Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you! I hope this newsletter finds you well!
Here we are in the Pentecost Season, where we will be spending the next 20-ish Sundays working our way through the Gospel of Matthew and looking at some of the great parables, miracles and teachings of Jesus.
You may have noticed our worship liturgy changed slightly when the Pentecost Season began as well. That is by design. Let me tell you what I mean. The bible tells us in Hebrews 4:12 “for the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit.” In our Sunday liturgy, 99% of the words we use in our Sunday liturgy comes from the words of the bible itself. This would then make liturgy itself living and active as well. For example, when I announce during the confession, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” is right from 1 John 1:8-9. When I announce forgiveness, this is from John 20:23, where Jesus told his disciples, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” When I say, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all,” is directly from 2 Corinthians 13:14. On and on this goes all through our liturgy, all of it coming from the word of God itself.
If the word of God is living and active as Hebrews 4:12 tells us, then it stands to reason that our liturgy, if it all comes from the word of God, would be the same. It is also written in Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Indeed, God’s word sustains us on this journey of faith we call life, and the liturgy helps to do just that. This is a reason we can find joy and meaning in our liturgical worship services, and it is my prayer that as people come to worship, they will make a connection with the Lord and leave having been fed spiritually and ready for the coming week.
We should therefore be on guard against falling into a sense that going to worship is a "service" we do for God. Please understand that this type of thinking is actually backwards to what God intends. We do not come to church for a worship service. We come to church so that God may serve us. You see, “service” is what you do to serve the Lord for your good works – not for salvation. Service is putting into action the gifts God has given you and putting into action your faith. Faith without your “service” is a dead faith. Service is not our worship.
In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, “For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” As Christians, God serves us first through Jesus Christ and through His Holy Spirit. The Lord continues to serve us today by feeding us spiritually through His word and sacrament, that is, communion, also known as the Eucharist. The Lord knows we need spiritual food for the journey of life for our spiritual health and well-being. That’s why Jesus calls his body “real food” and his blood “real drink” in John chapter 6. So really, our worship services are about God serving us as He feeds, teaches, and encourages us for service to Him and each other. Our response to the Lord is our thanksgiving, our prayers and our voices uplifted in songs of praise. In fact, Eucharist means “thanksgiving,” and we come to give thanks and celebrate the Lord Jesus, who continues to serve us today. This is what Lutheran worship is really is all about, or supposed to be, that is, and the Lord’s intention, according to His word.
So the change in the service? For the Pentecost Season, I took a portion of the Morning Prayer Service from the LBW green hymnal, which has an Introit and Gloria Patri, and put it in the place of the Kyrie and Song of Praise. This makes a nice change for Pentecost, keeps the liturgy simple and fresh, and brings back into use an older part of worship that used to be part of normal Lutheran Worship many decades ago. When the season changes, we will return to the Kyrie and Song of Praise. I hope you enjoy these changes and continue to find the services meaningful and spiritually uplifting.
I hope you enjoy your July and all the summer activities this year. I hope to see you at the cookout too. To quote another part of our liturgy taken from scripture in Romans 1:7, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
God Bless You!