Dear Friends through Christ Jesus:
In this letter the only mention of the virus will be to say, “Stay safe and be careful.” Instead, I’m going to focus upon why we worship the way we worship.
When the church began to meet some 2000 years ago, they structured the worship of the Crucified and Risen One around guiding principles, which are still important today. Their worship centered upon the Word of God and the Sacraments. Sacraments are mysteries instituted by Jesus—Baptism and Communion. Once Christianity was instituted as a national religion in 313CE, worship for the next couple of millennia looked like this:
A gathering is simply a place where people living in the same community come together, studying the Hebrew writings, and hearing stories about Jesus. People of all walks of life, shaking hands, having conversation, putting aside their many differences, and gathering to share the one thing they had in common—faith in Christ Jesus.
A time to quiet down from gathering, centering oneself for what is to come—the Good News. Normally, this calmness comes through a contemplative form of silence, prayer, or music.
Sacrament of Holy Baptism (Confessions)
Now we are ready to cleanse our hearts and minds by confessing our sin before God and one another. A person would be hard pressed to find a group of people, different from one another in every way, admitting we don’t have it all together. We admit together a need for help and a fresh start. Our confessions are a return to our Baptism, reminding us each week, while we don’t deserve it, when we repent or turn toward Jesus our sins are forgiven, and now we can worship with a clean heart.
The word liturgy simply means “work of the people.” Here scattered throughout worship we say or sing petitions asking for our Lord’s mercy and lifting our prayers for the church, the world and all in need. Our liturgy comes straight from Scripture; Mary singing praises of thanksgiving, the angels announcing Jesus’ birth, all creation in heaven and on earth gathered around the throne singing praise to God and to the Lamb. The beautiful liturgy flows through the entire service.
Now we come to the meat and potatoes of worship. Word from our forefathers of the Hebrew faith—their stories, history, trials, and tribulation. We read together the Psalms, or songs written some 3000 ago, covering the whole range of human emotions, those of joy, sadness, fear, comfort, life, and death. We also have two readings from the Christian faith. A reading from the apostles, with words of understanding and wisdom. And then a reading from the Gospels, or Good News about Jesus Christ. We learn through proclamation/message/sermon how this gospel applies to us in our daily lives. Over a three-year period, most of Scripture will be read aloud and together in the community of believers. We close the center of our worship with the Word handed down to us through the Apostle’s Creed, which is the most ancient and concise statement of our faith, raising our petitions once again with the Prayers of the Church.
Sacrament of Holy Communion
Within the “mystery of our faith,” Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/Last Supper/Great Thanksgiving we share a meal, not only with those who are different from us, but also with those who have gone before us (our loved ones). It is a foretaste of the feast to come. It is a Holy Sacrament—a Set Apart Mystery, where we receive the real presence—body and blood—of our Savior! Today’s society wants proof, and asks “How can these things be?” Yet how does one explain a mystery? Through our trust, the real presence of Christ Jesus will comfort, strengthen, guide, teach, heal, and forgive. This I experience daily in my personal life. Try to find this promise in the world today?
We close our worship at Peace Lutheran with a sending, where we are to use the Sacrament of Baptism, God’s Holy Word and the Sacrament Holy Communion as we say goodbye to our strange friends, return to the real world, now using our gifts to serve our Crucified and Risen Lord. So there you have it, a little knowledge about the style of worship that has stood the test of time, influencing the lives of Christians for many years. But it seems like something is missing? Oh, I almost forgot—Music.
Little is known regarding the use of music in the early church. King David writes about making a joyful noise unto the Lord, praising God with thanksgiving all day long. Through the writings of Paul, we learn about singing spiritual songs, again through one’s daily living. The only songs or hymns we have discovered from the early church come from the Psalms or songs sung by Mary and angels, and as far as we know, no instruments.
However, the Reformation changed everything. It occurred in the early stages of the Renascence, where the Arts and Sciences came to life. Music now became a staple of worship with its beauty filling in the spaces between gathering—baptism—word—communion--sending. Great artists like Bach and Handle created masterpieces for worship.
The purpose of music was to prepare the mind for God’s Word, proclaim the gospel, teach, and admonish. The type of instruments played was never an issue, at least for Martin Luther. At his time, they had beautiful organs. He calls the style of worship—adiaphora—great word uh? It means “doesn’t matter.” It doesn’t matter whether the instrument is an organ or piano, guitar, flute, bass, drums or gazoo. If it points to the gospel and edifies the flock, it doesn’t matter.
The larger questions become, what style or type of music will reach the most people who worship at that congregation? (Knowing when it comes to music, you can’t please everyone) What specific group of people is the church trying to reach and bring in? Who are the musicians that serve? What are their strengths and gifts? Once a church answers those questions, they will have a better understanding of the style of music that suits them best?
Peace Lutheran currently is blessed with two of the most talented musicians I have had the privilege to work with. The piano/organ and the flute are the forms of music we have available. These happen to be the instruments that created most of our classic hymns over the past 500 years, music so many of us remember from our youth. Hopefully, very soon our choir will gather to add yet another gift of music to worship.
Well, that about does it for why we worship the way we worship. I hope my rambling was helpful and I am always available to further discuss any matter any of you may have. May God bless!
In Christian Love,
Pastor David Trexler