Worship tagged posts

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 3:11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.  3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  3:17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.  3:18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.  3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”  3:20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”  3:21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours,  3:22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all belong to you,  3:23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Mission San Juan, San Antonio, Texas

Grace and Peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  • Our epistle reading is an example of a literary unit that is broken apart at interesting places.
  • We can only ask what does the epistle say; what does it mean; and what does it do?
  • Here we have Paul continuing to admonish good Christians that are full of pride, license, jealousy, selfishness and … well you know…
    • Just like us!
  • But Paul knows that appealing to the Corinthians to be moral is not the solution to their problems.
  • No, the evangelical solution is forgiveness in the Gospel.
  • He (and we) begin today by being reminded that the foundation of life is
    • “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8)
    • that foundation is Jesus Christ.(3:11)And upon this foundation, God in His mercy has created little temples to Himself….that is you and I.
  • He puts Himself in these little temples as
    • ‘…God’s Spirit dwells in…’ them (3:16)
  • God also posts a warning sign outside of these temples
  • Anyone that destroys this temple will also be destroyed.
    • By the way, this is a warning to others as well as ourselves.
    • Do not destroy yourself with by following false teachers & false leaders.
  • We, of course, are smarter and more clever than these poor wretched Corinthians.
  • We have two-thousand years of information to make us wise beyond any first century cretin.
  • God laughs at our craftiness and you will too!
  • Listen to these absurdities, you hear them all the time;
    • “Everyone is a winner!”
    • “All the men are handsome and all the women are beautiful!”
    • “All the children are above average!”
    • Perhaps funniest of all; “Hope has returned!”
    • Oh yes, ‘there’s a new dawn a’ coming’ and
    • Utopia, the promised land, is just around the corner.
  • In my neck of the woods, there are two towns; Tarpley and Utopia.
    • Tarpley advertises itself as “Not Quite Utopia”
    • Tarpley would be St. Paul’s kind of place.
  • Don’t listen to that stuff!
    • The snow job of the ‘wise’ is to get you to believe what they say…
    • They are liars and murderers because they are the children of devil.
    • God says, “…that they are futile.” (3:20)
  • Forget what the wise leaders say, it doesn’t matter….
  • Quit fussing over the little things, because,
    • “…all things are yours…”(3:21)
  • Now let’s not strip our gears
  • Paul shifted the whole focus of his words
    • Stay with us……
  • All things are yours because;
    • He was with God in the beginning.
    • Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
    • In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.(John 1:2-4)
  • AND…
    • “…he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Eph. 1:4)
  • As baptized children of God…
  • Jesus Christ has taken you for His own
  • You can’t escape!
  • You little temples…you….
  • Jesus Christ has taken you for His own; and
    • “Christ belongs to God.” (3:23)
  • As such, today you will receive all things…
  • the body and blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
  • because you are His.  Amen




Seromon: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
6:1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
6:2 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
6:3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
6:4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
6:18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Cross at Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas

Grace and Peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller writes that, “The mark of the evangelical – The mark of the pietist, is that: Growth, Good Works and Obedience to God’s Word is the mark of the Christian Life;and anything Sacramental or anything to do with the Means of Grace utterly conflicts with that!”

Of course, none of us are like that, are we? No….
We believe our manners and customs more enlightened, our intelligence and culture immeasurably superior.
Brim-full of hypocritical cant and puritan ideas, we preach, pray and whine.

We are the most parsimonious of wretches, yet we extol charity;
• the most inveterate blasphemers, yet we are the readiest exporters;
• the worst of dastards, yet we are the most shameless boasters;
• the most selfish of people, yet we are the most blatant philanthropists;
• the blackest-hearted hypocrites, yet we are religious fanatics.

We are agitators and schemers, braggarts and deceivers, swindlers and extortionists, and yet pretend to Godliness, truth, purity and humanity.  We are the inheritors of the puritanical spirit which manifests itself in the nagging suspicion that someone, somewhere is having a good time.

