Liturgy: Late Latin liturgia; from Greek leitourgia public service, divine service, liturgy, from leit- (from les people) + -ourgia -urgy.
Worship: Old English weorthscipe worthiness, respect, from weorth worthy, worth + -scipe -ship.
Liturgy is a household word for many Lutherans.
Just like washing the car or cooking supper, liturgy is what we who are
members of ELCA congregations do regularly. Do we know what we mean,
though, when we talk about the liturgy?
Is it a historic relic or a dynamic source for our ongoing worship? Is
it a resource for us or an obstacle? Does the liturgy connect us to
God, our Lifesource, or leave us disengaged? What do we, as Lutherans
today, value about liturgy?
For some, the liturgy is a way to connect spiritually with the church’s tradition. It opens us into something larger than ourselves, places us in a relationship with God through words prayed and sung for centuries. Michael L. Burk, ELCA executive for worship and liturgical resources, said: “In all we do, it’s God at work: We’re drawn into God’s own story. And the liturgy allows us to rely on the church’s tradition to carry us when we’re weary.”
For others, the liturgy seems baffling, confusing or even irrelevant in our contemporary culture. Some see it as complicated or repetitive. Believing it to be an artifact, others attempt to discard the liturgy and create something different.
As social beings we make and form patterns in all our gatherings. A predictable pattern evolves in any worshiping community—from the most formal celebration to the most spontaneous gathering.
Liturgy provides the pattern for what we do as we worship. In that respect, all worship is liturgical. At its core, liturgy is simply the frame on which we build our worship.
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