DON’T UNDERSTAND THE WORSHIP SERVICE? If it is your first time, some things may seem foreign. Worship does not come naturally; we have to learn it. It does not come on the first try; the first hour in a foreign country, the language and customs may be foreign. The liturgy is the special activity of the baptized people of God. It has its own special language like we do in our workplaces. It has its own customs like we do in our families. Every Sunday we learn more of worship and faith. The liturgy is where God reveals Himself to us and gives us His gifts. Here we learn who He is and how to respond to Him. The words of worship come from the Scripture and its form has been used for 2,000 years. So don’t worry if it all seems strange. You learn by practicing – being here every week!
It acknowledges the fact that the liturgy does not come naturally to us (even worship has become entirely foreign since the Fall). We must be taught, tutored by the Word and by the tradition of the Church which is rooted and testifies to that Word. It is a habit. Regular worship and faithful worship is a habit -- every bit as healthful and good as brushing your teeth! Even more so, because in the Word and Sacrament that are at the core and center of all we gather for in worship, forgiveness, life and salvation are promised and delivered to us.
Pastor Jared Melius of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, Denver, CO wrote the following on the stages of coming into the Lutheran Liturgy. They, too, are helpful as we remember that this is a learned habit and that we move from stage to stage by frequent participation in the worship life of the Church within the Divine Service. I pass on his words here:
- Confusion – where am I? what page? am I supposed to be standing or sitting?
- Boredom – This is the most dangerous phase. At this phase, people begin to conclude that because the liturgy is repetitive, that it is therefore non-spiritual. This conclusion is hardly ever thought out as such. It is just a matter of impressions and feelings. This “feels” dry, dull, non-spiritual. And therefore, it must be from man and not from God.
- Love of the liturgy itself – If phase 2 didn’t drive people away from the liturgy, it is usually and ironically replaced by the love of the liturgy for the liturgy’s sake. Here people begin to love the “feeling,” the “reverence,” and the connection to history. They have a sense that this is old and therefore good. People in the depths of this phase can spend hours researching whether the Creed should come before the sermon or after, trying to find out which practice is more “ancient.” Truthfully, many pastors get stuck in this phase and endorse liturgical worship because it is older, more reverent, etc. Some of them leave for the Eastern church or the Roman church because they think they can get it more pure there.
- Love of the content – The liturgy is a conduit for Word of God and the means of grace. There isn’t, in my opinion, a better such conduit on the market. If there were, I myself would adopt it. In this phase, one uses the liturgy for the sake of the Gospel itself, not for the sake of the liturgy itself.