The Lutheran Way of Worship

As we enter our place of worship, the experience from beginning to end offers many blessings.

“Where do they all come from?” I wonder as I observe our congregation’s parking lot. People in varied styles of dress from all walks and stages in life come to worship at the Lord’s place of worship. No one forces them to come. God’s grace has sought them out. There they are, invited and compelled by love from God through Christ. I imagine each soul wishing to be forgiven, nourished, and refreshed for life. I believe they have hearts wanting to be engaged and challenged to greater things. Here they come to connect with their Savior and with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Probably each has personal expectations for worship, but they come anticipating that God will communicate with them.

We move toward worship
I watch them walk from the parking lot. I hope someone will be at the door to greet them. The welcome area is a place for gracious greetings, where the hospitality of Christianity at its finest is often on display. That entry space is a connecting place for friends, guests, and strangers. In that place we need to look around, see who is left alone, and connect with those in need of concern or encouragement. I look for guests who require help in finding where to go for worship, Bible study, or Sunday school. The buzz before weekly worship is about many things. Young people smile at seeing their friends. Christian fellowship is alive and well from the parking lot into the welcome area.

The time comes to enter the place of sacred worship. Some sit in prayer and contemplation. Others listen to the preservice music. Still others read a psalm or another Scripture verse. A few think of a loved one who recently died. A mother and father pace with excitement as they await their child’s baptism. A few read the service folder and check on the time for meetings or activities. Perhaps there’s a note explaining the reason for the flowers—in memory of someone or as a celebration of some event. As worship time comes closer, mothers try to hush their children.

Then the pastor greets and welcomes those who have come. People transfer thoughts from their busy week to this focused time for God. They implore the Spirit’s presence and sing of the wonderful works of God. We all come before God as beggars at the throne of grace, confessing known and unknown sins, pleading for mercy. We find reason to rejoice when we hear the pastor’s proclamation of God’s forgiveness in Christ and respond with an assenting amen, the Gloria, or another hymn of praise. How uplifting to receive God’s forgiveness together in worship!

God touches us in worship, and we speak to him

As we enter our place of worship, the experience from beginning to end offers many blessings.

God speaks to each of us in the lessons, in the Gospel reading, and in the sermon. This is why we all come. God’s Word bears upon our hearts. The ancient and timeless message of the gospel of the Lord is God’s power, forgiving and transforming lives and putting them on a new foundation in Jesus Christ. Together we exclaim, “Praise be to you, O Christ!” Connected with Christians ever since the Council of Nicea more than 1,600 years ago, we confess, “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” How meaningful is worship!

But there is more. On this Communion Sunday, God unites us to himself in the Sacrament, forgiving, sustaining, and strengthening us for our Christian calling and lives of service for him and for the dignity of other human beings. In fellowship with one another and with our Savior, we partake of this heavenly food. Who would want to miss this gift of fullness of life in Christ, this foretaste of heavenly bliss? If we cut ourselves off from fellowship with God, we also cut ourselves off from the encouragement of God’s people. Worship has individual and group aspects to it. Here we are not alone. Together we meet as God’s people and take note of those who join us to sing, pray, hear, and receive God’s blessings.

In worship we pray for the nations—the people and their leaders—that there may be peace and free course for gospel proclamation. We pray for troubled and hurting souls everywhere. We give thanks for all blessings received from our God. Togetherness in worship produces expanded opportunities for the prayer life of individuals.

Our worship is encouragement
In worship God connects with us, and we connect with him and one another. Compelled by his love in Christ we “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). We gather to “encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25). Personal encouragement is what God gives in worship. Encouragement is what we extend in our conversations after worship, in the work of our congregation’s task forces, and in all our efforts to proclaim Jesus to more people. Encouragement is recognizing people’s gifts and urging their use. Encouragement is the look and hug of concern for others with health or relational difficulties. Encouragement is talking to the young children and teen members of the congregation. Encouragement results in acts of togetherness in the Lord.

As we enter our place of worship, the experience from beginning to end offers many blessings.

Just listen to what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. After commenting clearly on the resurrection of Christians on the Last Day, Paul wrote, “And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” My pastor gave worshipers ten seconds to look around and say to as many people as possible, “You will be with the Lord forever.” The entire nave was abuzz with those words spoken with conviction and joy.

We go out with his blessings
As worship ends, we thank God for coming to us in Word and sacraments. In song we encourage one another to “tell everyone what he has done” (Christian Worship, p. 36). Such is our privilege and God’s expectation of us. This is something we need to hear and do.

At the end of our worship, we listen in silence as the pastor pronounces God’s blessing. This is aimed at us. Where else in a fractured and wayward world of disconnected people can we go to receive something like this, a blessing from God on high? Our lives are not just dull, weekly routines. God has called us to this area of the world and to see it in a new light. The week ahead may not be easy. But in worship God has grounded us on the foundation of Jesus. Now he scatters us into the world of people he loves. We go with his blessing, his favor, his strength, his peace. Armed with peace and the potent gospel, we are Christ’s light and salt, ready to face the world as his enlightened, salt-bearing, and adventurous people. Together with others we need to hear that in worship.