A couple of months ago I shared words concerning the importance of worship. Here, I want to look at what worship “is”.
Worship is central to Holy Cross Lutheran Church. It is not one program among many. Worship is the life of the church. Through the preaching of the Word of God and the celebration of the Sacraments, Christ Himself is in the midst of His people, communicating His grace, love and power to us. In worship, the Lord initiates as He gives Himself to us (this is the proper understanding of the “service”). He speaks to us in His Word. He is present in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Worship also involves our response. It is the expression of our faith in the one true God, Father, Son and Spirit. Worship is not restricted to religious services. The entire faith-life of the Christian is worship; all that the Christian says, does, and thinks in true faith is the worship of God (see Romans 12:1-2). Worship services are our special opportunities to praise God for His goodness, and to come to Him in prayer.
With these presuppositions guiding us, a more specific philosophy of worship can be defined. At times worship practices need clarification and renewal to avoid ceremonialism and distortion. Our philosophy of worship should include the following:
- Worship is not designed to provide entertainment to a passive group of spectators. It is the activity of the people.
- Worship has structure, flow and intentionality. It is not simply an unorganized compilation of unrelated elements.
- Worship is rooted in and includes the means of grace, God’s Word and Sacraments. God speaks to us in the Word read and proclaimed. He is present with us in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This is a proper meaning of the worship “service”. We praise and worship, while God renders His “service” to us through Word and Sacrament.
- Worship includes the response of God’s people. The people are active participants in worship. We may confess our sin and receive forgiveness. We praise God with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. We pray to the Lord for ourselves and others according to their needs. We have the chance to rededicate ourselves to the Lord’s service.
- Worship in our Lutheran congregations is confessional in nature. We confess and affirm our Christian faith by using the creeds of the church. Worship styles reflect our confessional position as members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Hymns and songs are consistent with our confessional beliefs, as the maxim says, “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” (the rule of prayer is the rule of faith.) In other words, what happens in worship helps to shape the faith of those who worship. Therefore, the content of worship is important.
Our worship grows from the relationship we have from God and reinforces that relationship, established through Jesus Christ our Lord. In worship the Lord calls and sustains us; we respond in faith – with prayer and praise and service to Him. These are the basic patterns of Christian worship in any age and so they must remain.
Come Let us Worship Him. (Psalm 34:3)