in their marriage the unity of Christ and his church.

Into this holy estate these two persons, M— and N—, come now to be joined.

2. Public Determination of Lawfulness

The minister may say:

If anyone can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, let him now declare it, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.

If there is no objection, the minister may proceed, saying:

I require and charge you both that, if either of you knows any cause why you may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, you do now confess it.

3. Public Declaration of Consent

Then, if no obstacle appears, the minister shall say to the man:

[Man's first name], will you have this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of marriage? And will you love her as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her, will you comfort her, honor and cherish her, and forsaking all others keep yourself only unto her as long as you both shall live?

The man shall answer:

I will.

Then the minister shall say to the woman:

[Woman's first name], will you have this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of marriage? And will you love him, comfort him, respect and submit to him even as the church submits to Christ, and forsaking all others keep yourself only unto him as long as you both shall live?

The woman shall answer:

I will.

4. Public Transfer of Authority

Then the minister may say:

Who gives this woman to be married to this man?

The father of the woman (or someone in his stead) may say,

I do.

Her father (or someone in his stead) shall place her right hand in the hand of the bridegroom, and be seated.

5. Invocation

The minister may pray, in these or like words:

Most holy and most merciful Father, at once the God of nature and of grace, Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer of mankind, fountain of life, of love, and of joy and peace, whose presence is the happiness of every condition; we beseech you to be present and favorable to these, your servants, and to fill them with a sense of the solemnity of the vows they are about to make. Enable them, we pray, to remember and to keep these vows, looking to you for your assistance, and help them to enter into these sacred obligations in humble dependence upon your enabling grace. Grant this, O Father, with the forgiveness of our sins, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6. Homily

At this time it is fitting for the minister to give a brief message from the Word of God appropriate to the occasion.

7. Exchange of Vows

Then the bridegroom shall say (after the minister, if desired):

I, M—, take you, N—, to be my wedded wife, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful husband in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, as long as we both shall live.

The bride shall say (after the minister, if desired):

I, N—, take you, M—, to be my wedded husband, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful wife in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, as long as we both shall live.

8. Exchange of Rings (if desired)

The minister may ask the bridegroom:

What symbol do you give as a pledge that you will faithfully perform these vows?

The bridegroom shall put a ring on the bride's left hand and say (after the minister, if desired):

This ring I give you as a token and pledge of constant faith and abiding love.

If this is a double-ring ceremony, the minister may then ask the bride:

What symbol do you give as a pledge that you will faithfully perform these vows?

The bride shall put a ring on the bridegroom's left hand and say (after the minister, if desired):

This ring I give you as a token and pledge of constant faith and abiding love.

9. Prayer

The minister may pray in these or like words:

Most merciful and gracious God, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, we beseech you, set the seal of your approval upon the marriage into which our brother and sister have entered this day. Grant them your fatherly blessing. Work in them the grace of your Holy Spirit. Enable them to fulfill with pure and constant affection the vow and covenant made between them. Guide them in the way of righteousness and peace, that, loving and serving you with one mind and heart all the days of their life, they may be abundantly enriched with the tokens of your everlasting favor in Christ Jesus our Lord. In all of life's experiences, lift up your countenance upon them, that they may be thankful in prosperity and patient in adversity. May their marriage be fruitful for this life and for the life to come. Grant them wisdom and strength to build a home that will be to the glory of your name and the coming of your kingdom. May they live together many years, and in the hour of death may they part in the blessed hope of celebrating forever with all the saints of God the marriage of Christ and the church he loved. Hear our prayer in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

10. Declaration

The minister shall say:

By virtue of the authority committed unto me as a minister of the church of Jesus Christ, I now pronounce you husband and wife, according to the ordinance of God and the law of the State, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Then joining their hands, he shall pronounce:

What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

11. Kiss

The minister may say:

You may now seal your commitment with a kiss.

The husband and wife may exchange a discreet kiss.

12. Blessing

The minister may say:

The Lord our God fill you with his grace, and grant that you may long live together in all godliness and holiness. Amen.

13. Presentation

The minister may then conclude the service, saying:

It now gives me great pleasure to present to you, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. [name].

