What follows is an article I wrote some time ago for Consensus, (www.consensuslutheran.org) an organization of pastors and lay people in the LCMS. It is a piece on worship and what the Lutheran confessions have to say about worship. Worship and the liturgy and the discarding of the liturgy for alternative worship "styles" has been and remains a contentious issue in the Lutheran Church and in other traditions as well.
The full article is here:
Here is part one of what it says :
Worship wars...what a sad phrase. How sad that liturgy and worship should become a source of division. How can we solve this destructive battle?
This conflict is often portrayed as a battle of styles. Those advocating a certain style are said to be opposed to those of another style. But we must get past the divisive opposites like "traditional" versus "contemporary" or "variety" versus "monotony" and the like. That which is often termed contemporary is frequently monotonous just as so called traditional worship is very often contemporary and dynamic. The conflict is not about styles but faith and its expression. What is needed in this discussion is a truly Lutheran perspective, to step back from rhetoric and passions and see worship with eyes not clouded over by our likes or dislikes but in a framework that is Scriptural and Lutheran.
We can gain that perspective from our Lutheran confessions. Some say the Confessions have nothing to say about worship other than to grant complete freedom but that is far from the truth. It is easy to identify four characteristics in the Lutheran Confessions that distinguish Lutheran worship. Let's take a look at these characteristics and see what kind of worship they describe.
"In worship, God works"
Too often we see worship mostly as what we do and are tempted to change it to suit our whims or desires. But worship according to the Scriptures and Confessions is first and foremost what God does. Our Lutheran liturgy springs from God's actions of grace and mercy to us in Christ, the preaching of the Gospel and the sacraments. Our true worship is to receive God's gifts. We receive them with thanksgiving and praise but the center and source are God's actions. Worship can easily be distorted into "us" centered activity where the focus and emphasis is on our praise or our preferences.
A second important characteristic of Lutheran worship is the principle of unity of belief and worship, that what we believe and how we worship are closely related. One could say it this way: how you worship expresses what you what you believe and what you believe shapes how you worship. If you believe that the fact that God the Son has become man and is present in the Supper for forgiveness is the core of worship, your service will take a certain shape. If you believe that our feelings and self made expressions of praise are the center, then a different worship will appear. One of the most destructive notions concerning worship is that the style of worship is independent of the substance of belief. This idea is absent from and repugnant to the Lutherans confessions which recognize that what you believe is necessarily expressed in how you worship.