The Main Purpose Of Lutheran Worship Is To Receive God's Gifts (1 of 7)

By: A.L. Barry 

If you were to ask most people what “worship” is, they might say, “Worship is praising the Lord” or “Worship is what human beings do to express their thanks to God” or “Worship is going to church,” or something like that. While there is some truth to each of these answers, they do not adequately describe the main purpose of Lutheran worship.

We Lutherans have a unique perspective on worship. We know that God’s Word and His holy Sacraments are His precious gifts to us. They are the tools the Holy Spirit uses to give us forgiveness, life and salvation. The main purpose of Lutheran worship is to receive these gifts from God.

Our Lutheran Confessions explain this truth as follows: “The service and worship of the Gospel is to receive good things from God” (Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Article  IV.310).

I am not  sure whether we have adequately emphasized this important truth. God gives His gifts. We receive them. That is the main purpose of Lutheran worship. He does this as His Gospel is proclaimed, as His Word is read, as His forgiveness is announced and sinners are absolved, and as we receive our Lord’s body and blood in Holy Communion. In these wonderful ways, God is present with us, His people, drawing us to Himself and giving us what we need so much-His mercy, forgiveness, love, joy, peace, power and comfort! The purpose of worship, therefore, is to be gathered by God around His gifts.

Having clearly established this important point, I need to say that it would be wrong to assume that we are merely passive participants in the worship service. Listen to the beautiful introduction to Lutheran Worship.

Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges  the gifts, received with eager thankfulness and praise.  Saying back to Him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure…  The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Lutheran Worship, p. 6).

How true!  God speaks. We listen. Then we speak the great “amen” of faith, saying, “Yes, yes, this is true!”  Praise God for His mercy in permitting us to receive His gifts! Praise God for drawing us together around His gifts! 

A Presentation to the Real Life Worship Conference
Sponsored by the LCMS Commission on Worship
Denver, Colorado
February 1998

Lutheran Worship: 2000 and Beyond
Seven Theses on Worship 

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