 

II. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

A. Guiding Principles

1. For the sake of convenience and pastoral care, a funeral service may be held at a time other than that of burial.

2. Circumstances attending specific cases differ so entirely that ministers must use their own discretion as to what mode of conducting this service will most promote the honor of God and the edification of the people. It should be observed that the Scriptures and the prayers in the following service have been arranged with the burial of believers or their children primarily in mind. When other persons are to be buried, the service should be modified accordingly. The following principles, however, should be followed as general rules:

a. Care should be taken that it be evident that the ultimate goal of the service is to exalt God, not to exalt man. Personal reference may have some place, but the entire service should emphasize the reading of Scripture and acts of direct worship.

b. The minister should never declare the deceased to have died finally impenitent. God alone is the Judge. The inference in many cases, suggested by the facts, will be plain and terrible enough.

c. The minister should always be careful not to imply, by use of Scriptures or otherwise, the salvation of persons whose lives and deaths have possessed no grounds for such a hope.

d. The minister ought always to point the living to the grace of God in Christ Jesus as their sole ground of confidence.

3. From the reference to the minister in this service it is not to be inferred that only a minister may officiate. However, it would be well if a minister of the Word, normally the deceased person's pastor, were to do so.

 

B. Suggested Form for the Burial of the Dead

1. The Funeral Service

a. Opening Scripture Sentences

When the people have assembled, the minister may begin the service with several of these or other appropriate sentences from the Holy Scriptures:

"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Ps. 124:8

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." Ps. 103:13-14

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Ps. 116:15

"For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living." Rom. 14:7-9

"To live is Christ, and to die is gain ... to depart, and to be with Christ ... is far better." Phil. 1:21, 23

"For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." 1 Tim. 6:7

"The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21

"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." Job 19:25-27

"I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." John 11:25-26

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." 2 Cor. 1:3-4

b. Prayer

Then the minister may lead the people in the following, or a similar, prayer, and ending, if desired, with the Lord's Prayer:

Almighty and gracious God, our Father in heaven, you are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Lead us, we pray, to put our trust entirely in you. We come to you in the name of your only begotten and well-beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, who died for our sins and rose from the dead. Grant us, we beseech you, through his precious blood, peace and pardon, and joy in the Holy Spirit. And seeing that we have in him an high priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, may we come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in this time of our need.

We thank you for the precious promises of your Word. We praise you for the light of the gospel. We acknowledge your sovereign will and your infinite compassion. Be pleased, therefore, to look upon our sorrow, and for the sake of your dear Son to grant us the consolation of your Holy Spirit. And we pray that you will enable us to hear your holy Word, so that through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we may have hope. Grant to us, too, that we may hold fast our confidence in your forgiving mercy and the blessed assurance of eternal life. We ask these blessings of you, our Father, through him who bore our sins in his own body on the tree, who rose from the dead, and who is exalted at your right hand, even Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

c. Psalm or Hymn

A psalm or hymn may then be read by the minister or sung by the people.

d. Scripture Reading from the Psalms

Then the minister may read one or more of the following or other appropriate psalms:

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." Ps. 23

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock." Ps. 27:1-5

"Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it." Ps. 90

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them." Ps. 103:13-18

Psalm 39:4-13 and Psalm 130 may also be found appropriate.

e. Scripture Reading Presenting the Gospel Message of Salvation

The minister may then wish to address those assembled in these or other appropriate words:

Hear now the promises of the gospel given to those who are found to be in Christ Jesus.

Then let the minister read one or more of these, or similar, passages presenting the gospel message of salvation by God's grace in Christ:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:16-17

"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.... My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." John 10:9-11, 27-30

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." Rom. 5:1-11

Romans 8:1-11 may also be found appropriate.

f. Scripture Reading Addressing Particular Needs

Then, if it is deemed fitting, the minister may read one or more Scripture passages addressed to particular needs.

Selections relating to the death of covenant children:

"And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." Gen. 17:7

"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Acts 2:39

"Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not." Jer. 31:15

"And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them." Mark 10:13-16

"Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." Matt. 18:10

"Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." Matt. 18:14

"While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." Mark 5:35-39

"Jesus ... said ... Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them." Mark 10:14-16

"And the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." 2 Sam. 12:15-23

"The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21

Selections relating to the sudden death of youth or middle-aged persons:

"All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." 1 Pet. 1:24

"Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Prov. 27:1

"For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." James 4:14

"[Man] knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be? There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it." Eccl. 8:7-8

"One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet.... And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure. They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them." Job 21:23-26

"Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.... For ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." Mark 13:33-37

"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately." Luke 12:35-36

Selections applying to the death of the elderly:

"We spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." Ps. 90:9-10

"And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been." Gen. 47:9

"The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." Prov. 16:31

"The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him." Ps. 92:12-15

Selections concerning a notably useful and fruitful Christian life:

