Q&A: Why Do Lutherans Go To Church on Sunday?

This question came in regarding why Lutherans go to church on Sundays.  Since this question can be asked in two different ways, two different answers were provided.

Question:  

Why do Lutherans go to church on Sunday?

Answer 1 – Why On Sunday:

Because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection.  Sunday is the day that the stone was rolled away from the tomb to reveal that Jesus had risen.  Sunday was the day that Jesus showed himself alive.  Thus, with the historic church, we celebrate the Sabbath on Sundays.

Answer 2 – Why Go To Church:

Who is the audience in Christian Worship? Is God the audience in worship or are we the audience in worship?

Who does the speaking in Christian Worship? Do we speak to God in worship or does God speak to us?

“It has often been taught that we speak to God in worship; that we summon his presence and offer Him praise. This view sees God as the audience of our worship. However, this is a pagan concept of worship. In pagan worship, the worshiper comes before his or her god to bring offerings and to present requests in order to please the particular god and get the god to respond to the worshiper in the way the worshiper desires (Lev. 10:1-3; Jer. 32:35; Ps. 78:56-59)

Christian worship is the exact opposite. God is the speaker. We are the audience. He has called and invited us before Him; He has called and invited us before Him together so that He can talk with us. In both the Old and New Testament worship God’s Word, that speaks to us, is central to the gathering. (Ex. 29:42; Neh. 9:1-4; Acts 2:14-47)

God speaks and we listen and respond. Through His Word, the Bible, God shows His character and His works. He speaks to us about our sin and about the way of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. We respond to Him through a variety of ways. These include: showing remorse for sin (Isaiah 30:15); confessing (Psalm 32:5); trusting (Psalm 13:5); praying (1 Thess. 5:16-18); offering ourselves (Romans 12:1); praising (Psalm 145) and thanking (Psalm 106:1)”[1]

Just think about it! If God is the speaker in worship and we are the audience that means that God is the active one on Sunday Mornings. The worship service depends on God doing the verbs, God descending to us, God being present in the worship service and God reaching out to us with His grace and mercy through His Word and Sacraments  (i.e. means of grace).

Because God is the speaker in Sunday morning worship, we go to Sunday services not to ‘give’ our best but to ‘receive’ God’s best.  We get to go to worship in order that we might confess our sins and hear from God in the proclamation of the Word (e.g. Law and Gospel).  We go to worship to receive the accomplished forgiveness of sins delivered to us in the Word and Sacraments.

Worship (i.e. divine service) is a tremendous gift to us!

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[1] Bethel Lutheran Church Word and Worship Committee, (Fergus Falls, MN, May 9 of 2006)

 

About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.

Comments

Q&A: Why Do Lutherans Go To Church on Sunday? — 15 Comments

  1. “‘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. Music is drawn into the thankfulness and praise, enlarging and elevating the adoration of our gracious giver God. Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure.’

    Dr. Norman Nagel from the introduction of Lutheran Worship [still one of the best concise descriptions of the Divine Service, bar none]”

    Dr. Nagel also taught me, embarrassingly so, that the term “worship (worthy service) service” is a redundancy.

  2. I wouldn’t really say that Sunday is now the Sabbath, but I understand what he is trying to say.

  3. From Pastor Aadland’s sermon at the Deconsecration service at ULCMN, June, 2012:

    ‘Many concerns overlay our mixed emotions. However, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, one thing is needful – that our Lord put His words into us and that we receive them. For with these words, by means of them, comes His divine energy to bestow upon us His life-renewing Spirit. For when He says, “Those who worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and truth,” – what spirit is this? Surely not our spirit! Our spirit may be at turns troubled by confusion, thrown into doubt, embroiled in vindictiveness and soiled with impurity – all in a single afternoon. The Spirit our Lord means, as Bishop Augustine tells us, the spirit of truth, is the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of the Son.

    We don’t want to worship in spirit and truth; we must be ushered into it. For we are such bent creatures as those for whom it is impossible to want God to be God. Indeed, we want ourselves to be God and God not to be God. So we do not want to worship, period. We have an inborn prejudice against God. We would rather call the shots and decide for ourselves what is good and what is evil, what is to be taken and what avoided. So to win from us the kind of worship that pleases Him, God must first put us to death. This He does without destroying us. He kills every religious pretense that tries to lift itself up by its own bootstraps. In the waters of Holy Baptism He unites us with Christ in His death and resurrection. There He engenders in us the heavenly life from above, a life derived not from Adam, but from God. “See what love the Father has given us,” writes St. John, “that we should be called the children of God. And such we are.”

