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Introduction to Lutheran Worship and Daily Chapel

for Australian Lutheran College

[Each year as new students begin studies at Australian Lutheran College there is a
week of orientation. During that week students participate in various introductory
sessions to life at ALC. Part of this orientation is an introduction to Lutheran
worship and daily chapel, which Dr John Kleinig would give as dean of Chapel. The
reason I am posting this is because I think much of what Dr. Kleinig said applies to
all Christians.]

What the Bible Teaches about Worship

Everyone in the church is interested in worship and everyone recognizes its importance. It is an area
where there is a lot of disagreement. Usually people concentrate on only one part of what the Bible
teaches about worship. We focus on the human, visible side of worship. We see various people, a
building, the community of people that meet at that building. The NT teaches us that worship involves a
mystery. The most important side of worship is not what is visible but what is invisible. Since it is
invisible to us, it is rather mysterious. It is not directly accessible to us.

A mystery is different from a secret in one important aspect. Something is a secret until you know it,
then it is no longer a secret. But if you know what a mystery is, it becomes even more mysterious. And
the more you know about it, the more mysterious it becomes.

Worship has to do with the most amazing fact that you will ever be confronted with. And that is that the
risen Lord Jesus is with us – not 2000 years ago, not up in heaven, not at the end of the world – but
now! And there is one story that is told in the NT that tells how worship is connected with the presence
of the Lord Jesus. It is a story that you will find at the end of Luke’s Gospel. It’s the story of the two
disciples on the road to Emmaus. It’s Easter Sunday evening. The two disciples are journeying from
Jerusalem to the little village called Emmaus. They’ve heard the message of the women that Jesus had
rose from the dead. It seems crazy to them because they know that Jesus is dead. And dead people
don’t come back to life. And they can’t get over their disappointment at his death. So they are talking
about the death of Jesus as they are walking.

As they are walking, a stranger approaches them and says, Hey, what are you talking about? And they
tell him the whole story of Jesus. He listens very carefully to them and once they’ve told the story then
he takes over. And he explains to them that the Christ has to suffer and die before he became the king
of the world. And later on when they reported this story, they said, Didn’t our hearts burn within us as
he opened up the Scriptures to us? This man (Jesus) used the OT, the Law of Moses, the prophets, and
the Psalms, to preach the death and resurrection of the Messiah. But the penny hasn’t dropped. At this
point, they hear what he is saying but they don’t connect it to Jesus.

Then they came to their home in Emmaus. Jesus makes out like he is going to go on further. And they
say, Hey, why don’t you come and stay with us? They invite him to stay as their guest. And as their
guest, they are obligated to give him food to eat. And then comes the climax of the story. They prepared
the meal and sat down to eat. And then this stranger does something strange. He takes the bread,
Introduction to Lutheran Worship and Daily Chapel
for Australian Lutheran College
blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. What’s funny about that? Who should do that? Not the guest
but the host of the meal. He acts as if he is the host, as if this is his house. And then at the moment he
gives them the bread to eat, their eyes are opened and they recognize that he is Jesus. And he
disappears from their sight. This is rather funny. When they saw him earlier they didn’t recognize him.
They saw him but they did not see the mystery. But at the moment they no longer saw him, they
recognize him.

Why is it that Luke tells this story in great detail? Because for Luke and early Christians this story
summed up the whole theology of worship. What is worship all about? It’s a mystery. The mystery
focuses on the crucified and risen Lord Jesus who is present with his disciples here and now as he travels
with them. What’s the problem? They can’t see him. You don’t physically see Jesus. How does the
invisible Lord Jesus make himself known to us? In two ways. He preaches himself to us from the
Scriptures. And he makes himself known to us in the breaking of bread – Holy Communion. It was the
same thing Jesus did a couple of days earlier at the Passover on Maundy Thursday. He took bread,
blessed it, gave it to them, and said, Take and eat. This is my body given for you.

That is what worship is about. Half of the mystery is in the Word and half is in the Meal. Our Christian
faith focuses on that reality, on that mystery.

What does this have to do with worship at ALC? And why do we place so much emphasis on worship?
The time table for the college is constructed in such a way that at mid-morning we have worship. In a
sense worship is the center of everything we do. Everything else only makes sense when you see that it
all focuses on and encircles this reality. And what we do here every day needs to be connected to what
you do every Sunday in your congregation. Here at the seminary, we only enact half of the mystery
because we are not a full congregation.

Worship is the Enactment of the Word of God

Why is it that worship is so important? We believe that worship is central to the life of this community
and to our existence to our community. Take worship out of what you are doing and all of the rest of
your studies doesn’t make any sense. It’s a bit like studying the theory of marriage but never being
married. What use is it to you if you know the theory but don’t actually practice it and live it? It is the
same with theology. If you don’t worship, it doesn’t make sense.

