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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Explaining the Worship (Lutheran Worship in Particular)

Is worship something we are doing for God (bringing our praise to God for all He has done for us)? Or is worship something God is doing for and to us? Some have suggested that in worship God is the audience, the congregational members are the actors, and the pastor and choir are the prompters; thus, worship is something we do, perhaps even need to do, for God. Of course, that understanding would imply that God needs something from us, perhaps our helping raise His self-esteem by singing praises to His name.
 
When we understand our sinful nature and our need to be given to by God, and when we remember that we are born with nothing and we take nothing from this world, and that it is God who has created all things in the first place and has created us to love us, then we get a better understanding that our worship service is an opportunity to come and be given even more of the good gifts and blessings God has to give which is why we call the worship service, not worship, but Divine (from God) Service.
 
Contrary to the popular misunderstanding, the Divine Service did not begin with Martin Luther and is most certainly not German. Rather it can be traced back to the first century around the world, even found in all parts of the world, and even can be traced back to Leviticus, now in its fulfilled form. In other words, our Divine Service is not simply something that was made up by the Roman Catholic Church and “tweaked” by Martin Luther to make it Lutheran. So, if the Divine Service can be traced back to the first century and parts of the service can be traced back to that to which they were given to point back in Leviticus, that is since the Divine Service originally pointed to Jesus through the ceremonial laws and now points to Jesus through the fulfilled parts of Scripture, perhaps we might be more careful in what we change or even if we should change any parts.
 
The Children of Israel were in a land, surrounded by pagan culture, false religion and gods that had all sorts of worship practices. As they desired to be more like those in the land, they moved further and further from God. This practice should be a warning to us. We would do well to beware of worship that seeks to look like the culture. When you see worshipers “getting down” with the jam of the band, ask yourself, “Is this any different than a concert I might attend?” If you cannot tell the difference, then maybe the culture and its norms have stolen your worship.
 
Worship is not entertainment and should not be confused with a concert. Worship is not vying for who is the lead or the star, who leads the “praise band.” Worship that is true worship, or orthodox worship is Divine Service and always and clearly points to Jesus, just Jesus, and not to self, not to the “leader,” not to anyone, but Jesus. Worship points to Jesus because Jesus is the One who is there giving out His gifts.
 
In worship everyone has a part. The called and ordained servant of the Word, the pastor, has the part of delivering the gifts of God to the people of God. He delivers these gifts through the means God has given to deliver the gifts, the means of grace. The pastor begins the Divine Service, the God Service by invoking God, by reminding the worshipers of their Baptism, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The pastor delivers the gifts of God through the pronouncement of the forgiveness of sins following the confession of the worshipers. The pastor delivers the gifts of God through the reading of the Scripture Texts appointed for that particular Sunday, and then expounding on that text in his sermon as he attempts to rightly speak Scripture. The pastor delivers the gifts of God through the Bread and Wine as he serves as the host at the Lord’s Table where he invites and distributes Jesus’ body and blood for the worshiper to eat and drink, thus participating in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
 
The laity, the parishioners also have a part in the Divine Service. The part of the worshiper is to be given to, that is to hear the Word of God, to believe the Word of God, to go out into the community and live the Word of God, even to share the Word of God with others as they are given the opportunity to do so through their various vocation. The laity are not called to distribute the gifts of God but to be given the gifts of God.
 
Worship, Divine Service reflects and flows out of Doctrine. In other words, Doctrine, what we believe, is intrinsically attached to practice, how we do what we believe. The two cannot be separated. Thus, because we believe that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as well as Confession and Absolution and the Word of God are the very means through which our Lord comes to us to give us His good gifts and blessings, this belief, this doctrine is seen in the practice of the Divine Service.
 
We also understand that worship, Divine Service. is for believers as an opportunity to be strengthened in faith in order to face the world and take the message of salvation to the world through their various vocations. Evangelism may take place in the Divine Service as we invite our unchurched family and friends to “Come and see Jesus” in the Divine Service, but more often than not, evangelism takes place in our various vocations. As we have opportunities and as we are asked about our faith in our various vocations, we have God’s authority to speak and His promise to be with us to give an answer, a defense for our faith in Jesus. And God then does His part, that is the Holy Spirit works through His Word to give faith when and where He pleases.
 
Here are some simple ways to know if you are experiencing orthodox worship or doing something else, i.e. heterodox worship:
  1. If you can confuse what you are doing on Sunday morning to thinking you are at a concert, you are probably not at worship.
  2. If, in your worship song, you can replace the name of Jesus with your spouse or boy/girl-friend or significant other, then it is probably not a worship song.
  3. It there is a discussion concerning who gets top billing, then you are probably not talking about worship.
  4. If you have come to do something for God because you think He needs something from you, then it is probably not worship.
  5. If you are being pointed to anyone or anything for salvation besides Jesus, then it is probably not worship.
  6. If you are being told how God desires for you to be rich, famous, powerful, happy and so forth, then it is probably not worship (maybe a self-help seminar).
  7. If you are being told how good you are and how you can be the person God wants you to be, rather than being reminded of your sins and God’s grace and forgiveness, then it is probably not worship.
  8. If you do not see a cross, or altar, or anything that looks like the facility might be a worship facility, then it is probably not a worship facility and thus will probably not be worship.

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