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Understanding the Essence of Worship

Worship is initiated by the Triune God. God gives and we receive. This understanding of Christian worship is encapsulated in the Divine Service. God gives us his Son and we receive his love and life (John 3:16). God gives us his holy name and we receive a heavenly inheritance (Titus 3:5-8). God gives us his word and we receive the sure and certain promise of the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 24:45-47). God gives us Christ's body and blood and we receive communion with the Holy Trinity (I Corinthians11:23-29). Receiving what God gives is the highest form of worship. "Faith is that worship which receives the benefits that God offers . . . God wants to be honoured by faith so that we receive from him those things that he promises and offers" (Apology of the Augsburg Confession IV, 49).

God gathers us together in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the name into which we were baptized. He gathers us to receive his gifts. His gifts to us are himself, his name, his flesh and blood Son, his word of pardon and peace, his life, his grace and Spirit. In the Divine Service he distributes these gifts to us. There we receive the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation Christ won for us on the cross. God calls and gathers us into his holy Christian church where we have communion with him and all his saints in heaven and on earth. Heaven and earth intersect in the Divine Service.

God serves us and only then may we serve God. God serves us in the sacrificial offering of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross. God serves us by speaking to us in his Word when we hear it read in the Scripture lessons, preached in the sermon, spoken in the absolution, and sung in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. God serves us in the visible Word of the body and blood of Jesus Christ and we are made partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

Faith receives and acknowledges the gifts God gives. It does so by repeating back to him what he has said to us. Faith confesses, says the same thing as God says. In his Law God calls us sinners. We acknowledge this by confessing our sin. In the Gospel God calls us his forgiven children. We acknowledge this by confessing the faith using the vast treasure of the artistic expression of God's people of all ages and in all places. In worship our use of God's gifts of music, art, architecture, drama, and visual arts are modelled after examples in Holy Scripture, incorporated in the context of ordered worship, and serve to glorify God and edify His people. God offers his gifts and faith receives them with praise, prayer, and thanksgiving in a full, conscious, and active participation in worship. Having first been fed and nurtured by the Word and sacraments, we are able to serve God and others through our various vocations.

LINKS:

The Lutheran Church of Australia's approach to the Theology of Worship:

Essay on Lutheran Worship by Dr. A. L. Barry, president of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (1998):

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