top of page

Learning to Swim: Worship

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

We are already caught up in the River of God, yet too often we stay on the edges when the true joy is found when we are moved by the current. Through the end of the summer, our worship life is giving us the opportunity to dig into Seven Faith Practices in Learning to Swim: Diving Deep into Discipleship. Together, we are learning how we can dive deep into discipleship and you are invited to commit the week to its practice. And it all is practice - so join us as learn to swim.

Worship Why do we come to worship? Is it for our sake or for God’s? The root of the word points out that worship is about ascribing worth . For all of us, there are ways we life and ways we don’t, but the discipline comes in learning how to offer worship to God beyond what we each enjoy or not. Worship can happen at any point - when listening to the radio, when contemplating the power of storm or on a Sunday morning. As you consider why you worship, I share this section of Worship Matters: An Introduction to Worship Before launching into this Top Ten list, let’s be clear about who we are worshiping. That may seem obvious: God, of course! Who do we mean by God? There are a lot of things we make into gods—relationships, wealth, possessions, fame, activities, personal success, to name a few—that are not, in fact, God. For Lutheran Christians, God is the one we know in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Lutheran Christians trust that this triune God saves us in Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17) and breathes new life (Holy Spirit life) into us. Let’s also be clear that these reasons aren’t listed in order of importance—nor are they an exhaustive list. They do, however, all begin and end with God...Notice your reactions to each reason. Is this a reason you worship? Is this a reason you hadn’t thought of before, or one that seems either completely obvious or impossibly far-fetched? Are there any reasons you expected to be on the list that aren’t? Top Ten Reasons Why We Worship 10 Because God created us to love and serve and worship God. In other words, worship is one of the ways—perhaps the primary way—that we both receive and return the deep love of God for the world. In worship, we get the opportunity—together, as a body—to pray, sing, listen, eat, lament, rejoice, and experience the good news of Jesus Christ. 9 Because worship is one of the places in which we reliably encounter God. This may sound familiar—or outright crazy. Many of us long to experience the mystery of God, the power of the holy in our lives, and we look in many places to find it: relationships, mountaintop experiences, pilgrimages, retreats. We can forget that God promises to show up in ordinary places too—like our neighborhood churches! There we have an opportunity to experience the holy in worship with real, fallible people, sacred stories, water, bread, and wine. It’s as simple as this: Lutheran Christians believe that God really is with us doing good things for us when we gather together in Jesus’ name. 8 Because worship is where the church comes into being. The church is not a building; it is a community of believers gathered around the word and the sacraments. No assembled community? No church. In fact, Lutherans even have a super-official, foundational, historical document called the Augsburg Confession (written in 1530) that says this: “It is also taught that at all times there must be and remain one holy, Christian church. It is the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel” (Article VII). We worship together because in doing so we become a visible sign of God’s activity in the world. 7 Because God calls and leads us there. We can (and do) decide not to go to worship. Sometimes we don’t worship for weeks or years. But when we do come to worship, week after week, or even sporadically, is it entirely our own willpower that gets us there? Lutheran Christians believe that God acts in our lives—even getting us out of bed and through the church doors. Coming to worship is a sign that God is acting in your life! Lutheran Christians believe it is God who calls the assembly together through the Holy Spirit (see Martin Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 1162). 6 Because we are forgetful people. Sometimes we forget we sin at all; sometimes we forget that God can and does forgive our sins. But on Sunday, we get a chance to remember both the painful reality of our human brokenness and the remarkable forgiveness God pours into us and into our world. God forgives our sins in the healing waters of baptism and in the meal of holy communion, and by the power of the Spirit, God continues to forgive us day after day  5 Because God speaks to us. Sometimes God speaks to us in the ways we might expect: through the Bible, in the stories of God reaching out to ancient Israel, the prophets’ words, the gospel accounts of Jesus Christ, or the letters of Paul. Sometimes God speaks through the words of the preacher or the words of a song. Sometimes God speaks in other ways in worship: through music; when we hear “peace be with you” and shake the hand of a person with whom we have recently disagreed; or when we hear the words “the body of Christ, given for you” when receiving communion. God speaks to us as individuals, yes, but also as a gathered community (the “you” is both singular and plural: peace be with you all, the body of Christ given for you all). Worship offers us a time to listen intentionally as individuals and as a community. 4 Because God feeds us at Jesus’ table with the very body and blood of Christ. We are people who hunger and thirst for something that simple calories cannot satisfy. In holy communion, all are welcome to come, eat and drink, and be nourished in a meal that we share with the saints of every time and place. In the eucharist, we hold out our hands for food and receive it, not because of who we are, but because of who God is. God feeds us with bread and wine, and through this meal God forgives us, renews us, strengthens us, binds us together with others, and reminds us of God’s vision—that all the world would be fed. In the Lord’s supper, we also become what we receive: the body of Christ for the world. God fashions us in this meal (like a potter at work with her clay) into the body of Christ, so that God might use our hands and feet to do God’s work of justice, mercy, and reconciliation in the world. 3 Because the weekly pattern helps us come to know, over time, who God is and who we are. Week after week, we learn from our ancestors, Jewish and Christian. Week after week, we participate in patterns that are meaty and rich—patterns that have been meaningful and helpful to Christians over time. We learn through weekly practice because we don’t learn anything well—or receive any benefits—by doing it just once. (Twenty sit-ups just one morning or vegetables for just one meal will have little effect on our health. Regular exercise and a healthy daily diet, on the other hand, can radically change our lives.) When we commit to a weekly practice of worship, we enter into a deep tradition that aids us in our struggle with life’s deepest and hardest questions: Who are we? Who is God? How do we live after (or in the midst of) great suffering? By committing to this practice with a group of people (like a congregation!), we get to live and breathe these questions in the company and shared wisdom of others. 2 Because community helps. Much of our Western culture tells us that spiritual life is an individual, personal concern. The Christian tradition counters this claim. Christians worship together in an assembly. The assembly might be tiny or huge. It is often intergenerational—including little children, teens, young adults, persons in the middle of life, and seniors. The assembly often includes people we would not normally choose to spend time with, people we don’t know, and sometimes even people we dislike. But that’s exactly the point: God calls us in Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves, even when we have a difficult time loving certain neighbors. On a more positive note, an intergenerational, diverse worshiping community can become deeply important to our spiritual lives. Paul, one of the New Testament writers, often uses the familial language of “sisters and brothers” in his letters to early Christian worshiping communities. Baptized Christians are blood relatives—through Jesus’ blood. In Christian assemblies, we also can find mentors, friends, and companions for our lives. 1 Because when we open ourselves to experience God’s presence in worship, we also open ourselves to experience God’s presence in our day-to-day lives.That is to say, worship is not the only time that God is active and at work. Worship awakens us to the God who is at work in our daily lives—through us, with us, for us, and sometimes in spite of us. God is at work in the world of day-to-day work and play: as we wake and dress ourselves; as we speak and sing and keep silence; as we give to and receive from our neighbors; as we eat and drink; as we lie down to sleep. And God is at work in our communities—uncovering what has been hidden; restoring what is broken; healing what is sick; pouring out mercy where there is agony and need; raining down justice where there has been cruelty, prejudice, and bloodshed. What resonates with you? Why do you worship? What is your favorite way to worship? In the abiding hope of the Risen Lord, Pastor Lecia


bottom of page