On top of all of our poor behavior, we also killed the Son of God!
That’s right!
You heard correctly.
You and I are participants in this great crime and there is nothing we can do about it.

Jesus knows who we are.
He tells us straight up in John 8:44 ff;

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.”

We respond; “Hey, wait just a minute. You can not say that!”

He continues by saying; “…because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!”

Again, we say; “It’s just that you are saying mean things about us.”

Jesus simply states; “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”

Then we really get warmed up; “That is not the issue, the issue is that you have been talking mean to us and you’ve got to go!”
Or better yet we yell; “Crucify him!”

Picking up the preaching office, St. Paul writes in our epistle reading (2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10);

5:20b We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
5:21 For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

He goes on to describe what a Christian life is really all about.
Like St. Paul, Martin Luther writes that there are seven characteristics that are the mark of the true Church:
Holy Communion;
Divine Worship; and

That’s right!
Sacramental living and dependence on the Means of Grace.
Through baptism, Jesus takes all your sin.
Jesus strengthens you with his body and blood.
That you may recognize that;

(Luke 6:40) The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.

And be recognized as;
Holy Christian people by the Cross; and
Living on the Sacraments and being dependent on the Means of Grace includes;
suffering persecution; being subjected to hate; undergo misfortune; all sorts of tribulation and evil from the Devil [remember the Lord’s Prayer]; the world and flesh; inwardly morn; be stupid; be frightened; outwardly poor; scorned; ill; weak; and suffer in silence and obedience; So that you are like Christ our Lord.

Then Jesus says to you three things;

(Matt. 5) “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for my sake….’
(Luke 17:10) So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’


… your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

with the gifts of the Sacraments; the Means of Grace; and keep you in the

righteousness of God.


Cowboy Hypocrisy

Over the years of my wanderings I have had the misfortune of being present during what is misnamed a ‘Cowboy Service.’ These services tend to based on some Christian service, but never seem to elevate to actual worship. Most such services are held in and around the western parts of these united States. However, I suspect they may show up any where.

I recently was made aware that there is a published ‘Cowboy Bible.’ I have seen a copy of this piece of work, but have yet to open it. So, I will save any comments on it for another time. It simply should be noted that all of the dissenting sects have their own version of a bible. Each is written [translated] to rationalize and substantiate the sects own dogma. Most are terribly infantile and so poorly written as to bring tears to the eyes of more sensitive beings.

As for the ‘Cowboy Services,’ each has its own peculiarities, but the ‘minister’ is usually a well dressed movie, urban, or drug-store type. He, less often she, extols the virtues of the cowboy. Apparently, this creature is God’s favorite. It appears that God has given up on shepherds since cowboys came along. Yes, sheep are range maggots and do not mix with cattle. Most actual ranging examples show this to be false as well.

Cowboys are close to God, call on him daily, and thank him for saving themselves and the cattle they work. These guys are patriotic also. They are the ‘my country, right or wrong’ crowd. These are hard working Christian men (or boys) that are the salt of the earth and the knitting that holds the world together. At least that is the picture one gets from these ‘Cowboy Services’ with their ministers in boots.

All of the above gives me a good laugh.  Once again, the deception of these ministers and the gullibility of the masses make for highly humorous behaviors.

One need delve very briefly into the literature to discover something slightly different. A prime example comes from Andy Adams who wrote ‘The Log of a Cowboy; A narrative of the old trail days.’ As a sixteen year old, Adams left the San Antonio area to work with some cowmen and boys. They took charge of a herd in south Texas and moved up the western trail to Montana. Adams’ book is a travel log of his journey and one of the best documents of actual cowboy life and ways in the early trail driving days.

