Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch on "Worship"

There has been some discussion the past few days online about an article which appeared in the LCMS's Newspaper, The Reporter. The article (itself not available online right now) focuses on the new Commission on Worship of the LCMS.

Pr. Stuckwisch's blog discusses how some Commission members use the word "worship," and what worship truly is here. Here's a portion:

How is it that well-meaning Lutherans can wander so far afield from the Holy Scriptures? It certainly hasn't helped that "we" insist on using this word, "worship," as the comprehensive term for "what happens during the most visible hour of a congregation's week." There is a place for this word, as there is certainly a central place for worship in the Christian life. But as the chief worship is faith, and all other true Christian worship is by faith, it is ever and always contingent on that which is prior and primary, namely, the Word and work of God in Christ: His speaking of His Gospel, His giving of His gifts. "Worship" refers to that which we do and say to honor God. A term that our Lutheran Confessions use to speak of that which God says and does for us is "Liturgy," which accords with the Ministry of the Gospel. I've been told that we maybe ought to avoid this confessional, Christocentric term and stick with "worship," because of popular opinion and usage. But I don't buy it. I'm all in favor of pastoral sensitivity, and I recognize that terms can be somewhat plastic, but so long as "worship" is allowed to function as the key word, I don't believe that we'll ever be able to avoid the false assumptions and conclusions that everything hinges upon man's doing of stuff for God.

And here's what happens then: Not only is "worship" approached as the congregation's work for God, but it is also then bastardized into a malleable evangelistic tool. Not only is God dethroned from being the One who works for us to give us Sabbath Rest in Christ; He's also then required to share our attentions with outsiders. Does no one detect the idolatry in this? That the Church's "worship" should be aimed, not at glorifying God, but at "winning" over pagans to our side?


  1. Anastasia Theodoridis said...

    Liturgy = "work of the people."

    Offering spiritual sacrifices of thanks and praise.

    But not evangelizing. In the early Church, non-members, or members not in good standing, were dismissed after the Liturgy of the Catechumens, and the doors were locked. The words and rubrics are still there in Orthodox liturgy.

  2. Past Elder said...

    Actually, I think the original meaning of "liturgy" was something a wealthy citizen of the polis, or city-state, did at his own expense for the benefit of the people.

    For which reason it was adopted by the church to refer to the work done by the great "wealthy citizen", God, in the sacrifice of Jesus for our benefit, whose body and blood given for us is given to us in Communion.

    For which reason we often call our "worship" the Divine Service, where the divinity serves humanity His Word, the Liturgy of the Catechumens as it is called, and his Sacrament, the Liturgy of the Faithful.

    Which makes it even more clear in contrast to "worship", centred on what we do toward God rather than what He is doing toward us.

    As a side note, I wonder why, in the post Vatican II craze to re-Greekify the Kyrie back to something like the First Litany, the Confiteor or Confession of Sin was not also relocated to its place in the Orthodox liturgy -- not near the start of the Liturgy of the Catechumens, where believer and non-believer alike can attend and learn, and a non-believer by definition cannot confess his sins to that in which he does not believe, but at the start of the Liturgy of the Faithful, as only a believer can confess his sins to the God of our belief.