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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Our Lutheran liturgy

Raising a shout for its Bible roots

Newcomers to the Lutheran church often ask why we do what we do in worship. But even those of us who have been in the church all our lives may not always know exactly what we are doing and why. We can renew our sense of worship with a single question: How does our liturgy relate to the Bible?

Liturgy, a Greek word meaning "service," was taken over by Christians (Romans 12:1) to describe Christian worship of God. Gottesdienst, the German word for "worship," still relates to that Greek meaning. It literally means "service of God."

And in Lutheran worship, more than almost any other Christian group, we emphasize not so much how we serve God as how, surprisingly, God serves us in worship.

michael d. watsonConfession and forgiveness

So Jesus is teaching in a house, and some desperate friends of a paralyzed man dig a hole in the roof and lower him down to Jesus' feet (Mark 2:1-12). Jesus, instead of simply healing him, says, "Your sins are forgiven."

When some complain that only God can forgive sins, Jesus answers: "Which is easier, to forgive or to heal?" And he heals the man at once.

Of course, Mark's readers would be chuckling because they confessed Jesus as the Son of God.

Forgiveness is at the heart of our encounter with Jesus — first in baptism and then weekly. Each week we remember our baptism by confessing our sins (we are put under the water) and receiving forgiveness (we are drawn out again as new people).

That we hear of God's forgiveness from a human being shouldn't surprise us: she or he speaks forgiveness by Christ's authority alone.


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