They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)
Worship was central to the life of the church at that time. The Apostles and pastors of the early church decided upon Sunday, or the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), as a good time to gather for the express purpose of a service of Word and Sacrament. In their worship, they read sacred Scripture and listened to sermons (Acts 2:14-41). They read letters from the Apostles (Colossians 4:16). They read accounts of the Gospel as written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1:1-2, John 20:30-31). They sang hymns and prayed psalms (Ephesians 5:19). They confessed their sins and received absolution, or forgiveness (John 20:22). And they especially joined together in celebrating the Sacrament of the Altar, or Holy Communion (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
Worship remains central to the life of the church today! It is within the Divine Service (i.e. God coming to serve His people through the forgiveness of sins) that heaven and earth touch! Unholy, we sinners gather seeking the promised forgiveness from Jesus. To our Baptism He returns us, welcoming us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We then admit that we don’t belong in the presence of our Holy Father because of our sins. In response, Jesus proclaims that we are forgiven for all of that, again through our Baptism. Having been made holy and righteous, we come into the presence of the Lord and sing His Words to Him from the Psalms and we pray. In response, He speaks to us through the timeless Words of Holy Scripture and through the contemporary exposition of those Words in the sermon. The back and forth becomes a dance between the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and His bride, the church!
Having experienced the rhythm and dance of the Divine Service to this point, we Christians step out in faith in three specific ways: we great each other with Christ’s peace, we offer up a portion of our wealth, and we gather together our prayers before the Lord.
Now Christ comes to us, not only in His Word, but in the flesh and blood. Through the Sacrament of the Altar, there is Jesus. His Body placed into our hands; His blood delivered to our mouths. Jesus takes up residence with us in the Divine Service and within us through the Sacrament! In worship, the King of Creation comes to us by means of simple bread and wine!
Singing a couple hymns, the Lord gives us a final Word of blessing that sticks with us until the rhythm of the week returns us to worship once again. He blesses with His blessing, His keeping, His smiling face, His graciousness, His favor, and His peace! And sends us back out into the world, fully equipped for whatever opportunities the new week provides!
I pray you were able to worship the Lord this weekend and that you too have been equipped for all this week has in store for you!
Lord Jesus Christ, in the “dance” of the Divine Service, you hear us, speak to us, and come to us. Stay with us throughout this new week. Amen.