If you think of the two parts of the mystery of Jesus, his preaching of himself and his making himself
known to us as the Host who gives us an amazing meal, the worship at the seminary focuses on the first
part of the mystery, which is Jesus preaching himself to us. So in our worship services, our focus is on
the Word of God. Not the study of the Word of God, that is done in the classroom, but the enactment of
the Word of God as Law and Gospel. We do the Word. So in worship we don’t speak about forgiveness
but we actually enact forgiveness. We don’t speak about reconciliation, but we enact reconciliation. We
do it. The worship we do is the enactment of God’s Word as Law and Gospel. Unless you have than in
mind you won’t make any sense of our whole pattern of worship, the orders we use, the practices we
promote in this community.
Introduction to Lutheran Worship and Daily Chapel
for Australian Lutheran College
The Presence of All Three Persons of the Trinity in Worship

Since worship enacts the Word of God, it primary theology. This is the real thing. Everything we study in
the classroom is a reflection on this. It comes out of this and it points back to it. Why is it the real thing?
Worship has to do with the amazing mystery that it’s not only the risen Lord Jesus who is present with
us when his Word is proclaimed and the Meal is celebrated, but also God the Father is with us and the
Holy Spirit is with us. So the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is present and active with us. And if
the Triune God is present, it also means the angel and arch-angels and all the heavenly hosts surround
us in our worship. Or to put it another way, as long as we are in a classroom, we stay here on earth. But
in the Divine Service, we enter heaven itself. In the Divine Service we have access to heaven on earth.

And it is at this point that you get one of the most significant denominational differences in the church.
There is a whole group of churches that teach the real absence of Jesus. So for them, God the Father is
up in heaven. Jesus is up in heaven. And Jesus leaves his Holy Spirit behind for us here on earth. It is true
that the Holy Spirit is here, but you can’t separate the Holy Spirit from Jesus and you can’t separate
Jesus from God the Father. All three persons of the Trinity are present in worship. So worship focuses on
and centers around the Holy Trinity. At this college then, we quite deliberately empathize the Trinitarian
nature of worship.

Let me explain that in three ways. First, Jesus, who two thousand years ago had a ministry where he
taught people and healed people with miracles, continues his ministry. That ministry doesn’t end with
his ascension into heaven. It was merely inaugurated by those three years that culminated in his death
and resurrection and ascension. Jesus continues to speak to us. He continues to act here and now. That
is the heart of our Christian faith. So if you want to find out what Jesus is doing, it’s a bit difficult
because you can’t look and see him. You have to look at the Gospels because what he said then, he says
now. What he did then he continues to do now.

Or to put it another way Jesus is not only present, but he gives us the Holy Spirit. You don’t just receive
the Holy Spirit at one point in your life – you know when you are baptized or when you speak in tongues
as some believe. You receive the Holy Spirit every time you hear the Words of Jesus, every time you
come to Holy Communion. So worship first of all has to do with listening to the voice of Jesus and letting
him do his work with you, receiving the Holy Spirit through the Word of Jesus.

So both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are important in worship. And both Jesus and the Holy Spirit bring us to
God the Father. Paul says that in and through Jesus we have access to the Father by one Spirit. So how
can we approach God the Father? Through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is a kind of
Trinitarian movement here. God the Father gives us the Holy Spirit through Jesus. And the Holy Spirit in
turn brings us through Jesus back to God the Father in prayer and praise and in everything else we do in

So when we worship, we don’t theorize about the Christian faith, but we actually practice the faith. We
do it. And that is the important thing. Faith is not an intellectual matter. Faith has to do with trust, with
confidence in Jesus. Just as a husband practices his faith in his wife by his daily interaction with her in
living with her, so Christians practice their faith in Jesus through worship and daily devotions. It is the
Introduction to Lutheran Worship and Daily Chapel
for Australian Lutheran College
practice of the faith, living it out. It is not just being justified by faith, but living by faith in Jesus and in
the Triune God.

The Devil will Try and Keep You from Worshipping Regularly

If this is true, if the heart of your study is worship, if it is in worship that God the Father gives his Holy
Spirit to you through Jesus, then something else logically follows. Put yourselves in the shoes of the
devil. What is the one thing that the devil will be trying to do from your first day at the seminary and for
as long as you are here? Keep you away from worship. He loves you to study for theology, particularly
when you don’t study the Bible, but books about the Bible. And he even doesn’t mind if you study the
Bible as long you are just theorizing about the faith. But he doesn’t want you to actually pray or praise or
to receive the Holy Spirit by hearing the Word of God in the Divine Service. And so he will try and
sabotage you by keeping you from worshipping. You will be experiencing spiritual warfare here at the
seminary more than you ever have both in chapel and in your private devotions.

