How Lutherans Worship
Something very special occurs when two of more Christians gather together in Jesus’ name. Somehow, the resurrected Jesus promises to be present with his people in a unique and intimate way. In this public gathering of God’s people, usually on Sundays, as a remembrance of the first Easter morning, we meet Christ and receive his gifts of forgiveness, hope and life. We meet with others who need God’s gracious help. That’s why worship is central to living as a Christian. Without God’s grace and constant presence, Christians can’t even begin to love one another and serve the world in need. As we respond to the Third Commandment, ‘Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy', we honour and love God by gladly hearing his word of life in this unique gathering in Jesus’ very presence.
God, the centre of worship
Lutherans believe that worship isn’t so much about what we do, but about what God does for us. We simply respond in prayer and praise to the God who comes down to our level. The focus in Lutheran worship is not on how we feel but on how God comes to us. We believe that worship is a treasure because it is as close as we get to heaven on earth, because God is there, forgiving, speaking, listening and feeding us - getting us ready to worship him in the world with the gift of our lives.
The Lutheran worship service
So the public gathering of God’s people in Christ’s presence around his word and his special gifts of baptism, absolution (forgiveness of sin) and holy communion, is all about God serving us. Lutheran worship has a distinctive shape which speaks of the God who is with us at our human level serving us. God comes to us in a way that we can hear, see and taste. In his amazing grace, God initiates worship. He gathers us, forgives us, speaks to us, listens to us and sends us out renewed.
God speaks to us as we hear his word of forgiveness, He speaks to us through the reading of the Scriptures. Each week Lutherans hear from various parts of the Bible. They also hear a sermon based on the word of God. God also listens as we pray for the ‘church, the world and each other’. God feeds his gathered people through a holy meal of bread and wine, the body and blood of his Son, Jesus. God leaves his presence with his people by blessing them and sending them on their way to be ‘lights for the world’.
The framework of worship Lutherans use is shared by Christian churches down through the ages. It dates back to the earliest Christians. Lutherans share this heritage of worship with other Christians as a symbol of unity with them through baptism. This form of worship (liturgy) is mostly spoken or sung parts of the Bible which centre people on Jesus, God’s Son, who is the source of our life together.
Lutherans have a rich heritage of singing together as a way of praising God and encouraging one another. They treasure what Christians have sung for many years, as well as new hymns and songs that point to the God who is still working to bring peace to his creation and restore sinners to forgiveness and life. Through music and song we proclaim God’s word and his good deeds with our own lips. Lutherans use a wide variety of musical instruments to praise God, from pipe organs to drums, from electric guitars to violins.
The language of worship
Traditional Lutheran worship has been passed down through the centuries. Lutherans use many special worship words in worship. Many are from ancient church and biblical languages that have been passed down from one generation to the next. In many local congregations there is an effort to modernise these ancient words. Lutherans are always involved in re-translating and re-telling the language of the Church’s worship so that the language used in worship is more accessible to a wide variety of people.