"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Prov. 4:18

"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." Mal. 3:16-18

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Heb. 10:23-25

"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matt. 25:34-40

"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." Dan. 12:3

"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." James 5:19-20

g. Psalm or Hymn

Then another psalm or hymn may be read or sung.

h. Scripture Reading Concerning the Resurrection and the Life Everlasting

Then let the minister read one or more of these or other appropriate Scripture passages giving the gospel promise of the resurrection and the life everlasting:

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.... But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Cor. 15:20-28, 35-58

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.... If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.... These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:1-3, 15-20, 25-27

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." 1 Pet. 1:3-9

"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.... And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." Rev. 21:1-4, 22-27

"And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book." Rev. 22:1-7

2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11; and Revelation 7:13-17 may also be found appropriate.

i. Sermon

If it is desired, an address may be given here. It is appropriate that it be brief, and it should direct the hearers to the grace of God in Christ.

j. Psalm or Hymn

Then another psalm or hymn may be read or sung.

k. Prayer

Then the minister may lead the people in this, or other, prayer:

Almighty and most merciful God, we come again to you in prayer, acknowledging your sovereign power, and right as our Creator, both to give and to take away as seems good unto you. We remember all your mercies, and your saving grace revealed to us in Christ, your Son, our Redeemer. We thank you for your favor shown to our beloved friend in bringing (him/her) to a knowledge of your redeeming love, granting (him/her) faith in Christ, the Savior.

We humbly pray for your bereaved servants that you will give to them meek and trustful submission to your will. May they have divine comfort through joy in the presence of our risen Christ and the enlightenment of your Holy Spirit. We pray that you will fill their sorrowing hearts with your love, that they may wholly rest in you to bring eternal joy out of grief, and life from death, through the power of your resurrected Son, who now sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us.

We pray that you will grant grace to us who remain, to imitate the righteous dead in faith and in loving service. Give us, we pray, perseverance to continue faithful to the end, following Christ our Lord, so that we may finally be received unto heaven through his sacrifice for us and in our place, and, with all your elect, adore you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

2. The Interment

a. Scripture Sentences

At the place of burial, if it seems desirable, let the minister say:

"I am the resurrection, and the life," saith the Lord; "he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." John 11:25-26

"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." 2 Cor. 5:1

b. Committal

Then, if it seems desirable, earth or flowers may be scattered upon the casket, while the minister may say:

Forasmuch as it hath pleased almighty God, in his wise providence, to take out of this world the soul of our (brother/sister), we therefore commit (his/her) body to the ground: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come, through our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose coming in glorious majesty the earth and the sea shall give up their dead; and the mortal bodies of those who sleep in him shall be changed, and made like unto his own glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

c. Affirmation

Then the minister may say:

"I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Rev. 14:13

Or, if the spiritual condition of the deceased is uncertain, he may use the following or other Scripture passages:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." John 5:24

d. Prayer

Then the minister shall offer the following, or a similar prayer:

O almighty and merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life, grant that we may realize the shortness and uncertainty of human life, that we may live before you in godly fear all our days, looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.

We humbly beseech you to comfort the sorrowing, and to support them in their grief. Raise us up each one, we pray you, from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness, so that we too, when we depart this life, may rest in Christ, and at the resurrection be found acceptable in your sight, through the mediation and merits of him who died on the cross and rose again. Amen.

As soon as the service comes to an end, the minister should move to speak a personal word of comfort to the bereaved, after which the others who have gathered will be free to do so.

 

III. THANKSGIVING FOR A CHURCH BUILDING

A. Guiding Principles

1. Under the gospel, the worship of God is no longer localized in a holy site on this earth. The living God is rather worshiped in spirit and in truth in the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ the Mediator is. It may nevertheless be expedient to set aside a place for worship assemblies and the service of God's people. When God provides such a place, it is fitting for a congregation corporately to thank him, to ask his special blessing on its use, and to commit itself to using the place for his glory, especially for the advancement of the gospel.

2. Such thanksgiving may be given a special occasional service on the Lord's Day or another suitable time.

B. A Service of Thanksgiving for a Church Building

The session may design an appropriate service of thanksgiving for a church building, which may include elements of praise, prayer, and thanksgiving. The following may be incorporated into the service, along with other elements of worship, as deemed appropriate.

It is fitting that psalms or hymns be sung throughout the service, that a sermon suited to the occasion be preached, and that an offering be received.

