Soli Deo GloriaOur churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. The Mass is held among us and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, except that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns. These have been added to teach people. For ceremonies are needed for this reason alone, that the uneducated be taught what they need to know about Christ .
–Article XXIV, Augsburg Confession (1530)
People, whether old or new to the Lutheran tradition, have noticed a striking similarity between Lutheran and Roman Catholic worship. Roman Catholics have often said, “Hey! Your worship service is just like ours, only a little different.” Lutherans reply in kind and the observations are correct. They are so, because of our common Christian history.
Like most things, Christian worship was not created in a vacuum or ex nihilo (from nothing). Its earliest basic form was shaped from the Jewish prayers and liturgy of the synagogue. The two halves of our Sunday morning service are naturally rooted in the Judaism of Christ and the apostles. The first half of our service or “Liturgy of the Word” is modeled on the synagogue sabbath service.
Prayers accompanied readings from the prophets and from the Torah (Gen-Deut), which were then expounded upon by a Rabbi (Lk 4:16-21). In Christian worship the Gospels replaced the Torah as the chief reading after which came the sermon or homily. The second half of our Sunday service, “the Liturgy of the Meal” is rooted in the Jewish Passover.
As time passed, two “rites” or ordos (orders) for worship emerged in the Church. The Eastern Rite (Byzantine Empire-Greek Christianity), which takes at least a good three hours to celebrate, is still celebrated by Eastern Orthodox churches to this day. One piece of which we have in our Lutheran Book of Worship is the hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” (LBW 198). It comes from the Divine Liturgy of St. James, which some scholars date as early as 60AD.
The Western Rite (Roman Empire-Latin Christianity) also developed an order of worship. Lutherans coming from this Western tradition continued to use this order that had been in place for centuries prior to the Reformation with some changes. Luther tweaked “the Mass” to fit the evangelical theology of the Reformation so that the clear proclamation of the work of Christ could shine through more brilliantly.
The continuity of worship Luther and the Reformers saw as an important way not only for the congregation to worship, but also for people to hear, learn, and remember all that Christ has done for them, because in the liturgy we are constantly surrounded by His holy Word to and for us.
- In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 18:20; 28:19)
- If we say we have no sin… (1John 1:8; John 20:23)
- Lord, have mercy… (Matthew 17:15)
- Glory to God in the Highest… (Luke 2:14) OR This is the Feast...Worthy is Christ the Lamb who was slain… (Revelation 5:12, 13)
- The Peace of the Lord be with you… (John 20:21)
- Alleluia! Lord to whom shall we go… (John 6:68)
- Holy, Holy, Holy Lord... (Isaiah 6:3) + Hosannah in the Highest... (Mark 11:9-10)
- On the night in which He was betrayed…(1 Corinthians 11:23f)
- Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world…(John 1:29)
- The Lord bless you and keep you… (Numbers 6:24-26)
- In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
As these are spoken and sung the Bible becomes a life-giving part of who we are, forming us in His image according to His Word. (Eph 4:24)+ Pastor Ian Wolfe