Devotional Thought of the Day:
Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly. 2 Let Israel celebrate its Maker; let the children of •Zion rejoice in their King. 3 Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and lyre. 4 For Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the godly celebrate in triumphal glory; let them shout for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:1-5
39 In conclusion, now that we have the right interpretation and doctrine of the sacrament, there is great need also of an admonition and entreaty that so great a treasure, which is daily administered and distributed among Christians, may not be heedlessly passed by. What I mean is that those who claim to be Christians should prepare themselves to receive this blessed sacrament frequently.
Since I started studying for the ministry in 1983, I have usually been taught two things about what happens when the people of God gather together. (You may call this a worship service, a divine service, church, or the mass; but I am talking about the main time a group of people are gathered by God together, where they sing, hear scripture read, a teaching time (called a sermon or homily) and perhaps (more about this later) sharing in our communion with the Lord’s Body and Blood.
Both teachings focused on service. The difference is who is serving whom.
In the first theory, we go to church to serve God. We go out of obedience to the commandment which talks about keeping holy the Sabbath. We go to church because it is our duty, and if we miss doing our duty, God will punish us, either actively, or perhaps by withholding the blessings He would have poured out for us.
The problem is that looking at this “active” view of church reduces it to mere duty, and then we start to ask how much is enough. Can I serve God by going once a month instead of weekly? Can I get by with once a year or one a quarter? How active do I have to be to be a Christian? Why can’t I just be with God at the beach, or in a forest?
The second theory is that we go to church to be served by God. That His servants exist to make sure we receive what we need through explaining God’s word and giving us the sacrament. This breeds a consumer mentalism to church as well, as we go to the church that feeds us the best. We want the purest doctrine, explained in an enjoyable way that drives away our sin and weaknesses and makes us stronger in our faith and the way we approach life.
Both of these ways make sense, and in part, they both are true., in that in a church service, in the mass, we should be serving God and He, most assuredly,, serves us.
But the reason we go to church, the reason we are gathered into the assembly of His people (and those that are becoming His people) is neither.
The reason we are gathered is that it is a celebration, It is a time for us, as the Psalmist says, to sing and dance as we rejoice in the presence of our King, our Lord, our Heavenly Father! It is likewise a chance for God to take pleasure in His people. It is, as one of my professors was known to utter, “the people of God gathered in the presence of God”
It is why our forefathers called it the “Celebration of the mass” understood as the “Gathering/Communion of the saints”. Yet this gathering, this celebration is that not just of the saints, bit the saints gathered around and in fellowship with God. That communion, that fellowship, that time where we and God are together, His people and Him, that is the treasure we find in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (which is why the passage from Luther’s catechism described it being offered daily!)
This church service/mass and Lord’s Supper/Eucharist isn’t a solemn occasion, though certainly, it is one we should treasure and celebrate with all we are. It is God and man, together, living as one, because of Christ. It is a Thanksgiving feast, a celebration of peace with God, and the welcoming of the prodigal home.
It is a time we celebrate with an abundance of Joy, it is one God where God looks out on His people and is pleased. It should be an amazing time, where we realize what God has done, adopting us as His kids, and we adore the one who loves us.
Celebrate this, my friends. and jealously treasure this time with the One who loves us, and draws us together.
Heavenly Father, draw us together with greater and greater frequency, with a hunger to know You, to explore and experience Your love. We pray this all in Jesus name! AMEN!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 451). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 “Believe me,” returned Jesus, “the time is coming when worshipping the Father will not be a matter of ‘on this hill-side’ or ‘in Jerusalem’. Nowadays you are worshipping with your eyes shut. We Jews are worshipping with our eyes open, for the salvation of mankind is to come from our race. Yet the time is coming, yes, and has already come, when true worshippers will worship in spirit and in reality. Indeed, the Father looks for men who will worship him like that. God is spirit, and those who worship him can only worship in spirit and in reality.” John 4:21 (Phillips NT)
17. In seminaries and houses of religious, clerics shall be given a liturgical formation in their spiritual life. For this they will need proper direction, so that they may be able to understand the sacred rites and take part in them wholeheartedly; and they will also need personally to celebrate the sacred mysteries, as well as popular devotions which are imbued with the spirit of the liturgy. In addition they must learn how to observe the liturgical laws, so that life in seminaries and houses of religious may be thoroughly influenced by the spirit of the liturgy.