Adams’ writes that during one river crossing a young fellow is drowned. The crew finds his body and one of the boys knows the family. It would seem that the mother, described as a ‘Christian woman,’ has lost two other sons to drowning in the Red River. The boys decide to give this poor unfortunate a decent burial, so that it can be reported back to the mother that the boys had done the best they could by her son. So, one of the boys heads off toward the nearest town for a coffin while a couple of others begin to dig the grave.

Then Adams’ writes the most profound line. He writes, ‘There was not a man among us who was hypocrite enough to attempt to conduct a Christian burial service…’ Instead they send a rider to a wagon train of immigrants, one of which is described as a ‘superannuated minister who gladly volunteered his services.’ Well, the funereal goes off well as the minister’s daughters sang hymns and the word struck the hearts of all the boys.

What stands out here is the attitude that the boys had concerning their own standing before God. They were not hypocritical enough to believe they could pull off a Christian service. In other words, these simple boys who followed cows for living were humble enough to stand down and let God provide. This He did by having a ‘superannuated minister’ in the area.

Did they have a special service just for themselves? No. Did they have a specially written bible just for themselves? No. Did they dress like move or urban or drugstore imitations? No, they were the real thing. They simply waited on God and humbled themselves before the great mystery which no man can grasp.


Weekly Q&A – 20140621

Identify three sacred vestments, when they are worn, and what they represent.  Name at least two ways that the symbol of pastoral vestments may be better understood by the faithful?

Vestments worn by the pastor during the Divine Service have a long history and each has a distinct history and meaning.  Three of the most common vestments are the Alb, the Chasuble and the Stole.  What follows is a brief description and historical meaning of each.


The Alb is the basic undergarment worn by pastors and others during the entire service.  The Alb is named such from the Latin word, albus which means ‘white’.  Historically, newly baptized Christians were dressed in a new white tunic to symbolize there new life in Christ.  Over the years these tunics varied in length with shorter lengths for the young and longer for the mature.  The longer tunic is typically gathered at the waist by a rope-like chord called a cincture or girdle.  Thus, the historic and modern Alb worn by pastors during the liturgy are the baptismal attire.  Given the centrality of baptism to the faith, the pastor wears the Alb to remember his own baptism and to remind the congregation of their baptism.  The cincture/girdle, in addition to securing the Alb and Stole, also denotes chastity and purity and is the girding of the loins with truth from Ephesians 6:14.

The Chasuble began as an loose over garment worn by the plain folk of the ancient Greece.  There is some reference to it being worn by St. Paul and at the time was called paenula.  Paenula were a simple cloak, similar to the poncho of Spain and Latin America, worn over the clothing during the work day and was adopted as a cover for the aristocracy while riding or traveling.  Originally a humble garment, the aristocracy begin to decorate their paenula and began to tailor the fit.  St. Augustine referred to the paenula as a Chasuble in his writings as it was a casula or ‘little house’ for priest and monks when they traveled.  Early versions were full and round typically made of skins or heavy material to keep the wearer warm.  Over time they became smaller being made of lighter materials particularly silk when it became available.  They also became more decorative including woven trim made of fine material or gold.  Much of the elaborate decorations were rejected during the English Reformation yet as time has past the clergy of these Christian churches have returned to more embellishment.  Pastors don the Chasuble for the sacrament of the Lords Supper as a yoke that recalls the love and charity of Christ from Colossians 3:14

The Stole has an even more humble beginning.  Originally, it was a handkerchief called a sudarium.  Over time it became a scarf like garment that was worn around the neck and called a oraria.  The oraria was used to clean cups and eating wear.  They began to be used to clean the cup and plate that held the Lord’s Supper elements.  The modern Stole recalls the prayer shawls that rabbis wear.  There length and narrow design also call back to carrying a weapon strap over one shoulder and a provisions strap over the other, thus the crisscrossing by the pastor as the authority of his office.  It also reminds the pastor to preach God’s Word with the courage and conviction of a soldier of God.


A letter that needs writing….

