The Divine Service is at the very heart and center of our lives as Christians. In it, our Lord Himself comes to bestow on us His grace, to feed and nourish us in our faith, and to equip us for service in the world. So what is the service here at Our Redeemer like?
Liturgical and Sacramental
First of all, the service is "liturgical". That is to say, it is “a public service rendered on our behalf.” More specifically, it is a public service rendered by Christ on our behalf. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Indeed, the service is all about what God is doing for us. We “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). This is why Lutherans have traditionally referred to the service, not simply as “worship” (where the focus is on what we are doing for God), but as “Divine Service.” It is “God’s service” rendered on our behalf. As Dr. Martin Luther once wrote, “when we hear the Word, we are hearing and witnessing the performance of a Divine work; for the Word is not ours but our Lord God’s.” Thus, the service is also “sacramental." In it, God is “mysteriously” present to bestow His mercy and grace.
Transcendent and Mystical
As the Church itself is timeless, so is the Divine Service. It transcends the boundaries of time and space. Here, we experience a “foretaste of the feast to come.” It literally is “heaven on earth.” For when we gather together for service in the presence of God, we gather “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven” (c.f. Hebrews 12:22-24). That means we also gather in "mystic sweet communion” with the saints of old (i.e. our loved ones who have died in the faith), as well as with the saints still living throughout the world. Thus, we sing songs and hymns from every age – from the psalms of the Old Testament and the chorales of the Reformation, to the spirituals of early America and the contemporary songs of today. And we sing songs and hymns from every land – from the Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and European, to the African, Asian, and Latin American. Doing so keeps us mindful of the fact that Christ’s Church is much bigger than any one congregation, denomination, generation, or culture. It also keeps us mindful of the fact that, when we gather together around God’s Word and Sacraments, we are not alone.
As the temple services of the Old Testament employed features that engaged all the senses, so the Divine Service addresses us as whole persons who see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Indeed, Lutherans have always been tremendous supporters of the arts because of their ability to engage the heart and mind in ways that nothing else can. As Dr. Luther also wrote, “I am not of the opinion that the Gospel should destroy and blight all the arts, as some of the pseudo-religious claim. But I would like to see all the arts, especially music, used in the service of Him who gave them and made them. . . so that God’s Word and Christian teaching might be instilled and implanted in many ways.” Thus, we employ things like statues, paintings, stained glass, paraments, vestments, symbols, colors, light, movement, preaching, music, flowers, incense, water, bread, and wine so as to engage the whole person with the Gospel of Christ. As far as the musical component is concerned, we treasure the organ and piano for their overall beauty and versatility. But we also make use of brass, strings, woodwinds, percussion, hand bells, and more. Our adult and children’s choirs also play a significant role in enlarging and elevating the adoration of our gracious God here, as does our Praise Team.
Edifying and Evocative
One of our hymnals opens with the following words: “Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise.” The Divine Service is no mere spectator event, and its purpose is not simply to entertain. Its purpose is to deliver God’s grace so that our faith may be edified. The edified faith that results from that delivered grace then evokes in us a response of praise and thanksgiving. Like Peter and John, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). “For the love of Christ controls us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). Having encountered God and His grace in the Divine Service, we proceed to express our gratitude to Him in worship.
So if you are looking to experience something truly transcendent, engaging, edifying, etc., come join us for the Divine Service every Sunday at 8:00 or 10:30 am! "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8).