    As in Holy Baptism, so in all of God’s manifold means of grace we are witness to what grammarians truly call the divine and perfect passive – God is the great Giver, we are His cheerful beggars. So, when the devil would attack us, disguised as an angel of light and armed with the rightful accusations of the holy law belonging to God Himself, we may turn away in stubborn joy and claim: “Nevertheless, I am baptized.” Christ is crucified. I am now God’s child. I am clothed in Christ and His righteousness. I am absolved by God Himself through the mouth of His faithful servant. See with what heavenly bread I am fed and by what wonderful drink I am satisfied. And I am never alone in this! I am surrounded by fellow sinners, fellow redeemed, and with them I am learning from my Prince Immanuel Himself how I am now free to live in the courts of Zion by the motto of that fair City written in His own life’s blood: “My Life for yours!”

    Behold now the mystery of the church, which has never been essentially a place of miserly renting and leasing, but of holy and profligate giving and happy receiving, marked by the worship of the living God in spirit and truth, where our very bodies are being trained in adoration. This congregation lives and may she ever live by this Spirit. As was the early church, so you have been made to be devoted to the apostle’s teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. In all of this, our divine Liturgist, Christ Himself, has been serving you.’

  4. The answer puts forward a false alternative: God giving vs. our giving something to God.

    God gives, we receive and because of that we offer him our thanks and praise.

    Yes, we go to worship to receive God’s gifts.
    Yes, we go to worship to give God our thanks and praise.

  5. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #4

    Taken from the article above:

    “We respond to Him through a variety of ways. These include: showing remorse for sin (Isaiah 30:15); confessing (Psalm 32:5); trusting (Psalm 13:5); praying (1 Thess. 5:16-18); offering ourselves (Romans 12:1); praising (Psalm 145) and thanking (Psalm 106:1)”

    God gives, we receive and because of that we offer him our thanks and praise. Right on!

  6. “It has often been taught that we speak to God in worship; …”

    This we do.

    “… that we summon his presence … ”

    A traditional service does have an invocation.

    “… and offer Him praise. ”

    This we do, and God invites us to do so right from the start:

    “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!” Ps. 100:4

    ——-

    From Dr. Nagel: “His Word bestows what it says.”

    I have never understood that.

    What does the following passage bestow?: “These were the offerings of the Israelite leaders for the dedication of the altar when it was anointed: twelve silver plates, twelve silver sprinkling bowls and twelve gold dishes.” Numbers 7:24

    Are there no conditions for the Word bearing fruit? —

    “And as he sowed, some [seed] fell along the path and was trampled underfoot …” Luke 8:5

    “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:13

    So the Word bestows blessing only as God has given His grace and His spirit.

  7. Do we not go to be fed with Word and Sacrament after repentence? Do we not go as members and pastors to renew our promises to God’s revealed truth so as to not compromise on that truth lest we cower in the Lord’s presence when we give an account for our faithfulness or failure by giving in to the evil forces of pc and apostasy? These days are there not too many hearts led by rationalization?

  8. @Pastor Matt Richard #5
    Taken from the article above:

    “We respond to Him through a variety of ways. These include: showing remorse for sin (Isaiah 30:15); confessing (Psalm 32:5); trusting (Psalm 13:5); praying (1 Thess. 5:16-18); offering ourselves (Romans 12:1); praising (Psalm 145) and thanking (Psalm 106:1)”

    God gives, we receive and because of that we offer him our thanks and praise. Right on!

    (worth repeating)

  9. As in the days of promise-let all pastors and members on every level renew their vows to the Lord for faithfulness to the truth and not nice cars and high salaries and perks

  10. IMO Why go to church? Two reasons. 1. It’s commanded by God…”Remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy.” Ex 20:8. “a day of assembly” Lev.23:3 And not going to church you can’t please God if you do not keep His commands. 2. Sin plagues us… and John says, “If you forgive anyone His sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them they are not forgiven” John 20:22-23 So you have to go to a true Christian church to hear the words of absolution and receive the blessed sacraments. #39 Small Catechism.

  11. @Carl H #9

    This must be one of those paradoxes with which Lutherans are comfortable: “Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says” for all but those who reject it in unbelief. The wild card in this is when the old Adam drowns the new creation.

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