18. Priests, both secular and religious, who are already working in the Lord’s vineyard are to be helped by every suitable means to understand ever more fully what it is that they are doing when they perform sacred rites; they are to be aided to live the liturgical life and to share it with the faithful entrusted to their care
The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray.
When I was a child, my parents had a prayer meeting in our house, that lots of people attended. It was not unusual for a few priests, a brother, a couple of Baptist pastors and an Assembly of God pastor to be present. It was there I played guitar with Brother Michael, and there I learned to pray.
I also went to parochial school, and there we had masses and other services that were dedicated to God as well. I would often serve as an altar boy and played the organ as well. From those perspectives, I saw more of the mass and fell in love with the sacredness of it, even the parts I didn’t quite understand.
Since then, I’ve played and led praise bands, become a non-denomination pastor, then moved into the Lutheran Church where a form of the historic liturgy is our “style” of worship. And yet the lessons from the prayer meetings and non-denom worship leading play into the planning of worship as well.
As I read Vatican II’s words in green this morning, I saw them trying to unify the two streams of worship I have known. Starting with the pastoral training in seminaries, there must be part of that training that teaches the pastors and priests to worship God with all their heart, to understand and actively take part in the mysterion of God, to realize the Trinity is not just observing the mass, but participating in it.
Liturgy must be “lived” whether it is the historic liturgy or the common liturgy of prayer meetings and evangelical gathering. Those facilitating it must get caught up in it themselves, so that while they are aware of the people’s participation, they first are praising God for all He is, in their life.
It’s not about being the best musician, the best singer, the perfect reader of scripture, the perfect liturgist. ( We can add ushers, altar guild members, sound techs, parishioners) It is about knowing the presence of God in this place, of realizing the blessings He is pouring out, and responding with others, even helping them to do value this time with God.
These words we say, and in the liturgy they are all from scripture, are the words of God, scripture read and sang and breathed. They are the words of life that kept Peter and the apostles bound to Jesus when everyone else ran away. They are the words, as the Apology of the Augsburg Confession states. that touch us. That the Spirit uses to draw us into Christ, to develop in us a dependence on Him, and in that dependence, to pour out all we are upon Him.
This isn’t something I think we teach people to do in a lecture, or even in a sermon. It is something that is modeled and formed in them, and in order for that to happen, it must be modeled and formed in those who lead. Whether this is in a full liturgy, or in a back yard worship time that simply happens among friends.
God is with us, may we realize this, and help those who come to our churches, bible studies and prayer meetings realize it, and when they do, cry confidently, “Lord, have mercy on us”
Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print
Devotional Thought of the Day:
50 Don’t you realize that it is better for you to have one man die for the people, instead of having the whole nation destroyed?” 51 Actually, he did not say this of his own accord; rather, as he was High Priest that year, he was prophesying that Jesus was going to die for the Jewish people, 52 and not only for them, but also to bring together into one body all the scattered people of God. John 11:50-52 (TEV)
906 That cry of the Son of God, lamenting that the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few, is always relevant. How it tears at our heartstrings. That cry came from Christ’s mouth for you to hear too. How have you responded to it up to now? Do you pray at least daily for that intention? (1)
A few weeks ago, as I answered the call to provide the invocation at my city’s Martin Luther King day celebration, I thought of the charge laid against the church in the 80’s, which may be still true today. It noted that Sunday morning was the most segregated time in a church’s week. With few exceptions, (my Concordia is close to being one ) churches in our country are primarily ethnocentric. It is true, unfortunately, that churches, even the most missional ones, are this way. My own denomination’s national magazine recently had our president lamenting that a district hadn’t planted a church in a predominantly Anglo community in fifteen years.
While this may be an issue of passivity and comfort, there is something that is even more staggering. A move to isolate the church on Sunday from the world. A pendulum swing reaction from the Seeker-sensitivity of the 80’s and 90’s, that is claiming that Sunday Morning worship services are for believers only. That we have to return deliberately to encoding everything in practices and languages that a unbeliever would not be able to comprehend. This is what is faithful, we are told, to use words like salutary, or beseech, to strive for an ethereal and beautiful service, but one that our own people struggle to value.
