Why can’t our services be more interesting? Why do we use the Liturgy? Shouldn’t we try to find something a little more relevant? Something in touch with today’s world and practices? Are we Lutherans simply stuck in the past, trying to relive the glory days of the reformation? These and many other similar questions get asked of our Lutheran way of worshipping all the time. And not without some reason. The liturgical way of worship is not how most Protestants worship anymore. The liturgy stands out in stark contrast to the way we do most everything else in the world today. But then again, that’s the whole point.
The divine Service is a “holy” time, a time set apart. It is a time meant to take us out of this work-a-day world … a time for us to spend with our Lord. It is THE place in which He offers up all that we need to be strengthened and encouraged for running this rat race called life. It is for us the outlet wherein we can “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Indeed, in the divine Service we are gathered together in the presence of the Holy, Almighty, Ever-living God, and thus are part of heaven on earth. Something that can only happen when we are forgiven again our sins and given new life, and eternal salvation with Him forever.
Lutheran Worship puts the focus squarely on Jesus Christ, who is present for us and with us through His Word and Sacraments. The Divine Service provides us the opportunity to “[look] to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the thmne of God.” Lutheran Worship is therefore, Christ-centered, not man centered. We are not simply in church to be amused or entertained. Christ is active and living among us, right here, right now, where He has promised to be.
The rhythm of worship flows like this: first and foremost it is God serving us with His gifts, then, and only then comes our service to the Almighty in thanksgiving and praise for all that He has done. Thus our worship is aptly called a Divine Service. The Divine serving us and we in turn serving Him.
That’s fine and all, but isn’t the Liturgy simply an outdated German ritual? Many have concluded such, since the reformation was begun in Germany. The truth of the matter is anything but. Lutheran worship throughout history has included hymns, canticles, and orders of service that find their origins in the very earliest of Christian worship, and much that goes even further back into the worship practices of God’s people both in the synagogues, and at the Temple. Our Divine Service is firmly rooted in thousands of years of tradition, and reflects the contributions of many ethnic groups.
As we find ourselves being gathered by our Lord for worship, we realize that we do so “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” In worship, we join our song with that of the angels and the archangels, and all the company of heaven from millennia past who are gathered before the Lamb upon His throne, worshipping Him day and night. As our Lord gathers us Sunday after Sunday we join the entire company of heaven in praising our good and gracious God. The saints on earth and the saints in heaven praise Him who is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, even our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reign as one God, world without end.