Humans are creatures of habit. After many years of doing the same worship style/practices every week, whether is it liturgical, open worship, led worship, or any other kind of worship, we’re bound to reach a point where we ask ourselves, “Why are we doing this?” or “What is the right way to do Sunday Worship”? or the one comment youths always make, “Why is our church worship so boring? I don’t feel God is present in our worship”.
When I joined Bangsar Lutheran Church (BLC), liturgical worship was pretty new to me. I didn’t understand the meaning and purpose of the liturgy. And why so many readings?
Being put on the spot to lead worship in BLC, without any “formal training” on liturgical worship was scary. I was afraid I’d do “the wrong thing”. I relied on my survival instinct, which is to “copy-paste” what other worship leaders did, googling what to say in “Call to worship,” “Prayer of Confession,” and even images to include in the slides.
Now, after talking and discussing with so many in the church, I’ve come to understand “liturgical worship.” I appreciate every Sunday Worship!
You can find the theological meaning of each of the liturgical sections in a book published by the Lutheran Church in Malaysia. I’ll just share how I understand liturgical worship, and explain it to non-Lutherans – to help them appreciate it better.
The service starts with the Invocation, committing the service to The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a most serious act, not to be taken lightly.
The service continues with the Call to Worship. This is when the worship leader invites all present to join their hearts in worship, through the reading of a Psalm, or responsive readings – to unite and prepare all hearts to worship the Triune God.
Yet, even if our hearts are ready to worship God, we can’t if we’re filled with guilt and sins we haven’t confessed and repented of. Therefore, we enter a time of Confession of Sin: we profess our repentance and ask God to forgive us.
Next comes the Absolution: the pronouncing of a most solemn declaration: our sins are forgiven because of what Christ has done for us. We may now enter into His presence to worship Him.
Then, we share the peace. By doing so, we not only show that we know God has given His peace to us. We show that peace is given to us so that we might share it with others.
The reading of Scriptures, the lectionary readings for the week, declare to us a theme or message to reflect on and to help us through the coming week.
The preaching of the Word, usually an exposition of one or more of the lectionary readings (there are exceptions), helps us understand the readings and enables us to focus on the theme during the week.
The choosing of songs, for most worship leaders, is based on the lectionary readings, and thus are aligned with the preaching – but could also be from a different perspective.
The time when we are invited to make an offering reminds us that we are to give back to God what He has given us. It’s not an add-on. It’s integral to Worship.
The Lord’s Prayer unites us in prayer, reminds us to pray, and to do so in the manner Jesus taught us to: with the elements of praise, thanksgiving, and petitions.
And after ALL of the above, comes the Benediction, the sending out of the congregation into the world, back to work, school, to be salt and light and to show love to the people around us.
From Monday to Saturday, faced with all the “battles” in the world, we might do things which displease God, or distract us from God. But when Sunday comes again, we are back together as church, going through the whole service, and being reminded of how God is always with us, healing us, restoring us, getting us ready for the week ahead.
This is how liturgical worship enhances my Sunday Worship. I’m not saying other worship practices are not good or are wrong. I’m only saying that liturgical worship has an inherent logic, in content, flow and completeness. It serves to process the week which has passed and to prepare me for the week ahead, in company of my fellow-pilgrims.