I have recently started on a book by Dr. Arthur Just called Heaven On Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service. The back cover gives a basic summary when it states:
God does not need our worship, praise, or service. But we do need His service, His presence, and His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Whatever praise we give to God, whatever honor is due His name, is our response to God's service to us.
In my brief time in a confessional, liturgical Lutheran congregation, I have learned a bit of the benefits the Divine Service offers. What wonderful gifts God offers us in the Divine Service. My history is a bit like Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk. He passed away just over a year ago (April 5, 2010). He had a significant impact on my journey through the evangelical wilderness, as he coined it. This 'journey' has taken me from a Baptist/ Charismatic/ Pentecostal background to a very confessional Lutheran place. And I am extremely thankful. I think Mr. Spencer nails it with his take on liturgy that you read on his blog at this link. The following is a few paragraphs from that post that I especially identified with, and that I wanted to share with my readers...
I grew up fearing any church that didn't resemble a tent revival. The first time I went to a Roman Catholic worship service, I was so scared and confused that I walked out. When everyone headed up front for the mass, I thought it was the invitation, and it seemed a good time to duck out. The stress of trying to figure out kneelers was too much for me.
Even Methodist churches frightened me. I simply didn't understand what was going on in the simplest liturgies, and I assumed it was bad for real Christians to be around it. "Good" was evangelistic revivalism, and all the efforts expended to get people down to the altar, or even better, up there "testifying'" of how they got saved. (My Episcopal friend was just as confused by our Baptist services, but he handled it far better than me. I never found the courage to even visit his church.)
Today, revivalism scares me to death, and the comfortable predictability of the common liturgy is home for me and my family. When ministers start "winging it" and talking about what has God laid on their hearts, I want to go out the back door. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer ought to be the law of the land as far as I am concerned.
My friends often talk about liturgical churches as if they were dens of open Satanism. There dead, phony Christians, bound in Papist chains of tradition and quenching the Spirit at every opportunity, sit frozen, worshiping God in a box and considering themselves the only real Christians. Meanwhile, down at the Free Pentecostal Last-Days Assembly and Revival Center, real Christians, free in the Spirit, get high on Jesus, get saved every Sunday and see God working miracles at every service. Shambala-shingi.
I've quit trying to explain myself to these people. Having "been there, done that" as a naive Charismatic during my high school years, I know how convinced these folks are that liturgical churches are wrong, and that anything genuine must be extemporaneous. But I think I need to go on the record with what I've found in the liturgical tradition, and why I've taken my children away from revivalism and helped them find their way into a church that purposely avoids the very things I valued most for years as a Baptist.
I'm not sure I've quit trying to explain myself as Mr. Spencer had. I do want to share the treasure I have found in the Divine Service, the liturgy, and the Lutheran confessions. Christ and Him crucified. How our salvation is not found in our hearts and our subjective feelings, but how the Holy Trinity invades our world and provides the ways and the means of grace. Our righteousness is alien. In that, I mean that we have nothing... NOTHING... to do with our salvation and our righteousness before God. It is Christ crucified and resurrected for our sins. Christ's presence is given to us in Baptism, the Word spoken and in hearing it, and His body and blood in the Lord's Supper. This is something we can trust.
Is this for me? I am forgiven and set free! I do believe that I receive His very body and His blood.
O taste and see-- the Lord is good. -LSB 629:5 -What Is This Bread
Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” - Matthew 20:26-28