Who Is Serving Whom?
We come to church to serve God. Truthfully, though, that’s not the only thing. It’s not even the main thing. We sing and bring gifts as offerings of thanks to God, who serves us first. We pray and petition God in our need, on the strength of His Words.
In the Divine Service, you are entering into the most intimate conversation between the Lord Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” Ephesians 5. He promises: “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I among them,” St. Matthew 18. In the Divine Service, you stand on holy ground. The Lord is there—to serve you!
Why All The Ceremony?
When we are speaking to Him, we look toward His table, at the foot of the Cross. Then, when He speaks to us through His servant the Pastor, the words change direction. Though a man is speaking, it’s not his own word that he brings, but God’s Word through him.
St. Paul, who was faithful in this ministry, wrote to the Christians: “We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers,” 1 Thessalonians 2. The Pastor’s dress, actions and demeanor in the Divine Service all serve to teach these things.
As you go through the motions, rising and sitting, folding your hands, bowing your head, making the sign of the cross if you wish, you are learning through these acts and the words associated with them. You learn reverence. You learn humility. You learn confident trust in Jesus, who said: “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many,” St. Matthew 20.
In the Divine Service, you see heaven open to you. You hear the forgiving word which comes not from men but from Christ. You rise to meet Christ as He comes to you in the spoken Absolution, the Words of the Holy Gospel, and the feast of Holy Communion—which we eagerly desire to celebrate with you, when you know our faith and confession, and come to believe it as we do.
What we do in worship is not merely tradition for tradition’s sake, but to teach, to comfort, to strengthen faith, to set a sound pattern for daily prayer and meditation on God’s Word in the home, and through these words and outward actions, to bring eternal truths home to your heart.