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Why Lutherans have traditionally used this different terminology...

In his critique of the medieval Roman Catholic distortion of the Mass as the repeated atoning sacrifice of Christ's body and blood over and over again, Martin Luther made clear that when we "come to church" we are not primarily there to do something for God but rather that He is there to bless us and serve us with His forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.

The cross on Good Friday is where salvation was purchased in full, once and for all. But in the means of grace, the Word and Sacraments, there is where salvation is distributed here and now, according to Christ's promise and authority, until He comes again. This is how what Christ did for the life of the world on the first Good Friday and Easter, comes to us and is applied to individuals as they then are incorporated into the fellowship of the church. The sacrifice of Good Friday cannot be repeated as Christ said, "It is finished." However, the benefits and fruits of that atoning sacrifice (objective justification) continually are distributed in the missionary work of the church, catechesis, and the Divine Service as the Holy Spirit creates faith through the Word and Holy Baptism (subjective justification).

While we do serve God "in church" in prayer, praise, offerings, and the life of repentance, the main thing about Sunday morning or whenever the church gathers for a service, is what God does for us to deliver the benefits of Good Friday and Easter to us. Contrary to the theology of many in the liturgical movement, the liturgy is not primarily "the work of the people" or the "sacrifice of the priest." God doesn't need anything from us.

While God is everywhere, He locates or localizes Himself for us in Christ and in His Word and Sacraments for the sake of faith that we may say of God's promises, "this is most certainly true." In the liturgy God initiates everything - salvation is by grace even in its deliver in the means of grace.

"Divine Service" is just saying "sola gratia" (grace alone) in a liturgical way. In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Lutheran Confessions said it this way:

Leitourgia, they say, signifies a sacrifice, and the Greeks call the Mass, liturgy. Why do they here omit the old appellation synaxis, which shows that the Mass was formerly the communion of many? But let us speak of the word liturgy. This word does not properly signify a, sacrifice, but rather the public ministry, and agrees aptly with our belief, namely, that one minister who consecrates tenders the body and blood of the Lord to the rest of the people, just as one minister who preaches tenders the Gospel to the people, as Paul says, 1 Cor. 4, 1: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, i.e., of the Gospel and the Sacraments. And 2 Cor. 5, 20: We are ambassadors for Christ, as 81] though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God. Thus the term leitourgia agrees aptly with the ministry.

In view of this, Lutherans moved away from the term "Mass" (though they never condemned it) and toward terms like these:

der Gottesdienst or Hauptgottesdienst (German)

Gudstjaenst (Swedish)

Jumalanpalvelus (Finnish)

All of these terms translate best as "God's Service" or "Divine Service."

"Worship service" or "worship" simply doesn't do these terms nor the theology represented full justice. "Worship" and "worship service" are "one-way" terms - they connote only what we are doing for God. Left out is the most important thing of all - what God is doing to deliver salvation to us here and now. But this is why many Lutheran congregations and hymnals use the term "Divine Service" especially for the Service of Holy Communion. Even Matins and Vespers are "divine service" in a general sense, but as the Germans put it the Holy Communion is "der Hauptgottesdienst" or "the chief Divine Service."

From Luke 22:

19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him." 23They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

24Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Gloria Christi Lutheran Church (LCMS)

1322 31st Avenue

Greeley, Colorado 80634

(970) 353-2554

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