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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Liturgy is the ‘what’

Be ready to adapt the ‘what’ for the ‘why’ of worship

Does talk of traditional Lutheran liturgy spark a realization that your congregation falls somewhere outside this box? You aren't alone.

Many ELCA members attend congregations with a less liturgical or even non-liturgical service. If you aren't paging through a cranberry, green, black or red book of worship on Sundays, you may well wonder: How does the Lutheran liturgy relate to my experience? On the other hand, if you deem the formal liturgy a necessity, you may wonder how some — even Lutherans — live without it.

design picsFormal liturgical worship has been part of the Christian church for all its 2,000 years. It is and always will be part of who we are. But it's not the only option. Liturgy, or the "what" of worship (necessary prayers, certain actions or elements), shouldn't cause us to forget the "why" of worship.

So what is and isn't liturgy?

Liturgy is the form, not the purpose, for worship. Ultimately, worship is about God in Christ encountering God's people and sending us out by the power of the Spirit to live like Jesus in the world. The essence of worship isn't liturgical but sacramental.

To borrow from Martin Luther, God takes on flesh in, with and through us. We as the church become Christ's body in the world. While we prize our Lutheran forms of worship, the diversity in the universal church shows us there isn't one set form for worship, only one set purpose.


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