Lutheran Understanding of Worship
Lutherans have a distinct understanding of worship. When you hear the word "worship" one might assume it means something that you are doing to or for God. However, biblically understood, worship of God can only occur because God first comes to us. "Worship is God speaking. It is our listening. Worship begins with God's Word. He is the content. Evangelical Lutheran worship begins with God giving us his Word. It comes to us and we respond in faith and devotion. It is God's action, not ours. He is the mover, the doer. Faith comes as the gift from God, not from our own doing or action. Such an understanding of worship is quite different from the dictionary definition of the word. It is for that reason that the Evangelical Lutheran Church has shown a preference for the word service. the chief gathering of Christians on Sunday morning is called the Divine Service. In the Divine Service, God serves us. He gives us his Word and sacraments. Only after we have received the Word and the gifts that he offers do we respond in our sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise."
It is with this understanding that Zion Lutheran Church offers two Sunday services times throughout the year; 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. (with a Bible Study/Sunday School hour in between at 9:15 a.m. for both youth and adults). Each service is "liturgical" in nature but uses different musical instruments to assist in the order of the service.
It is recognized that some may hear the word "liturgy" and, for one reason or another, think of "boring" or "irrelevant" worship. However, fully understood the word "liturgy" refers not only to the Divine Service of God giving his gifts of grace and our response of thanksgiving and praise (noted above), but also to the regular teaching and telling of the story of Jesus Christ. the intent of "liturgy" is to frame and order our hearing, our learning, our receiving and our response to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Understood this way liturgy is certainly evangelistic and missional. Not only does it grant gifts of grace to all participants, but it regularly teaches the story of salvation. therefore bringing an unbelieving neighbor to such worship services is indeed a great act of love. Further, when Sunday comes to an end, as believers who had gathered around the liturgy we can go out into the world and bear witness in our words and lives to the Christ who dwells in us as declared by the Scriptures used in the liturgy.
When the liturgy becomes "boring" or seemingly "irrelevant" to people it should be noted (in all fairness) that this is not the fault of the liturgy. Often it stems from a lack of the liturgy being taught as a truly contemporary, engaging and relevant way of life, rather than as something that is merely performed on Sunday morning. the personal preferences of people to have "contemporary" "engaging" and "relevant" worship often speaks more to musical preferences and to the personalities of pastors and their preaching abilities, than it does the liturgical structure of worship. Historically speaking, liturgy has framed the worship of the Holy Christian Church well over a millennia.
Thus Zion Lutheran is firm in our commitment to the use of the historic liturgical framework as a means for structuring our worship, while at the same time recognizing that with careful discernment and adequate reverence, varying musical instruments can provide meaningful accompaniment throughout the service.
Music, whatever the instrument, is always meant to be in service to the liturgy and is to never surpass in importance the means of grace being given in the Divine Service. thus, whether it is organ, piano, drums or guitar, the music played in each service seeks only to provide a respectful, yet meaningful accompaniment for our reception of God's gifts as well as our response of gratitude. thus our approach to the use of music in worship can best be summarized by the following adjectives: "doxological" (it focuses on praising the Trinity), scriptural (the texts are rooted in God's Word), liturgical (it fits into the ordered Divine Service within the pattern of the Church Year), proclamational (it communicates the Gospel of Jesus Christ), participatory (the congregation actively sings), pedagogical (it teaches the truth of God's love and forgiveness in Christ), traditional (it is built on the best of the past), eclectic (it employs styles and practices from various sources that aid the Gospel), creative (it eagerly explores new expressions), and it aspires to excellence (it desires and seeks to give God the best).
Accordingly, our 8:00 a.m. service is a traditional service that utilizes the various orders of service in the Lutheran Service Book, and is accompanied by organ music. Our 10:30 a.m. service is a blended service that uses the historic order of the liturgy to frame the service but is accompanied by piano, guitar and drums, where the service order is provided in a printed service folder.