Our worship, just like everything we do, is centered on Christ. Without Christ we would have no right to approach God. We come to public worship in order to receive his saving gospel in the Word and in the Sacraments. In response, we also offer to him our thanks, our praise, and our lives. This cycle of receiving from God and giving to God is reflected in the form of our worship, called “liturgical worship.”
What is liturgical worship?
Liturgical worship is a form of worship that claims its beginnings with the apostles themselves. Various parts of the liturgy (order of service) remain the same from week to week, providing a framework that teaches through repetition and ensures that Christ is proclaimed and praised every week. Other parts of the liturgy change from week to week according to the season of the church year.
The Parts of the Liturgy
The service begins with words that call on the name of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” are the same words that were spoken at your baptism. They are a reminder that we enter God’s presence to worship him because we were made his children through baptism.
Confession and Absolution
Instead of presuming we have the right to approach God, first we humbly confess our sins to God and then gladly hear his proclamation that each and every one of them has been forgiven. We do this week after week because we sin daily and because God never tires of forgiving. We can never hear those amazing, comforting words too often.
Song of Praise
In response to the forgiveness given so freely to us, we join our voices in a song of praise to God.
Prayer of the Day
We pray the appointed prayer for that Sunday of the church year. This prayer fits with the theme for the day.
The first lesson from God’s Word is usually taken from the Old Testament. Many times we will hear about a prophecy that was fulfilled by Christ in the Gospel lesson for the day or about a historical event that correlates to Jesus’ words and works in the Gospel.
Psalm of the Day
For 3,000 years believers have worshiped God by singing and reciting psalms.
The second lesson is usually taken from the part of the New Testament we call the Epistles—letters written by the apostles. Typically they apply God’s Word specifically to the believer’s life.
Verse of the Day
A short Bible verse, based on the theme of the day, is read or sung. This verse thanks God for and prepares us to hear the Gospel lesson.
The entire service revolves around the Gospel lesson. We stand to hear the words and works of Christ our King, just like people stood in the presence of royalty in ancient times.
Hymn of the Day
One of several hymns selected for the service, the words of this hymn in particular teach God’s Word in relation to the theme of the day.
The pastor preaches a message based on one of the lessons for the day. The sermon teaches how God's Word applies to our Christian life.
Confession of Faith
Immediately before or after the sermon we proclaim what we believe—what the Christian Church has always believed. To do that we use the words of the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed—both of which have been used in the Christian Church for almost two millennia.
Prayer of the Church
We join to pray to God about specific joys and troubles in our church and in the Church around the world. This is followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Supper is offered on the first and third Sundays of the month. We, united with our brothers and sisters in the faith, approach God’s altar to receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.
As we return to our Christian lives refreshed by God’s Word and Sacrament, we receive the same blessing that God gave to the ancient Israelites.
Once a month we use another historic order of service called Matins, or Morning Praise. This order varies slightly from the parts of the liturgy listed above, but many elements remain the same.
The Church Year
The Scripture lessons, psalms, hymns, and prayers of the worship service change each work in order to follow the Christian Church Year. Christians recognize that God’s plan of salvation took place in time and history. That plan unfolds before us every year as we prepare for, celebrate, and reflect on the three major festivals: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Christmas is the day God the Father gave his most precious gift to the world in his own Son, our Savior. Easter is the highest of high points, the day Jesus, God the Son, rose from the dead, proving our salvation is complete and promising that we too will rise to live forever with him. Pentecost is celebrated with a focus on the power, presence, and purpose of God the Holy Spirit.
By repeating this cycle every year, we hear and remember all the events and teachings of Christ each year. The Church Year helps us to tell and retell the Good News of our Savior and our Salvation as we follow the life of Christ and see how that life affects the life of the Church and of individual Christians.
The church year begins with Advent at the end of November and spans the next four weeks before Christmas. Advent means “coming” and is a time of quiet reflection in preparation for the coming of Christmas and the coming of Christ at the end of the world.
For twelve days we celebrate the coming of God as a man to save us.
Epiphany is a Greek word that means “appearing.” We remember the appearing of the star to the wise men, telling us that Christ is the Savior of all nations. We also see Christ appearing to his disciples, making himself known as the promised Savior as he begins his ministry.
Lent is time for humble and solemn meditation on the seriousness of our sins and the depth of Christ’s love for us that he took those sins upon himself.
The sorrow of Lent is broken by the triumphant celebration of Easter, the highest of holy days for Christians. We rejoice in the victory of the risen Christ over all of our enemies.
The season of Pentecost begins 50 days after Easter and covers the remaining half of the church year. During Pentecost we focus on the teachings of Christ and their application to us.