From Zion News, April 2018

Living in the Word  

by Pastor JMe

Each Sunday morning, we are immersed in the Word.  Not only do we wade into the written word and spoken word through the reading of scriptures and the sermon, we also encounter the sung word through the songs and hymns.    The living word comes to us as Jesus’ body and blood through the bread and wine of Holy Communion and as the Holy Spirit through the water and promises of Holy Baptism.

Some complain about the number of words read and spoken by worshippers during Lutheran worship.   It’s true that the liturgy of our worship involves responses and regular recitations of creeds or traditional prayers.  Worship in the Lutheran church acquires attention and focus during the service.  One could say that our liturgical worship seems like work because it demands our participation in order to keep up with the service.  Even more contemporary worship services in Lutheran churches include active verbal participation and spoken responses.  Historically, the word “liturgy” has been translated as “work of the people.”

In most non-denominational and Evangelical congregations, except for singing, worshippers say very little.  There are few, if any, liturgical responses.  The written word of the scriptures may be read or referenced by the preacher. Holy Baptism tends to be provided for groups of people during a special service instead of during the regularly scheduled weekly worship.  Holy Communion may be practiced only a few times during a year.  For these communities, immersion in the Word usually occurs in gatherings outside of the weekend services.  Often, the preacher will point the congregation to scriptural passages and provide questions for attendees to use when they gather during the week.

I have been told by members of evangelical churches that other mainline, Protestant churches don’t pay enough attention to the biblical word.  Many of these communities identify themselves as “Bible- based churches.”  Are you aware that the original name for the mega church we know as LCBC was “Lancaster County Bible Church”?

What many worshipers may not realize, life-long Lutheran or not, is that virtually every word of our traditional liturgy is taken from scripture.  From the Confession to the Benediction at the end of the service, we are living in the Word through our worship.  What we say, sing and hear on Sunday mornings is ALL bible-based.  In addition to the Creed (when said) and the Lord’s Prayer, elements of “contemporary worship” such as the Call to Worship and the Benediction may be drawn from scripture.  For instance, the Call to Worship may be the words of or based on a Psalm- often the Psalm appointed for the day. Have you ever wondered why the words used in worship seem familiar?  It’s because you may have encountered them in the scriptures. 

Those who would disagree in this means of defining the phrase “bible-based” when speaking about Lutherans and other Protestants are not entirely “wrong”.  There is some element of truth in their judgement.  Although they, most likely are not aware of the scriptural base of our liturgy; they note that the scripture of worship is rarely brought out of worship into our daily lives.