What is Worship?
Rev. David Schmidt
March 1, 2021
Two Sundays ago, our congregation made the decision to remodel our sanctuary. This decision speaks to the fact that the people at Faith care about the space in which we worship. Since worship is such an important part of our life together as brothers and sisters in Christ, I thought I would use the Pastor’s Portal as an opportunity to address the importance of worship and answer any questions you may have on the topic of worship. Feel free to send me questions that I can address here.
I want to start with the basic question; What is worship? Most people would probably describe worship as what we are doing as God’s people. We gather for worship and we sing praises to God. We pray to him. We show him how much we love him. And we hope that our worship is pleasing to him. That is how worship is often understood. In fact, the dictionary definition of worship is “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.” To put it another way, worship is what we are doing for God. That is the common understanding of worship.
But that is not worship as we understand it in the Lutheran church. In fact, even though we commonly call it “worship” that really isn’t what it’s called in our hymnal. It is actually called “the Divine Service.” This is because we recognize, as Lutherans, that worship is not about what we are doing for God, but rather what God is doing for us. In the service, God comes to us, to serve us with his gifts.
In the absolution, God forgives us when I, as the pastor, pronounce the absolution. Christ also comes to us in his word as it is read and as the gospel is proclaimed in the sermon. Then Christ himself hosts the meal of his body and his blood and there again he offers us forgiveness.
It is this understanding of worship that impacts how we Lutherans design our churches. When you look up front at the area called the chancel, how the furniture is arranged tells us what is important in the Divine Service. The baptismal font is front and center to remind us that we are only able to gather as God’s people because he has called us through our baptism. Then we see the pulpit where the Word of God is proclaimed in Law and Gospel. Then we see the alter where the Lord’s supper is celebrated.
This is the rhythm of worship. God comes to us in what we call the Means of Grace, where he delivers his grace to us in Word and Sacrament. Then, in response to what he gives us, we sing hymns and praise songs and offer up our prayers of thanksgiving.
I hope this helps you to understand what happens as we gather as the church in the worship service. Next time I will address one of the greatest gifts we receive in worship, the Lord’s Supper.