As part of the praise, prayer, and thanksgiving, the minister may say:

Beloved in the Lord, seeing that it has pleased almighty God to prosper us in our undertaking to build [secure] a building for his worship and service, let us therefore seek his blessing in our use of it, to the end that pure apostolic doctrine and order may be maintained herein, and that the Holy Spirit may make his own ordinances effectual in the lives of those who enter here.

Then the minister and the people may pray antiphonally:

O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:
For this place, we give you our thanks.

O eternal Son of God, Redeemer of your people and Head of your church:
For this place, we give you our thanks.

O Spirit of God, Lord and Giver of life, our Teacher, Sanctifier, and Comforter:
For this place, we give you our thanks.

And now, O God, we ask that you bless our use of this place.
For the worship of God in praise and prayer;
For the preaching of the gospel of your grace in Christ;
For the celebrating of your holy sacraments:
We beseech your blessing.

For the dissemination of sacred knowledge;
For the promotion of righteousness and holiness;
For the extension of your kingdom:
We beseech your blessing.

For release to the captives;
For recovering of sight to the blind;
For rest to the heavy laden:
We beseech your blessing.

For comfort to those who mourn;
For strength to those who are tempted;
For assurance to those of little faith:
We beseech your blessing.

For the sanctifying of the family;
For the nurturing of the young;
For the perfecting of believers:
We beseech your blessing.

In gratitude for your gracious keeping of your covenant throughout past generations;
In reliance upon your promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against your church;
In the hope of the eternal glory of your church triumphant:
We beseech your blessing.

At an appropriate point during the service, the minister may say (in these or similar words):

Let us pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, O living and true God, Maker of heaven and earth, our God, and our Father, you dwell in the high and holy place, yet also in him who is of a contrite and humble spirit. We adore you for your manifold perfections, for the infinite majesty and glorious beauty of your being, and for the truthfulness and sanctity of your divine revelation.

We thank you for your infinite mercies to us. In particular, we bless you for the gift of your Son, even Jesus, to be our Savior and the Savior of all who believe in him. It is in his name that we now praise you and offer our petitions before you. We praise you for your church, of which he is the only Head and King and of which we, by your grace alone, are members for all eternity. We humble ourselves before you this day, for we confess that we are not worthy to receive from your hand the blessings of not only your common grace, but, even more especially, the unspeakable mercies of your saving grace in Christ Jesus. We recognize that it is by the abundance of your great grace and mercy that you have granted us faith in Jesus Christ and, through him, the forgiveness of all our sins and the assurance of our final entrance into your presence, there to join all the members of your church from all ages, that vast multitude which no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues. How great is your compassion!

And now you have put it into our hearts to prepare [secure] this facility where your people may gather in your worship and service. We earnestly beseech you to watch over and protect all who serve in this place. We plead with you that here may be preached only the pure gospel of the free grace of God in Christ Jesus. May all that is proclaimed here be clearly and firmly grounded upon the unchanging foundation of your holy Word. Grant that no part of your sacred revelation may be neglected, but that your servants who minister here shall give to the whole Scriptures that due reverence that will exhibit its breadth and majesty. We pray that by the favor and power of your Holy Spirit, you will in this place convert sinners unto you, and that you will gather, build up, and strengthen your saints through the proclamation of your matchless Word.

And we beseech you by your Holy Spirit, that you may ever be present effectually to guide, illumine, and inform those who teach here. May you prepare the hearts of the hearers to receive with meekness the instruction that is presented, and grant that their lives may show forth the triumph of your grace and adorn the doctrine of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In response to your mercies, O gracious God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—we commit ourselves to you. Grant that we might offer ourselves to you in this congregation as one living sacrifice, consecrated to your service and to the advancement of your gospel. Grant that your grace will be mighty in us and sufficient for us, so that you may keep us in this resolve. May you ever work in us both to will and to do of your own good pleasure. Please give us grace to live together in holy love, peace, purity, and unity, that you may command the blessing upon us, even life evermore. Make us conscientious in all our duties, and keep us always watchful against sin, as becomes those who know that your eye is ever upon us. Grant that we may walk in the fear of the Lord, and may the joy of the Lord be our strength.

So bless the use of this facility, we pray, that it may ever serve the propagation of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the extension of the kingdom of God. Teach us to so look and long for the return of the Lord of glory that we may be renewed day by day in our devotion to him, and that we may always be prepared to greet him and to enter in with him to the marriage supper of the Lamb, forever to dwell in that holy city where we will need no lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be our light, and we will reign forever and ever.

And now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

The service may be concluded with the following or another benediction from Scripture:

"The Lord bless thee and keep thee;
The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." Num. 6:24-26

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