"Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. Music is drawn into this thankfulness and praise, enlarging and elevating the adoration of our gracious giver God.
"Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and sure is his name, which he put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are his. This we acknowledge at the beginning of the Divine Service. Where is name is, there is he. Before him we acknowledge that we are sinners, and we plead for forgiveness. His forgiveness is given us, and we, freed and forgiven, acclaim him as our great and gracious God as we apply to ourselves the words he has used to make himself known to us.
"The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition. How best to do this we may learn from his Word and from the way his Word has prompted his worship through the centuries. We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition. Each generation receives from those who went before and, in making that tradition of the Divine Service its own, adds what best may serve in its own day--the living heritage and something new."
Lutheran Worship, page 6
These words, authored by the Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel a generation ago, perfectly describe the Lutheran view of worship. We call our normal Sunday Service a "Divine Service." There are, of course, two ways to hear that phrase. The first is what is most familiar in American Christianity, namely: the idea that in worship we serve God. In Lutheranism, Divine Service doesn't mean that at all.
We believe, teach, and confess that when we gather together on Sunday morning it is to receive the gifts of our "gracious giver God." God serves His people in the Divine Service. He runs the verbs. He feeds us with His body and blood. He speaks His Word to us. He forgives our sins. He creates and nourishes our faith.
We are on the receiving end of the Lord's gifts, and it is our joy to receive them. Most of what we do in the Divine Service falls into one of two categories. Either we receive the gift that God has given or we thank and praise Him for giving it.
That's it. We don't come to church to give it all up for Jesus. We do not come to church to surrender our lives to Him. We come to church because Jesus has given it all up for us. We come to church because He has surrendered His life on the cross to win life and salvation for all people.
Once at church, we receive the gifts that Christ won for us by His death on the cross. He delivers these to us by His Word which "bestows what it says." Our sins are forgiven in the absolution, in the hearing of Scripture, in the sermon, and in the Lord's Supper.
We have nothing to offer God. He has everything to offer us. That is the defining characteristic of everything that Lutherans believe and do with regard to worship.