Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Explanation of Divine Service

"Dear Visitors,
Welcome to First Lutheran Church, Tooele Utah! It brings us great joy to have you worshiping with us this Sunday morning, as we celebrate Christ's victorious resurrection on the third day, Sunday. We would like to share with you a little bit about us and the service you are about to experience.
We worship using the historical liturgy of the Christian Church called the Divine Service. This liturgy predates even the church of the New Testament, finding its source in the ancient worship forms of God's people in the Jewish synagogue and temple. Though possibly foreign to us, it is the way Jesus worshiped growing up in Nazareth, and the way the Apostle Paul worshiped when he visited the synagogues of the Diaspora, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of salvation for all people. Indeed, this liturgy is foreign to all the earth, because it is grounded not in any human culture, but in God's eternal word, and the heavenly worship of angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. So it is that the church, from its earliest days, adopted the Divine Service of the synagogue, and temple, and modified it in respect to the revelation and resurrection of Christ.
The church calls it the Divine Service because God serves us through it, and we in turn serve Him. For just as "The Son of Man (Jesus) came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45 (ESV) So He continues to come and serve us through His word and sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Here He serves us with the gifts He won for us on the cross, the gifts of life and salvation found in the forgiveness of sins. And we in turn serve Him in the example of the Apostle Peter's mother in law: "He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve Him." (Matthew 8:15 (ESV) For only after Christ forgives us, heals us, and restores us to life, are we made ready to serve Him in praise, thanksgiving and the works He has prepared for us. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephes. 2:10 (ESV)
It is our pleasure to have you worshiping, and sharing God's many blessings and comforts this morning. We invite you to stay for coffee and fellowship after the service. Please sign our guest book, and if you would like a visit from the pastor, leave a phone number where you can be reached. Thank you for joining us today."

I publish this at the front of my bulletins every Sunday. I know some read it. I think it does help set the stage for visitors who are not familiar with our worship practices, and helps them feel a bit more comfortable. Perhaps it also helps the visitor process what has happened when he returns home. I find that it takes the wind out of the sails of those who might be offended by the liturgical service. Evangelicals are always asking "what would Jesus do?" Here they find out he probably wouldn't be worshiping with a rock band. It isn't a legalistic argument saying Jesus worshiped in this way, therefore he have to. But it is more along the lines Jesus worshiped this way, and if it was good enough for him, it is good enough for me. It also more or less shows that he has given his seal of approval to this form of worship. But that would be a more legalistic argument, which isn't to say it isn't a valid argument.


Jonathan said...

Can the divine service not be conducted with a rock band? I'm guessing Jesus probably didn't have a pipe organ at temple. Don't get me wrong, I love the liturgy; I get why we do it and I identify with it because it paints the right picture. (Give me page 15 of the old red hymnal any day.) But, I don't get hung up on how rigidly the component parts have adhere to our liturgical traditions, as in, you got to say it just this way or do it only this way. To me, that starts to sound rather fundi in a way. As long as you're following the ancient format and painting that picture, etc., does it matter whether you're led by a praise band into a rockin' modern hymn of praise after the confession/absolution, for example, or does it have to come out of the hymnal setting?

Bror Erickson said...

I do believe it does matter. I wouldn't say that you NEED to have an organ. (Though I tend to believe it is the best instrument there is for accomplishing what I am about to say.) The music of the Divine Service, should not remind you of the world. It should be of a reverent character that fosters worship across all generations. Worship should be appropriate for the two year old, and the 90 year old, and everyone in between. It shouldn't be catering to the likes and dislikes of anyone.
I like rock music. But I do not think it is appropriate for worship. The church has really developed its own musical style over the years. IT has changed, been modified etc. But it is its own. If you want a rock concert go to a rock concert. Same with Jazz and so on. I think this is the difference though with Lutherans. We don't need to be entertained at church, because we feel free to be entertained elsewhere. I think in many Fundy churches. Sunday is the only legitimate entertainment, so the pastor feels much more pressure to entertain. Sunday isn't about that, neither should the impression be given that it is. Sunday is about being fed the word of God, and being in his gracious presence. It should have a decorum fitting of his Holy throne room.

Brigitte said...

I think it is a good idea to print it out like this. Even if one does not agree, one knows where someone is coming from and that may easily take wind out of unnecessary complaints and lead to untold benefits. Printing also makes unnecessary the saying it over and over again, which I find distracting from what I'm there for. It's good to know what everything is for in the liturgy, but constant explaining somehow robs of the essence.

What about this adiophra business, though. In the Confessions, p. 464, we have this introduction to the Formula of Concord: "... From the very early days of the Reformation Luther and his colleagues developed precise orders of worship, keeping as much of the historic liturgy as they could without compromsing the Gospel. Here in America, confessional Lutheran leaders such as C.F. W. Walther taught that because the Luteran Church is always surrounded by Reformed theology and practice, it is always in a state of confession. Therefore, Lutherans should rejoice to use the historic liturgy, art, crucifixes, vestments and all that is part of our Lutheran heritage, not allowing it to be viewed as wrong or as an impediment to the Gospel..." etc.

There is the context of the Interims which I understand. But how that exactly translates into the American context I don't get so well.

I think Luther would have insisted that whenever you are forced to adopt one stand or another on such matters as vestments, he will do the opposite to demonstrate his evangelical freedom.

Entertained or not entertained, Sunday is the only time many people ever sing anything, everything else these days is broadcast or produced. And signing is good for many things. We need only again to listen to Luther on the subject of music, or else king David, who all were quite encouraging of "new songs".

I just cannot get pedantic about style in music, though I'm as indebted as can be to the tradition there. Gary on my blog, fellow organist, would kill me.

I think the attitude that needs to be fostered is that all parties agree try to appreciate what the others see/ hear and, yes, not "force" anyone.

I have not really met anyone adamant that the history liturgy should go. Even where it has gone, people say: what happened, where is it? With music, the stipulation is that it should be executed in good form. Aunt Emma's super-slow organ playing is just as bad the overly noisy band.

Frank Sonnek said...

wow bror. I had never thought that our Lord worshiped liturgically. great stuff. I will feel free to plagarize!