This is a letter that many pastors need to write to their congregations as we slip down the slope……

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;

As you all are aware there is currently a push by some progressive members of the congregation to replace the liturgy used in our Sunday services. It appears that there are two views of how this replacing of the liturgy should happen. One approach is that the liturgy be entirely replaced with what is called a ‘contemporary praise and worship’ service. The second approach is that we continue to have two services keeping the liturgy in the early service and changing the second service to this ‘contemporary praise and worship’ style. I would like to point out that there is, in fact, another way to approach the question of how our services are ordered.

Mission San Juan, San Antonio, Texas

Recalling that the Church[1] is the bride of Christ. The primary function for the Church is for God’s people to worship Him. The fact that we can gather is a divine miracle. That is why in our Small Catechism we confess that it is the Holy Ghost that ‘… calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith…‘[2]

I view the Church as God’s garden. Through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, God creates his garden, the Church. Through care and nurturing the Church began to bloom and blossom in worship. Over the ages this mutual nurturing of God and organic response of the Church has resulted in the liturgy we use today.

In His mercy and through baptism in Jesus, God plants you and me in the Church. In the Church, Jesus promises that each of us will receive the nurturing of God’s holy Word and the Church responds in liturgy. Even as we worship, our bound wills seek to delude us into believing that we are pious, righteous and devout toward God. We turn our backs on God and begin to think that worship is our doing something for God.

With this pride, come our most precious religious, political, economic, and patriotic dreams. Myths we tell ourselves and one another; and to which we retreat so that we do not have to take care of our fellows and the good earth.[3] Once we are snared by these myths, we begin to see our personal wants, needs and desires as being the measure of all things. This leads us to think that praise and worship are things we do once a week in church for God.

This brings us to the day and the evil therein. There are three groups of stewards in the garden of the Church. In our congregation all three are present, that is not unusual. Each steward has a different idea of how to care for the garden and as such a dispute has arose as to which is the better steward.[4]

One group of stewards would like to have the liturgy be entirely replaced with what is called a ‘contemporary praise and worship’ service. They are the radical progressives. Radical in that they want to strike the root.[5] They would have the congregation tear out and burn out the existing garden, up root the young and the mature blooms and blossoms and start over with a fallow garden.

These radical progressives are not without seed for the fallow garden. They bring with them the seeds of ‘what everyone else is doing,’ ‘what is popular,’ and will ‘make the church grow.’ These seeds are ‘new’ in that they would introduce to our services songs that we hear on the radio, except with CINO[6] words in place of the original verses. They would bring in ‘new’ readings from the latest top sellers at the local CINO book store. They would replace the existing congregation with ‘new’ people from the un-churched and those that ‘do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.’

A second group of progressives would continue to have two services keeping the liturgy in the early service and changing the second service to this ‘contemporary praise and worship’ style. These liberal progressives want to keep the liturgy for themselves, but are willing to give liberty to another group who wish to have a ‘modern’ service. They wish to only fallow part of the garden in order to experiment with the seeds of ‘what everyone else is doing,’ ‘what is popular,’ and will ‘make the church grow.’

The liberal progressives do not have new seed for the garden. Rather they view the matter of worship as pure contingency. Through their view of Christian freedom, they are willing to let the radicals have a ‘go at it’ not realizing that the seeds of radicals will soon over grow the liberals part of the garden. They turn their backs on the other side and wish them good luck, only to be surprised with how the liturgy will change over time.

These ‘new’ seeds grow well in fallow ground and slowly expand to other parts of the garden until the entire garden has changed. The hymns will be replaced with ‘cover songs.’ The organ will grow dusty as guitars, tambourines, drums and other bar-band instruments become the standard. The symbols of the Church will be replaced with symbols of the people: butterflies and modern art wall hangings, blue jeans and flowered shirts, ‘come to Jesus’ expressions and Hallmark card sentimentality. The processionals will be replaced with ‘liturgical dance’ and children’s performances.

