What is worship? This is one of those questions wanting a clear answer from the Lord’s Church. Unfortunately answers are muddled.
“Worship is my praise and thanks to God for who He is and what He’s done.” “Worship is the yearning of the heart to be close to God.” “Worship is our service of singing and praying to God.” The commonality in all of these answers is this: we are the ones acting, praying, singing, praising; we are the givers and God is the getter.
When we consider the Scriptures, a different picture emerges. Jesus delights in serving us. Really. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Did you get that? “Not to be served, but to serve.” That’s what Jesus came to do, to serve. Remember how it was, on the night when He was betrayed, that our Lord wrapped a towel around Himself, took water and washed His disciples feet. That is shocking, that the Lord would take upon Himself such a role of humility. Peter is offended that the Lord would do such a thing. Peter and the disciples should be serving Jesus, not the other way around, but this is not how it is with Jesus. He came to serve us, to save us, to rescue us.
He serves us in His suffering and death on the cross, in the shedding of His blood. That’s when our Lord Jesus wins for us the forgiveness of all our sins, but the Lord does not stop serving us there.
After the Lord Jesus gave His last will and testament, the Lord’s Supper, He asks His disciples a question, “For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves?” We know the answer, the customer is always right. The servant is there to serve, to give you what you need. Jesus says as much, “Is it not the one who reclines at table?” And then the shock and wonder: “But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:27) Got it? And more, Jesus is still among us as the one who serves.
Worship is being served by Jesus, served the forgiveness of sins that was won for us on the cross.
The Lutheran Confessions shake it out like this:
Thus the worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive from God gifts; on the contrary, the worship of the Law is to offer and present our gifts to God. We can, however, offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage, too, brings the greatest consolation, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to wish to receive remission of sins, grace, and righteousness. (Apology of the Augsburg Confession III.189, Triglotta)
Our Lord Jesus delights in giving, giving Himself and His life for us and our salvation. When we gather to hear His Word and eat and drink His body and blood, that is exactly what He is doing, forgiving our sins, giving us gifts, serving us eternal life.
There is great joy in having the clear answer from Scriptures. “What is worship?” Worship is being served by Jesus.
The Lord’s Blessings in Christ,