Last Sunday our Pastor, Rev. James Douthwaite, did something he does once a year or so: He teaches us the significance and why-we-do-what-we-do in the liturgy. He uses an adaptation of The Narrative Commentary on the Divine Service by Prof. John Pless, who gave permission to post it on the church website and to thus make it available to others. (You can find the version we used here as a .pdf file. You can also find it online here.)
The way it worked was that an elder read the commentary before each part, and then we did it. One would expect this to be intrusive, but it really wasn’t. I learned a lot. I would recommend that Lutheran pastors make use of this resource so that their parishioners know what they are doing and develop an appreciation for the richness of liturgical worship. Non-Lutherans too would benefit from knowing this stuff. It would disabuse them of the notion that liturgical worship is “just Catholic” and would show them just how Biblical and evangelical the historic worship of the church really is.
For our edification and discussion, I’m going to post portions of it over the next few days. Here, for example, is the opening, setting forth succinctly the Lutheran theology of worship:
The high and holy worship of God is faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Such faith is created and sustained by God’s Service to us. In the Divine Service, the Lord comes to us in His Word and Sacrament to bless and enliven us with His gifts. This Service is not something we do for God, but His service to us to be received in faith. The “liturgy” is God’s work. He gives, we receive.
Here is the significance of the Invocation (“In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”):
From God’s Word, we know that wherever God puts His Name, there He is to bless. In the Old Testament, the Temple was the place where God graciously caused His Name to be present.
God has put His Name-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on you in Holy Baptism. The Divine Service begins “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Every Divine Service is for the hallowing of the Lord’s Name, which the Small Catechism reminds us is done “When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity and we as the children of God, also lead a holy life according to it.”