Liturgy 101


Thanks for all the encouragement as I get this blog going again, as part of my diaconal ministry project.

I received a great prompt from one of our council members this week – she reminded me by her questions that not everyone is speaking the language I’m speaking!  My bad.

So the first blog post this week will be the start of a glossary.  Each week I’ll offer more terms pertinent to that week’s post, so that when I use a word that might seem “insider” you’ll know there will be a reference to its definition at the end of the post.

This is also a reminder to us all: if we use “insider language” when we talk to folks about church it can seem very exclusive.  We’re encouraged to be conscious of such language and try to minimize it.  There’s a great movement underway among social media-savvy Lutherans called #decolonizeLutheranism.  It’s meant to push back against the white Midwestern Lutheran stereotypes and help us think really broadly when answering the question “what’s Lutheran?”  For example:

Sunday Brunch

Just as it’s not right to assume that all Lutherans are of German or Scandinavian descent, it’s also not right to assume that everyone knows what I mean by the word “liturgy.”  So here are a few definitions, which I’ve pulled from the “Worship Matters: An Introduction to Worship” course materials from Augsburg Fortress. (

Liturgy: from the Greek leitourgia, meaning “public work.”  The pattern of text and action used by a Christian community in its worship.  In some settings, the word liturgy is used interchangeably with worship.

Word and Sacrament:  a phrase used frequently by Lutherans to describe the central things of our worship and the central ministry to which ordained pastors are called.

*What do Lutherans mean by “the Word?”

The ELCA Constitution includes a definition of what we mean by “the Word”:

  1. Jesus Christ is the Word of God incarnate, through whom everything was made and through whose life, death, and resurrection God fashions a new creation.
  2. The proclamation of God’s message to us as both Law and Gospel is the Word of God, revealing judgment and mercy through word and deed, beginning with the Word in creation, continuing in the history of Israel, and centering in all its fullness in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
  3. The canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the written Word of God. Inspired by God’s Spirit speaking through their authors, they record and announce God’s revelation centering in Jesus Christ. Through them God’s Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world.

When I post about the “Word” portion of the liturgy, I’ll explore how each of these is present.

Sacrament:  the physical sign of an unseen promise.  Sacraments are rites of the church that convey God’s forgiveness, life, and salvation through words and physical means.  Lutherans celebrate the sacraments of baptism and communion.

Worship:  the primary gathering for Christians in which we encounter God.  Such an encounter is marked both by God’s gracious invitation and our Spirit-led response.

Assembly: the gathering of believers (and seekers) in which the gospel is proclaimed and the sacraments are administered.

This is a good start!  I’m following this post with one tomorrow talking about prayer as one of the things present in all of liturgy – our ongoing conversations with God.

God’s deep peace be yours.



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