The Liturgy is the work of the people.
Worship is both a privilege and a responsibility. It’s true that God is present everywhere and not only in a worship service…and yet, we believe regular worship is important. For it is in worship that we hear God’s word and are filled with God’s promises through the sacraments; it is in worship that we gather with a community of believers to find strength and common mission; it is in worship that we renewed for a life of loving service to others.
While there is great variety in worship among Lutheran congregations, a common pattern tends to emerge whether the style is contemporary or traditional:
The Holy Spirit calls us together in Christian assembly. We begin with a corporate confession. This is not a personal itemizing of do’s and don’ts; rather, it is a recognition that we do not live as God intends and that we are in need of forgiveness and a fresh start. We give thanks as we remember the gift of baptism and God’s unconditional love. Singing during the Gathering can include a call for God’s mercy to fill the church and the world, and a celebration of God’s glory revealed in Jesus Christ. We hear the “Prayer of the Day” which establishes the general theme.
Having been honest about our own shortcomings and having proclaimed the greatness of God, we are now open to hear God’s word. It is revealed first in Scripture, followed by sermon and song. Usually, there are readings from the Old and New Testaments—perhaps an Old Testament prophet or a psalm; a New Testament letter; and a passage from one of the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. We hear both the demands God places upon us (Lutherans term this generally, “the Law”) and the promises God makes to us (Lutherans use the term “the Gospel” to describe God’s promises).
The sermon helps the gathered people to understand the words of “law” and “gospel” in their own time and to awaken faith; the hymn that follows the sermon further proclaims the word. Often we respond to God’s word by saying a statement of faith together. We also join in corporate prayer, praying together for the needs of the world and of the church.
There are a couple of things to say about this part of the pattern…
- First, you’ll notice that God speaks first. It is not shared only through the context of the sermon and the particular lens of the preacher. Rather, God’s “living word” is spoken and heard by the entire assembly. It addresses each of us as we encounter it and recognize the changes it calls forth and the reassurances it offers. The sermon is important, and helpful; however, before the preacher says something, the word addresses each of us.
- Next, while there can be variation between Lutheran churches in the lessons proclaimed, most congregations follow what’s called The Revised Common Lectionary. This is a three year cycle of readings that covers the broad sweep of Scripture. Further, each year the story of Jesus is proclaimed: his birth, life, death and resurrection.
The typical pattern for worship includes Holy Communion or “the Meal;” without Holy Communion, this section of worship is named “Thanksgiving.” During this portion, there is a collection of material goods for the church’s mission in the world. This is also a sign of our gratitude to God for all God’s gifts. Before the Holy Communion is shared, we offer words and songs of thanksgiving to God and we remember the words that Jesus spoke during his last supper with his disciples. He shared bread and wine, saying, This is my body and This is my blood; Jesus also said Do this, to remember me. We believe Jesus comes to us in the bread and wine of communion; forgives us and nourishes us to go into the world as instruments of God’s love.
Through the blessing and sending song, we go into the “mission field” of our daily lives. We have been strengthened by our experience of God and the community of believers that have gathered. We now live as Christ’s body in the world.
Note: information is drawn from and images were taken from the Lutheran Worship Resource Evangelical Lutheran Worship published by Augsburg Fortress, c2006.
The Church Year
Through following the Church Year, the flow and content of worship is not based solely on the individual decisions of the worship leaders. Rather, the worship life follows seasons which tell us the story of God. Above all, the Church Year leads us to recount the story of Jesus—his birth, life, death and resurrection.
- Advent starts the Church Year and spans the four Sundays before Christmas. The word means coming, and it is a season of longing and preparation for the coming of Christ. Old Testament readings include prophecies ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, and gospel readings recall John the Baptist’s ministry and the stories of Mary and Joseph.
- Christmas follows Advent and lasts for 12 days, as we celebrate Jesus’ birth and the reality that God came to us in human form through him. There is festive worship at 6pm, 8pm and 10pm on Christmas Eve, and a Service of Lessons and Carols the Sunday following Christmas Day.
- Epiphany means to show forth. It begins with story of the three magi from the East, that were led to see Jesus, and we celebrate that the light of Christ is carried from Jesus’ humble beginnings and to all the world. One of the special celebrations in this season is Jesus’ baptism.
- Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and continues until Easter. It spans forty days, not including Sundays. The word lent means lengthen, reminiscent of the lengthening of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. Not only do we remember the suffering and death of Jesus, we also reflect upon our own limited, finite nature. We look for ways to deepen our relationship with God. Lent culminates in what are known as The Three Days—Maundy Thursday and the institution of Holy Communion, Good Friday which marks the crucifixion of Jesus, followed by Easter Sunday—the last of The Three Days and the first Sunday of Easter.
- Easter is both a day and a season! Easter Sunday is the culmination of the Church Year as we rejoice in Jesus’ triumph over death and his resurrection into the future. There are worship opportunities at 6:30am (outdoor sunrise), 9:00am and 11:00am (with choir and brass). It is through the power of the resurrection that we, too, are restored to an eternal relationship with God. While on the one hand we celebrate our identity as Easter people every time we gather for worship, the season of Easter lasts fifty days.
- Pentecost The longest season of the Church Year, and it lasts until Advent. Gospel lessons center on the ministry of Jesus and growing in our Christian life. On Pentecost Sunday, we recall how God’s Holy Spirit is unleashed in the world and fills us with passion and purpose. We learn parables, miracles, and teachings of Jesus and hear rich narratives from the Old Testament that remind us of how God is active in the world.In the Easter cycle we focus on the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven of Jesus and the meaning of each of these for us.
Christ the King Lutheran Church typically follows what’s called “The Revised Common Lectionary.” It is a three year cycle of Bible passages for use in worship and daily Bible reading. Many Roman Catholic churches, Lutheran churches, and other Protestant denominations follow the Revised Common Lectionary. As a result, it’s possible to worship in a Roman Catholic church in California, an Episcopal church in Texas, a Presbyterian church in Connecticut, or a Lutheran church in North Carolina, and hear the same Scripture readings that you would have heard at Christ the King.
There are readings from the Old and New Testaments in the Revised Common Lectionary. In general, Year “A” includes gospel readings primarily from Matthew; Year “B” includes Mark and Year “C” features readings from Luke. Passages from the Gospel of John are interspersed throughout all three years.
Along with the regular cycle, there are festivals and commemorations that remember significant people and events in the life of the church over the millennia.