The great travesty of this move is that eventually even the sacraments of the Church will be changed to reflect the progressive vision. The divine gifts of baptism and the Lord’s Supper will become symbolic and reenactments of the life of Jesus. Baptism will be a ‘cleaning up’ of the people who have chosen to be better. The Lord’s Supper will become a drive-trough with the bread served as you pass by the pastor and the wine, now grape juice, will be served in plastic ‘Jesus jiggers.’

As you can tell by now, I count myself out of either of these two groups. However, before you discount me a some stick-in-the-mud old fogy, hear me out. As a fallen and sinful man, I recognize the need for the church to all ways be reforming. I stand by organic reformation rather than quick or slow revolution. Our existing fellowship hall has a stage for songs, ‘praise band’ music, a more relaxed setting for ‘wall art’ and ‘dressing down;’ and a perfect place for dancing and performing by young and old.

This is what we should do after services on Sunday morning. Enjoy each other and the gifts that God has given us. The ‘pot-luck’ meal where we share the life abundant with one another. Yes, we should let ourselves relax and bask in the glow of what our God has done for us each day, but especially on the Lord’s day.

As for the liturgy, it is constantly reforming with ever the eyes toward keeping it God-centered and Christ-centered. All changes to the liturgy are slow, deliberate and ordered as to not introduce chaos into the church or congregation. Concerning the sacraments, it would be a violation of my vows to allow changes in our ancient practices. There are certainly new hymns to be considered, new prayers to be written and new ways of preaching and teaching the Law and Gospel.

So it is, that, the historic and mature liturgy that has flourished in the Church for two-thousand years, will continue to be the standard for our church and congregation. In recognition that this may not be what some want to hear and that some will decide to leave our congregation, I realize this to be real possibility. To those for whom this continuation is uncomfortable, I remain open for conversation. To those for whom this continuation is unacceptable, it is more Christian that we part company than to become bitter attempting to abide one another. I will continue to pray for you and wish you well, should you decided to leave.

Yours in Christ,



[1] The capitalization of the word Church indicates the mystical body of the Communion of the Saints, both the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant. The lower case word ‘church’ indicates the bricks and mortar building in which we gather. Additionally, I use the word ‘congregation’ to mean the people who gather in a ‘church.’

[2] Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: German-Latin-English. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921). SC.

[3] after Gerhard O. Forde. Where God Meets Man: Luther’s Down-To-Earth Approach to the Gospel. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1972). p. 107.

[4] after Luke 22:24.

[5] The etymology of the word radical from Latin radix (genitive radicis) meaning “root.”

[6] Acronym for Christian In Name Only – CINO.

Weekly Q&A – 20140614

Choose one of the following theologies and explore how they are emphasized both in historic liturgical forms (i.e., the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours) and in the German Lutheran Messe: theologia cruces, sola fide, the Real Presence of Christ.

My interest in this question stems from the fact that we have only one theology, that of the Cross.  Particulars such as sola fide and the Real Presence of Christ are part and parcel of the Theology of the Cross (theologia cruces).  Critical to this is that in his writings, specifically the Heidelberg Disputation, Martin Luther focuses three theses (19, 20 & 21) on defining who is and who is not a theologian.  Only later does Luther set forth the Cross as “our theology.”  Thus, it is that theologia cruces defines the theologian, but also the praxis of our theology in liturgy forms.Cross at Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas

The medieval Mass retained many elements of the theologia cruces, including the penitential Kyrie, the laudatory Gloria, the confessional Credo, the laudatory Sanctus and the penitential Agnus Dei.  Because these parts of the Mass remained focused on Christ’s work and our creaturely position, Luther kept them in the Messe.  As such these should remain as part of any modern liturgical forms.

All liturgical forms should remain focused upon ‘suffering and the Cross.’  Recently, two threats to the Lutheran liturgical form of proclamation have returned, these are the ‘decadent pietism’ identified by Forde and ‘functional Arminianism’ identified by Curtis.  These threats can be qualified as personal affirmation (of oneself and of others) and ‘making a decision for Christ.’  Each are a danger to true worship and are a degradation of the liturgy.

