Why do I use the liturgy? Reason # 4

Guest article by Pr. Bruce Timm.

Previous article, reasons 1-3, found here.


Reason Number 4 for Using the Liturgy  – They used the Liturgy in the Garden of Eden

BJS_BruceTimmIt’s quite a bold assertion that Adam and Eve used the liturgy in the Garden of Eden.  Let me explain what I mean by this seemingly outrageous claim.  Adam and Eve lived on the gifts of God.  They lived by His Word.  God spoke both a promise and a curse to Adam and Eve.  The promise of His Word was that they would live forever in a blissful marriage with each other and in communion with Him.  God had given them everything necessary for life including the fruit from the Tree of Life in the middle of the garden.  God’s curse (death) would only come if Adam and Eve would despise God’s gifts and take that which God had not given them.  Should Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they would die.  They would return to the dust from which they were crafted.  Life for Adam and Eve was found in the Word and the Sacrament (i.e., listening to His Word and eating that to which God had attached His promise.)  No, they didn’t have page 151 in the Lutheran Service Book, but life was attached to hearing God’s Word and eating His food.

One example does not a pattern make.  Did anyone else in Scripture live by God’s Word and Sacrament?  Absolutely.  A few years ago I lead my weekday Bible Study through the book of Leviticus.  We have learned about the long lobe of the liver, the scapegoat, and the pleasing aroma of sacrifices to God.   A week of our class rarely went by without me declaring “Leviticus is Lutheran.”  God’s people of the Old Testament struggled as we do with sin and the temptations of the popular culture.  They became unclean through their sins and contact with the pagan cultures around them.  At first glance Leviticus seems to be all laws.  Do this!  Do that!  But a thorough study reveals that God through His Words provides the way for His people to be clean, to return to Him, to be holy.

Leviticus is a book of God’s abundant grace.  For every condition of uncleanness the Lord provides a way back to Him, a way back to being clean, a way back to the community of God’s people.   Those ways were “sacraments” – physical elements connected to God’s Word with the promise of grace.  All those animal sacrifices and that sprinkled blood and offerings were God’s means to sanctify His people (in view of Christ’s coming death).  By His Word and Sacraments He cleansed His people of their sins.  Leviticus has brought new meaning to this passage from 1 John (part of which  we say each week before confession), “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 Jn 1:8-9.   The Old Testament worship of Israel continued in the promised land and was centered in the Temple, where God was present among His people to cleanse them of their sins with the sacrifice of flesh and blood.

The New Testament Church was also a church devoted to the liturgy of Word and Sacrament.  St. Luke describes the worship of the earliest Christians.  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Act 2:42 What did the earliest Christians do in their worship?  They listened to the Apostles’ teaching of Christ’s death for sins.  They joined together with fellow believers in congregations.  They broke the bread of the Lord’s Supper and received their risen Savior in His body and blood.  They prayed for the world and those in need.  They loved because Christ loved them.  The liturgy brought them Christ and life and forgiveness.

If you examine the liturgies of the Church you will find they have these two parts.  After the confession, the first chief part of the liturgy is a service of the Word in which we hear the preaching of the Prophets (Old Testament), Apostles (Epistles) and Evangelists (Gospel readings).  That Word reveals life to us.  Our life is in the death of Jesus Christ for our sins.  The cross is the Tree of Life that Adam and Eve lost access to in the Garden of Eden.  Our preachers proclaim “Christ and Him crucified” to us.  Then after the service of the Word comes the service of the Sacrament.  God graciously invites us to eat the body and blood of Christ – the very body and blood that was sacrificed and now lives and reigns in heaven.  This liturgy is our life.  To be apart from Christ and His Word is to be apart from life.  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. Jn 6:53-56

The people of God live in and by the liturgy – hearing God’s Word and receiving His sacrament.  We don’t use the liturgy simply because God’s people used it.  We use it because God’s Word and Sacraments bring us the gifts of Jesus – fruit from the tree of life, the tree of the cross.


Next week’s reason for using the liturgy:  Reason #5:  The liturgy teaches the young and sustains the old.

About Pastor Bruce Timm

Pastor Timm serves Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. He is married to Valerie and they have four children - three "mostly grown" daughters and one son at home. Pastor Timm was ordained in Lutheran Church - Canada in 1988 and served in the LCC until 2001 when he began serving Redeemer. He "enjoys" maintaining the fleet of cars he owns for his children, exercising his second amendment rights, and discovering the delights of single malt beverages from Scotland. He is a Saint Louis grad, but is regularly confused with graduates of Fort Wayne. He takes that as a compliment.


Why do I use the liturgy? Reason # 4 — 10 Comments

  1. What did the earliest Christians do in their worship?  They listened to the Apostles’ teaching of Christ’s death for sins.  They joined together with fellow believers in congregations.  They broke the bread of the Lord’s Supper and received their risen Savior in His body and blood.  They prayed for the world and those in need.  They loved because Christ loved them.

    Don’t all Lutheran congregations do this whether or not they use LSB? Thanks.

  2. @John Rixe #1

    Are you setting up a straw man? While I mentioned LSB in my post I never said, “LSB equals the liturgy.” While LSB has the liturgy and there are many good reasons why congregations of the Synod should use LSB (like their pledge when they joined synod) that subject is not addressed in this article.

    To answer your question, if it isn’t a straw man, I would answer, “No, not all Lutheran congregations hear the apostles teaching nor do they all celebrate the Lord’s Supper, nor do all Lutheran congregation pray exclusively to the one true God. Many Lutheran congregations actually believe their ‘love’ (i.e., tolerance, acceptance) is more important than Christ’s love on the cross and His love of calling sinners to repentance and belief in forgiveness.” My answer has nothing to do with what hymnal they use or do not use. By Lutheran congregation I mean a congregation with “Lutheran” in her name.

  3. My apologies for the imprecision.  I still have the question:  Don’t all LCMS congregations do this whether or not they use a synodically approved hymnal (TLH, WS69, LW, HS98, AGPS, LSB)?   I don’t get around much, but I’ve never heard of an LCMS congregation that didn’t mirror what the earliest Christians did in worship no matter what their liturgical format.  Maybe there are a few isolated outliers – I don’t know.  Thanks for your patience.

  4. @John Rixe #3

    I cannot imagine a LCMS congregation not having Scripture readings or having the Lord’s Supper on a somewhat regular basis. I do not believe that necessarily fits the definition of the liturgy – which I loosely defined in a reply to my other liturgy article.

    I’m not sure my article addresses the question you are asking. I believe (and I think I will demonstrate this through my series of articles) that the liturgy is the best service we can use to serve our people. My article will not address something that is equally important, namely our vows as brothers in the Synod to strive for the greatest uniformity in practice for the sake of the Gospel. I believe the Scriptures, Confessions, and the writings of the Lutheran and Synodical fathers entreat me to that vow. I believe that means if we have a synodically approved and agreed upon hymnal (and we do) we ought to use that to the greatest and most exclusive extent possible. I believe that is love for my neighbor brother and congregation (in addition to serving my people in the best way possible). It’s loving two sheep with one book (to make a horrible play on a cliche.)

  5. @John Rixe #3
    I still have the question: Don’t all LCMS congregations do this whether or not they use a synodically approved hymnal (TLH, WS69, LW, HS98, AGPS, LSB)?

    LCMS congregations agree to use “synodically approved” worship materials. [We’ll ignore the ones “synodically approved”, but inferior, for this.] If a congregation chooses to use other things, it is not “walking together” with the rest. An obvious side effect is that people who do use the regular hymnals/service aren’t really welcome or don’t feel that they are. An LCMS visitor becomes a bystander at the service.
    (Been there, done that)

    And if a congregation (or a Pastor with a big ego) thinks they can do the service “better” than the official methods, there are probably things they are doing that are not Lutheran. If that is where their heart is, they should be honest and follow it.
    Don’t make Lutherans have to search for a Lutheran church… in their own synod!

    To the author: we have several “synodically approved hymnals” (and ftm, several differing liturgies in LSB). I’m happy if the service is from any of them, having used TLH, LW and LSB in turn (and currently back to TLH).

  6. Helen and Pr Timm

    I agree we should only use synod approved worship materials.  I only had trouble understanding that Adam/Eve and also the New Testament said anything very specific about liturgical format.  I’ll wait for the next article.

  7. I belong to a bi-polar congregation (LCMS) that tries to do it “all” for everyone. There is a traditional service, a second rotating traditional one week, contemporary the next and then a third service that is contemporary – praise band etc. I joined this church in desperation to find a congregation that had traditional services. I have some heartburn over the fact that the contemporary praise band worship is also offered on the same “campus” but that’s what it is. I left my last congregation over issues concerning the worship service and how it should be done. I feel that I have no other options available to me so I stay put. I await St. Louis to perhaps use synodical influence, but don’t think that this will happen or help. I would never have believed that this day would come to our church, but it has. Unless we continue to speak up and elect District Presidents who adhere to their vows, we will just continue to go down this path. It makes me very sad.

  8. @John Rixe #6

    This reason #4 is obviously a little “tongue in cheek” to draw people into the article. However, it is only a little tongue in cheek, for the Scriptures do reveal a form of Word and Sacrament. Some books that have helped me to understand this are “The Unchanging Forms of the Gospel” by Hollger Sonntag and “Christian Worship – Apology of the Unchanging Forms of the Gospel.” There are requirements for the form of worship from God’s Word and especially from the Gospel.

  9. @John Rixe #3

    I know of at least one near my area, John, that does not do this at all in their Contemporary Service (they have three services: contemporary, traditional, and what the third one is, I don’t know).

  10. @J. Dean #9

    Perhaps that 3rd service you can’t put your finger on is “Conditional”?

    That’s a service that’s half-Contemporary and half-Traditional.


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