Sunday, January 2, 2011

Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe on the Divine Service

In worship the congregation experiences its Lord most intimately. Here it lives in nearest proximity to its Groom in a heavenly life on earth, an earthly life in heaven. Worship is the most beautiful flower of earthly life. Just like land in the middle of an ocean, the Word and the Sacraments stand in the inner life and worship of the congregation. You have one week behind you, a new week lies in front of you. Between these two weeks is the day of Communion Sunday. You desire to draw near to God with the congregation. What do you, whether you are a shepherd or a sheep, have to do first? You do what all religions say is necessary for the soul: you cleanse it like feet that have become dirty from the activity of daily life. In other words, you prepare yourself for worship by confessing your sins and receiving absolution. Being cleansed from sin, you enter into the joys of the particular festival day or Sunday. But the worshiper finds that earth still has other burdens and sorrows, both present and future. Life, death, and eternity, with all of their bitter fruits and consequences, threaten you as you journey to the heavenly kingdom. Worries burden you and keep burdening you. But no longer does sin torture you, no longer do you fear evil, no longer do you sigh longingly, but joyful confidence fills your soul. You sit beneath the face of the Lord. In the sermon you begin to experience the blessed communion of the saints who rejoice in the Lord. The worshiping congregation experiences itself as the Bride of the Lord, rich not  only in and through Him but also in and through one another. The congregation, in its fullness, thinks of the special needs and miseries upon the earth, delights in all good things, and goes before the altar of the Lord with intercessions, petitions, and prayers. All worshipers are blessed and approach the throne of blessing knowing they are worthy. The worshipers realize that the Church is one unit both here and everywhere. Pilgrims are one in their prayers and are cleansed with all of the blessed saints in heaven.

From Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2008

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