Celebrating the Reformation
Why do we do the things we do?
by Sonja G
The last couple of weeks we’ve been looking as some things related to the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation . . . what that means for us . . . and what it looks like to Live Lutheran. That brings us to why we do what we do. If you’ve ever wondered why you like the way we worship – what it is that helps you appreciate it . . you know, what it is that makes you thankful that we have three or four scripture readings, that we always say a Creed, that we always take the offering, that we say certain words each time we have Communion . . . that you appreciate it, but maybe don’t fully know why. . . if you’ve wondered what makes our worship experience distinctly Lutheran. . . then you’ve come to the right place today.
In 2005, Steve Ullestad, Bishop of the Northeast Iowa Synod, penned an article titled “What’s with all this liturgy?’ It is from this piece, that I share the following.
The work of the people, the liturgy, is designed to focus the attention of the worshipper on the Word of God in all its forms. It involves and invests worshippers in the Word. It intentionally directs those in attendance away from the person and personality of the pastor, and focuses the people on the saving presence of God in Christ.
It happens in simple ways: Pastors wear clergy shirts and collars so as not to draw attention to themselves. Worshippers are not entertained by the pastor’s new dress, jewelry, or SpongeBob tie. Worship leaders wear an alb – a robe – to remind each worshiper that we are all washed clean in the waters of baptism. The stole – that long thing around the pastor’s neck – symbolizes the pastor’s presence on behalf of the Church and connects us with the rhythms of life and faith through the colors of the Church year. The Word is proclaimed from a pulpit to remind both pastor and worshippers that the words are to proclaim God’s Word, not the pastor’s issues. Laypeople provide leadership for significant portions of the service reminding us all that worship is part of the whole community of faith – not just the work of the pastor. Hymns are sung and anthems offered as ways of involving the people and glorifying God.
There are two high points to the service: the reading and proclamation of the Word and the Word that comes to us in the sacrament of Holy Communion. The flow of the service prepares for that Word, then allows us to respond. We give thanks for the Word proclaimed by confessing our faith, offering prayers for the church and the world, and providing gifts for the sake of the church’s mission. The service continues with preparation to receive the body and blood of Christ, tasting the Word in the bread and wine and hearing that Christ’s death and resurrection are for you. Our response is to go into the world as witnesses and servants of the grace that we have experienced.
Full use of the liturgy directs us to a reliance of the Word of God in its fullness. It pulls us away from the distractions of personality, performance, and entertainment. The liturgy allows all to participate, all of equal value and importance to the experience of praise and thanksgiving. No one person is the center of attention. No one but Christ. This is the gift of a liturgical church such as ours. It is the gift we need to cherish and hold dear. Even as changes come and go, our focus on the import of the liturgy is something that will center our worship experience and keep us tied to who we are as part of the Lutheran Church.
With all that in mind, next week, we’ll take a look at how we get to go out as witnesses for the Gospel. After all, we’re gathered to grow . .