Why Liturgical Worship?
Why do we have Liturgical worship?
The word “Liturgy” comes from the Greek word leitourgia, which simply means service, or the work of the people. It is used in Hebrews 8:6 of Christ’s service, “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry."
[leitourgia] that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” Throughout the Old Covenant, the word leitourgia is often associated with the priestly service of worship through offerings (Numbers 8:22; 16:9; Ezekiel 45:4). This is reflected in Hebrews 8:6, which is describing Christ’s priestly service/ministry under the New Covenant.
When we speak of “liturgical worship” we are speaking of the type of worship that reminds us of our priestly duty to minister to the Lord by bringing forward our sacrifices. The Bible describes a number of different sacrifices which Christians are to offer:
- The sacrifice of giving generously/sharing – Hebrews 13:16; Philippians 4:18.
- Spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ – 1 Peter 2:5.
- The sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving, and confession of faith – Hebrews 13:15.
- The living sacrifice of our own bodies/lives – Romans 12:1.
These liturgical offerings are reflected in our worship service:
- We give generously to God of our time, talents, and resources; sharing for the good of Christ’s body when we gather together.
- We gather on Sunday in commemoration of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, we don’t offer physical animal sacrifices (like God’s people did in the Old Testament) but we offer spiritual sacrifices through the once for all sacrifice of Jesus.
- We offer sacrifices of praise through the songs we sing and the prayers we pray. We also offer the sacrifice of confession by weekly confessing our faith in the Nicene Creed.
- Corporate worship is one way in which we offer our own bodies as living sacrifices before God. We gather to let the fire of his word consume the altar of our hearts (Jeremiah 23:29).
Even weekly Communion should be viewed as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, which is one of the reasons the Lord’s Supper has historically been called the Eucharist (which means thanksgiving!).
Since we believe that biblical worship is important, we structure our service in such a way that the congregation participates in the priestly work through these different elements. We incorporate responses, singing, confession, etc. to remind us that the liturgy is the holy work of God’s priestly people. When we participate in this work, we find that our liturgical worship is eclipsed by the divine service of Christ, who meets with us in the service to nourish us by offering Himself in the preached word and sacrament.