Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 2011: How Lutherans Worship, Part 1

"He is Risen!" Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Amen!

For centuries the church has greeted one another with the words celebrating the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ. This is not the only thing which has been passed down the centuries. Our worship is also a legacy, a gift, from our brothers and sisters who have gone before us.

The Lutheran church has done much to preserve that connection. There are two important characteristics of Lutheran worship. First, it is biblical. It is centered around the Word of God. Second, it is Christo-centric. The service points us consistently to the saving work and resurrection presence of Jesus Christ. In it God speaks and gives to us; we respond with thanks and praise.

(Parts of this article come from Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbus, Ohio. Their website is located at: www.oldtrinity.com)

The Preparation
In most churches, an organ prelude begins the worship. This is not just to establish a "mood," but is itself an offering--a creation of artistic talent for God's glory. The music is often related to the liturgical theme of the day or season, such as a chorale prelude on one of the hymns to be sung. During this time, worshipers may listen, often personal prayers in silence, or meditate on appropriate literature, including the psalms and lessons for the day.

We remember our Baptism by invoking the Name of the Triune God. (It is appropriate to make the sign of the cross which was first given us in the baptismal rite.)

Confession and Absolution
We wish to enter God's Holy Place with "clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24). In response to a scriptural invitation, we confess our sin and ask for forgiveness. The pastor reminds us of God's love and mercy and declares us forgiven in the name of God, who made us His at our baptism.

The Entrance Rite
We begin the Service Proper with a Hymn.

In the Kyrie (pronounced KEER-ee-ay), we greet our Lord as people of old greeted a king when he came to their city. In a series of petitions, a minister asks for peace and salvation for ourselves and for the world, the people joining in the response "Lord, have mercy" (in Greek, Kyrie eleison).

The Hymn of Praise which follows expresses our joy for the gifts which our Lord brings. "Glory to God in the highest" is an ancient song which begins with the angels' Christmas carol (Luke 2:14) and swells into a profound adoration of the Holy Trinity. An alternative is "This is the feast", a modern song based on phrases from the book of Revelation.

I will continue our exploration of Lutheran worship in the Pastor's Pages for the next two months. Next month, in "How Lutherans Worship, Part 2" we'll hear about "The Service of the Word", the part of the service in which we hear the Scripture verses read and interpreted in the sermon. Part 3 will cover the third part of our service, "The Service of the Lord's Supper", where we receive God's grace in the sacraments.