I’m preparing a few lessons for the adult Sunday School class on Lutheran worship–why we do it the way we do. Now I’m perfectly aware that not all Lutherans organize their worship lives in the same way, and that’s generally okay with me. But there are some things that I think must not be left out if our worship is to accomplish its principle goals.
Before we discuss the “ingredients” of proper worship we should probably say why we gather for worship at all. Couldn’t we just be independent Christians happily reading our Bibles and meeting occasionally with friends to pray? Well, the writer of Hebrews seemed not to believe that to be a good idea because he tells us we are not to cease to meet together as some have done. (10:25) So Biblically speaking, we are to gather with other Christians for worship.
There’s a funny web site called the BabylonBee which spoofs things in the Christian world that need spoofing. One of the recent posts there referred to the many Bibles in America with heretical handwritten notes in the margins. That is indeed a reason not to stay away from organized worship–we can err in our understanding if we lack proper teaching. Satan would love nothing better than to have us all stay home on Sunday and develop heresies in our living rooms. When I was ordained one of my clergy friends gave me this advice–if you believe you’ve discovered some new Christian truth that has been unknown heretofore–it’s most likely a heresy. And his advise was quite wise.
In addition to avoiding heresy we also gather for worship because we need to worship. We don’t worship to please God, we worship in order to be fed with His Word and strengthened in our faith. The principle service done on Sunday mornings is not our service to God, but His service to His gathered people. That’s what the Gospel is all about.
The traditional pattern of Lutheran worship makes this quite clear. We gather before the Lord and confess our sins, after which the pastor assures those who have confessed that, if they are in Christ, their sins are forgiven–not at that moment and not just for what they’ve done in the last week–but forgiven because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary 2000 years ago. And we say Thanks.
Then God’s Word is read that we might know and understand His saving grace even more. And we say Thanks.
Then the pastor expounds on that written Word, bring its meaning and purpose to the lives of the gathered people of God. And again we say Thanks.
Then God provides us with the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus, truly yet mysteriously present under the elements of bread and wine. Our faith is strengthened and our hopes fulfilled. And we say Thanks.
Then finally, at the end of every service we receive a benediction which sends us on our way rejoicing and saying Thanks.
I’ll write more about our worship lives in the weeks ahead, but I wanted to start by saying Thanks be to God. Amen.