Liturgical worship lifts up five elements of worship that have been present in Christian worship for as long as Christians have gathered. These five elements (six if you include preaching) are referred to in the Bible and worship texts dating to the first century. True, just because it is old does not make it right; however, because the Church's task is "to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3), preserving these elements of worship can certainly go a long way in preserving the faith for future generations. What are these five elements? Let's start with Acts 2:42: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."
1. The apostles' teaching. This could easily include not only the teaching of the first apostles, but the study of all the scriptures. No doubt the early Church heard lessons from the Old Testament, and as Paul and Peter's letters and the Gospels began to circulate, those were added to the mix. Liturgical worship continues to lift up the reading of relatively long passages of scriptures from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the New Testament and the Gospels. The preaching on these lessons is a feature of liturgical worship and is distinct from topical preaching in which small bits of scripture are used to support a pre-determined message.
2. Fellowship. Fellowship would include things like passing the kiss of peace (these days we usually limit this to a handshake!), the offering, which is to be used for the local congregation and other ministries, and the greeting. Fellowship also takes place, of course, before and after worship and throughout the week.
3. The Breaking of the Bread. It seems that from the earliest days of the Church, Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, was celebrated by followers of Jesus every time they worshiped. Setting aside disagreements about what we believe the Eucharist is, this seems to dispel the habit of celebrating the Eucharist quarterly, monthly, or bi-monthly. The Eucharist has traditionally been viewed as the highlight of the Christian gathering.
4. The Prayers. The early Church most certainly prayed for one another, for their leaders, and even for their non-Christian or pagan rulers (1 Timothy 2). This tradition of prayers continues, and is not necessarily enhanced by spontaneity or immediacy.
5. Hymn Singing and the Singing of Psalms. In addition to these four as noted in Acts, the practice of hymn singing and the singing of psalms was important to Paul. Consider these passages from Colossians and Ephesians. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16) "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…" (Ephesians 5:18-19). While contemporary songs of praise are undoubtedly more "user-friendly", they are also rooted in distinctly worldly styles and contexts. If form really does follow function, the singing of hymns should be preserved because their poetry expresses the timeless truths about a holy God. Further, their form of several verses often based on scriptural passages assumes that congregational singing should be done together, rather than the congregation watching a select few do much of the singing. Even the use of a pipe organ - which makes its sounds the same way as the human voice - is meant to support the greatest instrument for worship of all - your voice!
If you are looking for a new church home in which your life of faith can be nurtured by consistent, traditional worship, we'd love you to visit us. If you are burned out by the emotional ups and downs of worship driven by music and preaching designed to offer only emotional charges, visit us. Different congregations offer different gifts and, of course, our gifts are not for everyone. But they may be just what you are looking for.
Below are two samples of recent choir music. Enjoy!
Might a word be offered about why a congregation would embrace liturgical worship in an age where that is less and less the rule? In an age of pop music leading "contemporary" worship and sermon series being the weekly focus, why would a congregation continue to worship in a "traditional" manner? And of what benefit might that be to you?
About our Worship
With a beautiful nave and a love for music of the Lutheran choral tradition, First Lutheran enjoys a rich worship life. The space was designed in a classic Romanesque style with dark wood, stone and plenty of natural light to help one sense the presence of God. Renaissance and early Baroque music sung by our choir sounds almost angelic. On April 27, 2014 Martin Pasi's Opus 23 was dedicated for use at First Lutheran. This magnificent instrument contributes greatly to our corporate worship. The preaching tradition at First is in the Lutheran tradition, bearing witness to Christ and him crucified, presenting the Gospel as relevant and as contemporary as ever.
The Best of the Tradition With a Heart for Evangelism and Discipleship