Let me be clear, I am in no way advocating the abandonment of the liturgy. if anything, I think word and sacrament order should be made more available.
But I am saying we need to hear the Father’s desire that all come to the transformation of repentance. We do need to pray for the work, even the work on Sunday morning! We all need to realize that the harvest doesn’t pause for a station break on Sunday morning as we, the holy people’ recharge. Evangelism happens as well as a couple chooses to move from their comfortable place, to sit with those visitors and make them comfortable, and explain the service movements. Harvest work should be seen throughout every aspect of the service. Our spiritual homes must be places of hospitality to all. That has always been true, even at Solomon’s temple, and at the tabernacle.
The idea that Sunday is only about those who are members of the church is as ludicrous as those who say it should only be about seekers. Both ignore the fact that Christ would die for those who are already in covenant with God, as much as He died to bring the nations into that covenant. For all to know that He is God, and we are His people.
Worship wars, liturgy wars, wars about what is beneficial or not cease, as do the flurry of articles bashing contemporary worship liturgy, as well as that bashing traditionalism, have no place. They do stop when we focus on God’s desire to call all His people, to gather them together as one. (this includes those that don’t know… yet!) As we pray that, God would send more workers into the harvest fields, so these battles diminish. I pray we realize that the harvest is great, not just in Turkey and Ghana, but also in our own sanctuaries.
May our worship teach anyone there what they need to know about Christ – His presence, His mercy, his faithful love…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3202-3204). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(1(
Discussion & Devotional Thought of the Day:
12 I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:12 (NLT)
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. 28 “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:25-28 (NLT)
9 Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10 There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11 And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Romans 12:1 (NLT)
43 We should offer the Lord the sacrifice of Abel. A sacrifice of young unblemished flesh, the best of the flock; of healthy and holy flesh; a sacrifice of hearts that have one love alone—you, my God. A sacrifice of minds, which have been shaped through deep study and will surrender to your Wisdom; of childlike souls who will think only of pleasing you. Lord, receive even now this sweet and fragrant sacrifice.
For forty to fifty years there has been a war raging in the church, transcending denominations, dividing churches, causing much pain, and without the sorrow which should be accompanied by such division. It is known as “Worship Wars.”
It is often said to be about whether a church will use classic hymns, or contemporary praise music. It is also defined as whether you use us a traditional liturgy, or a simper (yet often more complex) order of service. There is also the arguments over whether a worship service should be planned primarily for the believer, or for the seeker.
The final point of division is thought to be profound:
Is a worship service about man praising God, and the movement from earth to heaven? Or is a worship service about God delivering gifts to men?
And the arguments go on, dividing the church. People will actually be so defensive, so demanding, that they are willing to break apart what Christ died to bring together.
And both sides are missing the point.
Worship Services aren’t primarily about God being served, or primarily about man being served. As one of my professors used to describe the liturgy,
“Worship and Liturgy is about the people of God being in the presence of God” it is not all about God, and it is not all about man. It is about the communion of God and Man. It is about fellowship. We are His people, He is our God, and He gathers us together to celebrate this reconciliation, this amazing miracle.
It is incarnational, as we find ourselves in the presence of a God who invaded the world 2000 years ago, and still invades and takes up residence in the lives of His people today.
That is what the worship service, the mass, the gathering, the church service is about. Nothing less than a feast that gives us a glimpse of the feast to come. To recognize the truth that God is in our midst together, at work in our lives, giving us the power and desire to to do His will, to accomplish what pleases Him.
To only focus on God serving man leaves the people without a voice to praise Him, it becomes a one way monologue, where everyone becomes passive. You see this when people can’t sing, where they are limited in serving, where the sermon and sacraments take on a uni-directional focus. The same passivity is seen if the service focuses only on man serving God, as we start to assume He is silent, that we have to strive to make ourselves acceptable to Him. This is seen where the sermon becomes a self help session, the worship is led, rather than facilitated.
it’s about God and man, together, as God has always desired, as He has always revealed to His people as His plan.
Receive His love with joy, offer Him your life to use, and go into the world knowing His presence, and His desire to see prodigals come home, and join in the celebration that they do.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 387-391). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.