"Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing." (Psalm 100:2)
Worship is a faith practice. As Christians, we center our life in word and sacrament. Our constituting documents emphasize in the Statement of Purpose the centrality of worship:
" To participate in God's mission, this congregation as a part of the Church shall: Worship God in proclamation of the Word and administration of the sacraments and through lives of prayer, praise, thanksgiving, witness and service." (C4.02.a)
The Augsburg Confession states: "It is also taught among us that the one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel." (Article V)
Worship is central to a lived faith. Christianity is not a solo endeavor, and it is not an intellectual puzzle. We follow a crucified messiah, who lived among the crowds and gave his life for all. God could have chosen any number of ways to become known among us. By choosing the incarnation, the word made flesh, God chose to be fully embodied. By his baptism in the Jordan River, and by his giving us the bread and wine as his body and blood, Jesus set out for us an incarnational practice.
We do not live in our heads. We do not reject the body and prefer the spirit. We see them as inseparable. Worship is where they come together, where that together is solidified. It is a whole-body experience. The introduction to the Evangelical Lutheran Worship book states: "The Holy Spirit gathers the people of God around Jesus Christ present in the word of God and the sacraments, so that the Spirit may in turn send them into the world to continue the ingathering mission of God's reign." (p.6)
Worship is about relationship-relationship with God, relationship with one another. While deep thinking is always important, it does not take the place of worship. While contemplation of nature is uplifting and inspiring, it does not take the place of worship. While serving the neighbor is crucial, it does not take the place of worship. Included in the baptismal charges is: "bring them to the word of God and the holy supper." The actions of worship are not outdated rituals. They are expressions of relationship, using some ancient and some modern forms.
We worship in many ways-traditional and contemporary, abbreviated and long, casual and formal, but we never worship alone. Worship is a communal faith practice. In the second creation story (Genesis 2), God creates Adam and then comments, "It is not good for the man to be alone." From the beginning, God created community. One was insufficient. At least 2 were needed. Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20)
The ELW introduction connects worship with mission: "Through liturgy and song the people of God participate in that mission, for here God comes with good news to save. And through liturgy and song, God nourishes us for that mission and goes with us to bear the creative and redeeming Word of God, Jesus Christ, to the whole world." (p.8)
It comes down to this: "We are united in one common center: Jesus Christ proclaimed in Word and sacraments amidst participating assemblies of singing, serving, and praying people."
(Use of the Means of Grace, p. 9, 4B)
"All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him." (Psalm 22: 27)
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA