The question is important today in that the current Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) practical position seems to be pretty much that any and all worship styles are equally valid as Christian (Lutheran) worship. Among the various Lutheran congregations claiming affiliation with the LCMS one can find as many styles of worship as suits almost anyone’s personal preference. These services are offered under descriptions as: “traditional”, “seeker”, “contemporary”, “praise”, “creative”, and “experimental”.
In order to discern right worship (orthodoxy) it is first necessary to know what the church has always, everywhere, by all considered right, i.e., a look at where Christian worship has been in substance and manner. This is the purpose of our study just beginning.
Core to understanding worship is its direction. When Lutherans say “Divine Service”, we do not mean man’s activity toward God (paganism); rather God’s service to man. Jesus say’s “I AM among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:27c). Since Christian worship is principally about our Lord’s activity with his people, our participation will be appropriately circumscribed and receptively responsive rather than initiating.
Often the real presence of Christ is focused on doctrinal disagreements about the Lord’s Supper; but such an exclusive focus causes many to overlook God’s real presence by his word, and thus to view God’s word at best as revelatory information. But Jesus is the Word enfleshed among us so that all Scripture testifies of him, his rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection. Accordingly, God’s word is more than mere information; it is “living and active”, a dividing, piercing and discerning sword (Hebrews 4:12), it is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18), and Spirit and life (John 6:63). In addition to the Lord’s Supper, God’s word is the means of his presence and Service.
Christian worship is all about the real presence of God in Service to his people whom he calls into a baptized (ordained) community of priestly people who have access to the one who has promised to be their God (Exodus 6:7; 29:45, 46). What then is the principal Service which God renders? Certainly the forgiveness of sins! But more; Jesus admonishes his disciples, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). Priests with access to God must be holy. We are perfected in the flesh of Christ. This perfection or holiness is our Lord’s Service to us as we gather in faith by the power of his word and abide (remain) in his body (church) receiving his Service.
These are some of the heavenly realities of our priestly worship with angels and archangels (holy ones) which suggest that Christian worship has a substance and congruent order, conduct, and shape that does not admit to every pastor or congregation “doing whatever is right in his own eyes.” (Deuteronomy 12:8, Judges 17:6). We engage our study of why Lutherans worship in specific ways mindful that there is "right worship" which is God’s Service in Christ by his word inviting to faith, repentance, Baptism, Absolution and the Lord’s Supper.