What is the heart and soul of Lutheran worship? Is it a beautiful church building? an instrument? a liturgy? vestments? hymnody? No, because these alone would be nothing more than an empty shell, void of true worship.
The heart and soul of Lutheran worship is Christ and the blessings He won for us when He was offered up on the cross a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.
We are miserable sinners and begin our worship confessing our utter sinfulness and looking to Christ and His cross for mercy and forgiveness. And through the absolution spoken to us by Christ’s called ministers, Christ Himself forgives our sins and promises us the eternal joys of heaven.
We bring to God our prayers and praises. And then, as Christ taught His disciples during His earthly ministry, He teaches us and speaks to us through His Word which is read to us and explained by Christ’s ministers.
We remember Jesus’ words in John 6:63: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” We know that faith is the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word and His Sacraments and that Christ is at work in us as we hear His Word, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
We offer up to Christ our prayers for the church and its ministers and for those around us in the world. We pray for our leaders that we may freely preach and teach God’s Word and live according to it. We pray also for the lost that they too might hear the preaching of the Gospel and be brought to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, our Savior.
And, if that were not enough, Christ further consoles us poor sinners by giving us to eat and to drink of His very body and blood which was given and shed for us on the cross. We partake of the Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and so receive the blessings of forgiveness and life He won for us.
Before we leave, Christ dismisses us and sends us out into the world to bear witness to Him with God’s name and blessing upon us. We are to “go … and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things” that Jesus has commanded us, and He promises to be with us always, even to the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20).
He blesses and keeps us; He looks upon us with grace and favor; He grants us the peace of sins forgiven and the promise of everlasting life with Him in heaven.
So, Lutheran worship is not really about us and what we do for God; it’s all about God and what He offers and gives to us in Christ Jesus, our Savior!