WHY DO WE DO THAT?
When talking about our worship life, I’ve been asked that question a lot. Even among those who grew up in the Lutheran tradition I’ve been asked, “why do we do that?” Occasionally, I’ve had people tell me, “That’s what Lutherans do!” or “That’s what we’ve always done!” but even in those instances, we may not know why we do what we do in worship. Yet, nearly every word and every action in our worship has a meaning behind it. And those meanings are not hidden, or at least they’re not supposed to be hidden.
What follows is a series of conversations and descriptions of what and why we do what we do in our Sunday worship. As we move forward, there are a couple of things I would like you to keep in mind. First, in many ways worship is a bit mysterious [and, I think it is supposed to be]. One of the things we say is that in our worship, we are entering into the presence of God. Yes, God is everywhere. But in our worship, we are to enter more fully into God’s presence. There are a lot of words we use that speak of this mysterious, Godly presence. [You’ll hear about this when they pop up in the coming weeks.] Too, many Christians have gone out of their way to intentionally design their churches to emphasize this point. Orthodox churches have domes indicating the dome of the sky being split open for the worshipper can peek into heaven and see Jesus. Our own Church building circles us with stained glass windows of Jesus and some of the saints who, while in heaven are also present with us as we worship.
Second, Philip Pfatteicher [I had the opportunity to know Professor Pfatteicher personally as a young pastor in Pittsburgh] speaks of worship as “The School of the Church.” Worship is the first place we experience and learn to understand [if you can use the word, “understand”] a bit of the glory of God and the implications of God being God and us people being people. Worship is the place the church begins telling the story of salvation so we can carry that story into the world and begin actively living that story. Worship is the intersection of God, the world and our lives and it is where we learn how these three things connect to each other. If it is ever dull, boring or feels irrelevant, something is wrong and needs fixing.