May 11, 2017 - Did You Enjoy Today's Worship?
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How was worship?
Did you enjoy today’s worship?

How often have we heard or used this word “worship”? What do you mean with this word? What exactly is its meaning? If asked most Christians would likely respond that worship is primarily about what we do.

In his book, “The Purpose-Driven Life,” Rick Warren explains what he believes worship is about: “Worship is not for your benefit . . . . We worship for God’s benefit. When we worship, our goal is to bring pleasure to God, not ourselves. If you have ever said, ‘I didn’t get anything out of worship today,’ you worshiped for the wrong reason. Worship isn’t for you. It’s for God. . . . Our motive is to bring glory and pleasure to our Creator . . . . God’s heart is not touched by tradition in worship, but by passion and commitment.” [p.66].
However, is that what we find in Scripture? For what purpose did God call the Israelites before Him in the tabernacle, then the temple? He did it so that He might serve them by forgiving their sins [Lev. 9:7ff].
What was true in the Old Testament holds true in the New. The Son of God became man to take all sin upon Himself and thereby earn forgiveness for the entire world [I Jn 2].
Contrary to Warren, God does not need our service. It is God who first served humanity by creating us in His own image [Gen. 1:26]. After man’s fall into sin He announced that He would serve all mankind by sending a Savior to redeem us [Gen. 3:15]. Jesus Himself declared as much when He said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” [Matt. 20:28]
Speaking of worship as something we do turns worship on its head. The Triune God who called all things into existence calls us before Him that we may receive His good gifts. Does that mean we play no part in worship? Definitely not! God’s people are most certainly active in worship. Yet, our activity is not the focus or heart of worship but the response of being gathered in God’s presence to receive His forgiving of our sins. As David wrote, “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin … O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise” [Ps. 51:1-2, 15].
Worship is God speaking. It is our listening. Worship begins with God’s Word. He is the content. Biblical worship begins with God putting His name upon us and giving us His Word. It comes to us and we respond in faith and devotion. It is God’s action, not ours. He is the Mover, the Doer. Faith comes as the gift from God, not from our own doing or action. Such an understanding of worship is quite different from the dictionary definition of the word. It is for that reason that the Evangelical Lutheran Church has shown a preference for the word “service.” The chief gathering of Christians on a Sunday morning is called the Divine Service. In the Divine Service, God serves us. He gives us His Word and Sacraments. Only after we have received the Word and the gifts that He offers do we respond with our sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. The Divine Service (liturgy) is God giving to us and our response back to Him. It is Theocentric (God-centered) and Christocentric (Christ-centered), not the man centered activity usually defined and practiced as worship. [Lutheran Worship - History and Practice, Concordia Publishing House, p.45]
The significance of all this is that true, Biblical worship is at its heart Gospel. It is about Christ for us! To make it about our actions, our passion, our sincerity, or our commitment turns it into law. And if that is the case, then it is God’s judgment of our sins rather than forgiveness that we receive on Sunday morning [Rom. 3:20]. That so many Lutheran pastors and their congregations are following in the footsteps of The Second Great Awakening and Revivalism – which is the impetus for much of Evangelical worship – is more than a little distressing.
In response to the salvation accomplished for you in Christ’s life, death and resurrection, may you cry with David , “O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells” [Ps. 26:8].
To read more of what the ACELC has written on this subject, please refer to ACELC Error Document III, The Divine Service and Liturgical Offices. This document gives further details about what Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions have to say about worship. It documents when the LCMS officially recognized that some LCMS congregations turned away from the orders of service in our hymnals and the historic pattern of worship. The LCMS response, or lack thereof, is also documented. The ACELC’s 2013 free conference entitled “Christ for Us: Divine Service” also dealt with this subject and if you would like to see the presentations from that Conference you may find them here. The presentations for this conference are at . You may also wish to view/review the “ACELC Seven Theses on Worship.”
Pastor Rick Pettey, Zion Lutheran Church, Gravelton, MO
Trinity Lutheran Church, Fredericktown, MO
(573) 783-2405 –

Register Now for the upcoming ACELC Free Conference "Christ For Us: The Order of Creation" which will be held on August 29-30, 2017, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lincoln Nebraska; the business meeting will be on August 31.

If you are on board with what we are doing as the ACELC we encourage you to join as a Congregational Member, or if your congregation is not yet ready for that step you may join as an Associate Member.
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