As theologians of the Cross and responsible liturgists, we should be on guard against these threats as we consider what is included and excluded from our services.  Over the years older hymns (chorales) and modern hymns that focus on God and His Christ as the actors and we as the passive recipients of His actions can and should continue to be included.  Modern and camp meeting (gospel music?) songs should be view critically before inclusion as they tend to affirm us and reinforce our own idolatry.

We must continue to teach and preach that all of us should be very cautious of what is brought into our congregations.  Very few, if any, resources found at the local ‘Christian’ bookstore have been seriously vetted as meeting the standard of ‘suffering and the Cross.’  All pastors and teachers should use the theological analysis that was discussed in class.  Although our class focus was on hymn analysis, these points seem to be a good starting point for what should or should not be included in the liturgy.  The points were: 1. Is the form about God’s grace and thanksgiving?; 2. Does the form include works righteousness?; and 3. Is the Cross central in the form?

Additionally, one could add that the forms should be true and beautiful.  Ultimately, those historical and modern liturgical forms that give all might, majesty, dominion, power, and all the glory of our salvation to God alone, have and will stand the test of time.  No other forms are more important and far-reaching than standing firm in the theologia cruce.

The Remnant

I should like to note that I believe that the true lost sheep are part of the elect[1] or remnant.[2] These are not potential converts or seekers or any of the other modern terms for the unbeliever. Rather, the elect are those who respond when the light of the Gospel is turned on. They know the master’s voice and they follow. The remnant are always present. They are listening for the Word.

Old Church at Mission San Juan, San Antonio, Texas

Pastors would do well to remember that the elect/remnant are the people of God and His Church. As Pastor Curtis explained, ‘we serve the one people of God, his elect from every nation. And what the elect want, what the Church wants, is the Word of God, and worship that flows ceaselessly from the Word of God and is immersed in the imagery of the Word of God and is connected to the people of God of all times and places.'[3] This is and remains most certainly true.


[1] Triglot Concordia. FC SD XI.

[2] Isaiah 10:21, 11:16; 2 Kings 19:31; Romans 9:27, 11:5 and elsewhere.

[3] H.R. Curtis. Freed From the Shopkeeper’s Prison Series. Presented General Pastors’ Conference of the North Region of the IN District, LCMS, May 9, 2011.


Critical to the return to a theocentric order of worship is the centrality of the sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Supper.  Since we are to return to our Baptism daily, this sacrament should also define how we enter into worship.  Individual confession and corporate confession followed by absolution remind each of us of our Baptism into the Lord.  These forms of confession and absolution should continue to held prior to our worship in order to clear our minds and hearts for attending to God’s Word.

Font at Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas

Additionally, weekly receiving of the Lord’s Supper strengthens our faith after five or six days of being battered by the forces of evil.  In receiving the Holy Supper, we are gifted with the body and blood of our Savior and He then literally becomes us and we Him.  He has given us an earthly means to taste His Grace.  Nothing demonstrates our direct connection and need of Him more certainly than the gifts of His Supper.


Luther and Worship

Worship is where the Holy Ghost leads us to ask for the our sin to be forgiven.  The reformers wrote that: This worship is the highest worship of Christ. Nothing greater could be ascribe to Christ. To seek from Him the remission of sins was truly to acknowledge the Messiah. Now, thus to think of Christ, thus to worship Him, thus to embrace Him, is truly to believe.*   Luther made very few changes in the medieval Latin Mass which is confessed; we do not abolish the Mass, but religiously maintain and defend it. For among us masses are celebrated every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals, in which the Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other like things.   He retained the use of the Latin language with which; … we mingle with it German hymns, in order that the people also may have something to learn, and by which faith and fear may be called forth. This custom has always existed in the churches. For although some more frequently, and others more rarely, introduced German hymns, nevertheless the people almost everywhere sang something in their own tongue. [Therefore, this is not such a new departure.]**

Cross at Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas

Unfortunately, most Sunday gatherings are more representative of overhaul of the Mass that was made by the radical progressives, Calvin, Zwingli and the enthusiasts.  These radicals ‘threw out all traditional services and substituted spiritualism for Word and Gospel.’***   This has lead to a cacophonous mixture that strains the definition of worship to its breaking point.  Completely lost is the basis for reforming the church.

