At the heart of Lutheran worship sits God’s action, His giving to us. Worship does not revolve around our work, but His. We do not, therefore, focus on “having to go to church” as a task to check off a divine to-do list to make God happy. Rather, God commands us to gather, and we receive from God what we need most: eternal healing and restoration. Our “duty” is to rest and receive from Him.
First-time visitors may find our services a bit awkward or uncomfortable. This is to be expected. First, keep working on it; push through it until you become a bit more comfortable.
The discomfort also stems from a theological reality: The Divine Service brings sinners into the presence of the holy God. Apart from His grace and mercy — which He delivers in this very service — we would be eternally lost.
In this issue of The Lutheran Witness, we will help you understand and receive the eternal treasures of the Divine Service.
Please note a couple of things. First, not every congregation practices the service in exactly the same way as every other. While we continue to use together “ceremonies and other practices that are profitable for tranquility and good order in the Church” (AC XV 1), this does not mean every tradition in every congregation is exactly the same. That’s OK.
Second, for this issue, we’re following Divine Service Setting 3 from Lutheran Service Book (LSB). What we say about this service will in large part also apply to the other four settings in the hymnal. Familiarity with one will result in familiarity with the rest.
Finally, we suggest reading this issue with your Bible and LSB next to you. The two go hand-in-hand. The service is the Word of God, even if the text is arranged differently or uniquely set to music. LSB hints at this with Bible references in the margin.
This issue was written with a first-time church attendee in mind. But that does not mean you should just hand this magazine to the visitor when he walks in and call it good. Rather, consider his visit an opportunity to practice hospitality. Sit with your visitor in the pew and lead him through the service. Afterward, you can hand him a copy of this issue of The Lutheran Witness.
Even if you are a lifelong Lutheran, we are convinced that you will still learn from this issue. A huge “thank you” goes to Director of LCMS Worship Rev. Sean Daenzer for his assistance in making this issue a reality.
Roy S. Askins
Managing Editor, The Lutheran Witness