Liturgy by TLW



What Do You Bring to Worship?

by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The following is a newsletter article that I wrote back in 2001 for a church I was serving as a consultant in Clearwater, FL.

What is it that you bring to worship each Sunday? Within yourselves, I am talking about. Did you realize that you were to bring something? Perhaps you did. Perhaps not. I am not always sure that we do a good job in the church in communicating what worship really is.
I can remember when I was a kid, it was pretty much the pastor’s “show.” I mean, yes I grew up Lutheran, and we had a liturgy to sing and all, but the only one we saw in the chancel was the pastor basically. The choir and organist provided a little “entertainment,” but still it was the pastor’s “show.” He was the chief “actor,” and we were the audience, as far as I was concerned, whose job it was to come to passively receive what the pastor had to give us or teach us about God that day.
Later when I was older and studying worship in school, I read that I wasn’t the only one who made this “theater” approach to worship. It seemed a lot of adult church-goers across all the denominations did too. And I remember this particular author correcting the “theater” metaphor. In truth, he said, God is the audience. The actors are all the people right along with the pastor. What a revelation!
It’s not without meaning that what we do on Sunday morning is called Liturgy. It is a word from the Greek that means “the work of the people.” Even a look for the word “worship” in any dictionary or thesaurus will net you a list of synonyms like love, adoration, honor, veneration, reverence. There is a particular direction in each of those words: from self outward to the adored. And the words are all active, not passive.
Scripture says it no differently. “You shall worship God” Exodus 3:12. “He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen” Deuteronomy 10:20-21. “Worship the Lord with gladness” Psalm 100:2. “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good” Psalm 106:1. “You shall not delay to make offerings from the fullness of your harvest” Exodus 22:29. “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” Psalm 51:17. “What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation” 1 Corinthians 14:26. “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” 1 Corinthians 10:16
Do you see it? All the worship activity in scripture is active participation by ALL who assemble, with that participation being in thanksgiving and praise to God from a heart of gladness. Yes, the person in the pew, the Christian who has a relationship with the God who is present in our worship, has something to do, something to bring, something to offer, beginning with an attitude of love for the Lord. The Christian has more to bring than to receive, because the Christian has already received – blessings all week, family, job, home, life, breathe, air, creation, a new day, opportunity, friends, a family of God, love in abundance, forgiveness, salvation. And so the Christian is already humbled by the blessings of God, and enters the doors of the church with awe, humility and readiness to offer his or her own praises, thanksgivings. The Christian also fully recognizes and appreciates the praises, thanksgivings and offerings of others as well. Because a Christian who comes to worship knows that in the fellowship of believers, everyone else has already received also. All are alike when they stand before Christ, both sinful and forgiven, and no one’s praises are sweeter to God than anyone else’s praises.
So there is no critique, only worship and joy in the Lord, even more joy that each person is there as part of the fellowship, from the one who sings off key, to the one who has little monetary offerings to give, to the one who stands at the wrong time in the liturgy, to the pastor who gets lost in the sermon, to the musician who misses a note, to the acolyte who forgets to light one candle. ALL bring something special to the Lord, and their offerings and praises are sweet to God’s ears and beautiful in his sight, because they come from a worshipful heart of love.
So again I ask you, what do you bring to worship the Lord? What is your part? You have one. Make it special. Don’t let anyone else disturb your focus on your worship of your God, but appreciate as God does what all others in the fellowship have to bring as well.