Returning to the source of the reformation would be a start.  Again, not to necessarily reinstate Luther’s Mass directly, but to look to it as a guide for our current worship.  A return of order and discipline in worship would encourage the use of the what is good, beautiful and true.  This should include the use of elements of worship that have been developed in all times and in various places.  Here is a place for modern hymns and other forms that are theocentric and not simply rebellious.


* Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: German-Latin-English.  (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921).  AP IV II 33.

** Triglot Concordia. AP XXIV 1

*** Triglot Concordia. AP XXIV 3-5

Worship Defined

Marva J. Dawn in her book, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time, makes the point that there are several words in the New Testament that could signify worship.   Included are latreuo as paying homage to God and proskuneo as an attitude or gesture of allegiance to God.  She points out that these terms speak of esteem and proper behavior.  She goes on to say that other words indicate the bringing of offerings.  Offering no support for such a clam, Dawn’s analysis shifts immediately to the Old Testament usage of words indicating sacrifice.  However, it should be noted that Dawn originally is referencing the New Testament concerning the word worship, and again there is a difference of what can be understood as worship and the demeanor and activities of worshipers.*

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Both Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and Englishman’s Greek Concordance indicate that the term latreuo originally meant to ‘serve for hire.**   Both concordances demonstrate that latreuo as used in the New Testament means to render religious service or homage, so far so good.  As for proskuneo, both concordances indicate that the word describes a worshiper, a person who worships.  To put a fine point on both Dawn’s definitions and those of the concordances, they are all anthropocentric, that is they describe the actions and/or behaviors of the people involved in a religious service.  For those, like myself, who have been lead to the absolute sovereignty of God, we must look for a definition that attributes the actions to God alone.

The etymology of the word, worship, comes from the Anglo-Saxon weorðscipe and as a noun means …the condition of being worthy, dignity, glory, distinction, honor, renown…  Here, from the Germanic language, one finds the more correct definition of one who is worship.  As a noun, worship is used to describe a person, place or thing.  It recalls an old salutation of ‘Your Worship’ which was used when addressing one’s class superiors, particularly aristocrats and clerics.  It is not until A.D. 1300 that the verb sense of reverence paid to a supernatural or divine being is first recorded.***   Therefore, from this one can determine that God is the only one who possesses the condition of being worthy, dignity, glory, distinction, honor, renown, etc.  Accordingly, God is Worship.

This also harkens back to the words of the psalmist, who wrote: אֲ֭דֹנָי שְׂפָתַ֣י תִּפְתָּ֑ח וּ֝פִ֗י יַגִּ֥יד תְּהִלָּתֶֽךָ׃  Which we translate as; Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.   Here the psalmist confirms that God is the actor and we are the ones being acted upon.  Thus, worship in its true form is the creature suffering the workings of the sovereign God, which results in prayers, praises, hymns and thanksgiving returning from us to God.  This fulfills the scripture where God says; so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.


* Marva J. Dawn.  Reaching Out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time.  (Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K., 1995).  p. 81. Dawn refers to the Old Testament as the ‘First Testament,’ in an effort to be sensitive to the modern mind.  Sadly, this is an intentional distortion which can only be destructive to the building up of the Church.

** NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries.  (The Lockman Foundation, 1998).  accessed April 24, 2014. http://biblehub.com/

*** Douglas Harper. The Online Etymology Dictionary.  accessed April 24, 2014. http://etymonline.com/