Monday, October 11, 2010

Lutheran Liturgy and the Divine Service

Liturgy may sound incredibly boring.  But give this post a read.  It may change your mind regarding liturgy and contemporary worship services.  First, a bit of scripture that may not appear to apply to this topic, but read further:
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”    -Matthew 20:20-28

This may seem to be strange place to start when talking about a 'worship' service, or as Lutherans call it, the Divine Service.  The liturgy of the Divine Service is one of the things that drew me to the church we are attending now, but it was also one of the things that created a shock to my system at the same time.  It is something I have never been accustomed to.  After talking with the pastor, being in the service for a few weeks, and researching why Lutherans design the service the way it is done, it is making much more sense.

My wife and I have been meeting with the pastor on a weekly basis to talk about the church, our faith, and Lutheran theology.  This past Thursday we talked in some detail about each of the elements of the Divine Service that is followed each Sunday.  Something the pastor said in passing hit me like a brick.  He mentioned Matthew 20:28 - 'the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.'  As with what I hope all my other posts have been stressing, this points out that WE are beggars.  In need of God's mercy.  We have nothing to offer Him except our sin and trespasses.  This is truly paramount, in my opinion.

The following is taken from Lutheranism 101:
Though the Divine Service may simply be called a 'worship' service, these words Divine Service say much about the focus of the worship service and what happens.  This most important worship service for Lutherans is 'divine' in that it finds its source and origin in the triune God Himself:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Worship can be a troublesome word.  Who begins the act of worship? What or whom is being worshipped?  It is at this point where we can become confused and begin to think that God has come to be entertained by us, that somehow what we and do in the worship service makes us more worthy of God's free gift of love.  NOTHING (italics mine) in the worship service- not the candles, not the flowers, not the music, not the prayers, not the praise- makes us worthy of anything before God.  We do not appease God's wrath, nor do we earn His forgiveness by anything we do. Rather, it is "Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10).
The key to understanding the way Lutherans worship is realizing that God initiates a holy conversation:  He speaks first.  Only then do His people respond, not the other way around. . . Because of our sin, we cannot come to God; God must come to us.  This is what takes place in the Divine Service.  Through the Word and Sacraments, God speaks to His people.  He reminds us of our sinfulness and failure to love completely, and He then forgives us and assures us of the grace we have in Jesus Christ.  If worship begins with you or me, honestly it going to be terrible worship:  self-centered, egotistical, one huge "me-fest."  That may sound appealing, but in the long haul of life, such worship is boring, gasps for air, and is ultimately a dead end.

As I compare to the many other various worship services I have been a part of, it offers a distinct contrast.  How the focus is God entering our lives.  How we are dead in our trespasses and sins, and He offers us His life, His grace, and His mercy.  To reminisce on some of the types of worship services and songs I've sung in worship of God, and as I look back, many of the songs were sung, not in His name, but mine.  How much of it was really about me and how I can approach God and surrender my life, etc.  That is not the true state we are in.  I am in need of Savior.  I have nothing to offer an almighty God, other than my brokenness and sin.  He has truly come to serve me.  The Lutheran Divine Service is specifically designed to remind us of our need and to remind us that there is a Savior who enters into our lives and saves us.


For additional resources for Lutheran liturgy, you can

1) Go to

The German word Gottesdienst (literally, "God's service") may be defined as both "divine service" and "public worship." The first and fundamental definition has to do with God's sacramental service toward man in the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. The subordinate definition portrays man's sacrificial service toward God in the offering of hymns, prayers, etc. We propose that the historic Divine Service of the Western Christian Church is more than the cobwebs of antiquity. It is a theological treasure, which is most needed in today's Christian Church.

2) To view the structure of the Divine Service, here is a sample:  St. Peters LCMS Divine Service Setting 3 Sample

No comments:

Post a Comment