Again this week I share with you why I have come to treasure the historic liturgy of the Church, especially as we know it in the Lutheran Tradition. Last week I shared with you the Scriptural witness that permeates the order of service. This week I want to argue that the Divine Service is ordered as a participatory exercise.
The very word “liturgy” comes from the Greek, leitourgia. This word combines two words, the first having to do with people or the public, and the second with a work or service. So what we have is a public service. And although liturgical worship is led by a presider, it involves plenty of opportunities for the people to participate in the service.
Consider the following ways the Divine Service in our Lutheran Hymnal invites participation. We are invited to stand, kneel, sit, to process, to come to the altar, to eat and drink, to bow, to cross oneself, and to recess. We greet one another in the Triune Name of God. We have collective responses to the many prayers. We sing songs of praise and thanksgiving. Assisting Ministers lead chanted responses, read appointed lessons, lead in chanting or reciting Psalms, offer prayers, present the offerings, and assist with Holy Communion. People move about and share the peace, that is, they declare to one another our state of being reconciled to each other in Christ. I could go on.
It has been my observation that when congregations move away from the liturgy, there is a lot less participation from most of the worshipers in the actions of the service. Usually the same, limited few, are up in front, as if they were performing. At least they are doing most of the speaking and acting.
I think the participatory aspect is why younger children often take to liturgical worship. There are more things that they can be a part of.
Since You Asked…
What is the significance of the Day of Pentecost?
A principal Festival, The Day of Pentecost (Jewish harvest festival) was the occasion when the promised gift of the Holy Spirit was sent and poured out on the expectant church. It accordingly marks the culmination of the Easter Season. It occurs 50 days after Easter Sunday. Jesus had promised his followers that when he departed from them (the ascension, not the crucifixion) that he would not leave them as orphans. In fact, until his return at the end of the age, it would be to their advantage that he was departing, for then he would send the Holy Spirit as one called alongside them to comfort them, teach them, guide them, and empower them, even as the Holy Spirit continued to sanctify them (to make holy).