When you come to a worship service at Emmanuel, you may not understand the reasons behind everything you see and hear at first. That’s OK. Watch and observe. Read and consider the words of the songs and the hymns. And listen, especially to the Scripture readings and the sermon.
Emmanuel is a liturgical church. That means more than just following an order of service. Here’s a brief explanation:
Christian worship was liturgical long before the Lutheran Reformation. Back in the 16th century, Martin Luther removed the false teachings that had crept into the Mass, but most of the service was left intact. Liturgical worship isn’t about reciting the exact same words week in and week out, and it isn’t about using the same melodies week in and week out.
Liturgical worship has as its goal to preach and teach the saving story of Christ from start to finish, which includes the Law (exposing our desperate neediness before God because of our sin) and the Gospel (God’s saving acts on our behalf in Christ). It is through the Gospel of Christ as it’s preached and as it’s administered in the Sacraments (Holy Baptism and Holy Communion) that the Holy Spirit creates and strengthens faith. We call this (the Gospel in Word and Sacrament) the “Means of Grace.” Even our hymns have the purpose of proclaiming God’s salvation history and teaching the truths of the Christian faith.
Liturgical worship is historically made up of three elements that are woven throughout the service: the “Ordinary,” the “Proper,” and the “Meal” (Holy Communion).
The Ordinary is a set of ancient, standard prayers and songs that teach us important Scriptural truths about God. The text of the Ordinary mostly stays the same from week to week, although the music may change. It includes…
- The “Kyrie” – “Lord, have mercy!”
- The “Gloria in Excelsis” – “Glory to God in the highest!”
- The Nicene Creed
- The “Sanctus” – “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God!”
- The “Agnus Dei” – “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world…”
The Proper is the part of the service that changes from week to week. It’s based on the use of the “Church Year,” our annual review of the life of Christ according to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Every Sunday in the Church Year has a specific Gospel reading and a particular emphasis that comes from the Gospel reading. The Church Year has been divided into “seasons” (like Christmas and Easter) to help us remember where we are in our focus on the life of Christ. Each season has its own special color to reflect the overall theme of the season (repentance, joy, hope, etc.) The Proper includes…
- The Prayer of the Day
- The Scripture readings for the day (usually three)
- The Psalm of the Day
- All the Hymns that are sung
- The Sermon (based on one of the Scripture readings for the day)
We also celebrate Christ’s Holy Meal (Communion) every Sunday at Emmanuel because of the great consolation it offers to Christ’s people, to receive in the very body and blood of Christ the forgiveness of sins. Since the Bible calls this Meal an expression of common faith, we only invite to the Lord’s Table those who have studied and confessed their agreement with the teachings of our church. This practice, called “Closed Communion,” is the historical practice of the Christian Church, although many churches no longer practice it.
In addition to the service itself, you’ll notice how our pastor is dressed during the service. He wears a white robe called an “alb” and a stole (in the color of the season of the Church Year) as a reminder that he does not speak his own thoughts or opinions during the service, but instead, he is representing Christ as a called and ordained ambassador.
Our pastor is more than willing to explain our worship practices in more detail, and to study the Bible with anyone who wishes to know more about the teachings of the Lutheran Church. An introductory study on the teachings of Scripture and the Lutheran Church is offered throughout the year to those who wish to learn, to review, or to explore the possibility of membership in our church.