Let me give you a warning. A lot of students come to the seminary every year thinking they will
experience a spiritual oasis, a spiritual refuge, where you can retreat from the battle. That is not the
case at all. By coming to the seminary, you are putting yourselves on the front lines of the battle. You
will experience spiritual attack as you have never experienced before. The fundamental two points of
attack will be worship and your devotional life. I heard this from almost every student I’ve taught for the
last 27 years. Before they came they had a good devotional life, a good prayer life before they came and
once they came they struggle.

So I would urge on you the discipline of regular worship attendance, whether you feel like it or not.
Make sure you attend chapel every day. In the long run, that will turn out to be the most significant
thing that happens to you for the period of time you are here. Follow that discipline. We expect you to
be there. One observation from a student: the time you most need to go and worship is the time when
you least feel like going. Dr. Kleinig agreed because when you feel least like it, that’s when you are most
open to receive God’s blessing. That’s because at that time you are the most needy. It doesn’t matter
whether you feel like you can’t pray and you can’t praise, other people will do it for you. They and the
Holy Spirit will carry you through it. When you go through a tough time, that is when you need to attend
the most.

Another student observed that when she is under vicious spiritual attack, she seeks out her brothers and
sisters in Christ to challenge the lies that she finds herself believing. And that will happen at the
seminary because they get to know each other so well. And sometimes we get on each other’s nerves
and the rough edges of our character show. What is important is the truth and to encourage each other
in the truth. And the truth is that sometimes the seminary is an oasis but at other times it is a battlefield.
You will experience both of them.

I don’t know if you realize what a privilege it is to be in a community where there is regular communal
worship. There are many Christians who would give anything to have the privilege of doing that. For the
next few years you will have that privilege and you probably won’t even realize the significance of it
while it is going on. It’s kind of like health. You don’t realize what a great thing having good health is
Introduction to Lutheran Worship and Daily Chapel
for Australian Lutheran College
until we are no longer healthy. It is the same way with food. You don’t realize how important it is to eat
until you’re hungry. You won’t realize how important worship is until you don’t have it anymore. When
you leave here you will realize it. Just recently I asked some vicars who had been gone for a year what
they missed the most. They said chapel. You realize how significant it is when you don’t have it anymore.
And that’s because it is a mystery. You can’t see what’s going on in worship. You can’t see what the Holy
Spirit is doing. You can’t see what Jesus is doing when he is doing it. You can only see it later in

The Pattern of Worship

Some students are bewildered by the way we do worship here because they come across things they’ve
never experienced before. The aim for the way we do worship is not just a single course meal but a
smorgasbord. We want to expand you in the time you are here. The pattern for worship begins with the
time for daily devotion. Chapel begins at 10:25 AM each day and goes until 10:45 AM. Morning Tea
follows the service.

The focus of our daily worship is on hearing the Word of God, preaching, teaching the Word of God.
Every day we have a set biblical reading. That is the center because worship is a matter of hearing God
speak to us through his Word. And his Word is not like human words. I say something to my kids and
nothing happens. But when God speaks things happen. And why do things happen? Because God’s Word
is full of his Holy Spirit. His Word is Spirit and life. The Holy Spirit works through the Word. So by hearing
the Word we receive the Spirit and God does his work in us. That is the center of worship.

God’s Word is given to us not just to preach and teach, God gives us his Word also to guide us in our
praying. How do we know what to pray for? Quite simply, whatever God has promised you can pray for
with complete assurance. God promises forgiveness of sins, therefore you can pray for the forgiveness
of your sins. And so on. So praying is guided by the Word of God. You will notice that the prayers are
connected to the readings. The readings for the day guide our praying for the day.

God’s Word also guides us in praising. How do we know what to praise God for? What God has said to us
and done for us is the content of our praise. So if you look at the hymns and songs we sing, what inspires
them? God’s Word. They are all based on Scripture. When you choose songs for each day, you choose
songs that connect to the readings for each day.

Thirdly, God’s Word is spoken to us to help us confess our sins and to confess our faith in Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit.

And lastly, God’s Word is given to us in order that he might bless us. So there is this Christian rule:
whatever Jesus has promised to give to us, a pastor can give to you by blessing you. So when the
blessing is spoken to you, it actually gives you what is promised in his Word. When you pray you cash in
on God’s promises. When you pray you say, God you promised this, therefore give it to me.

Christians Worship -- - Non-Christians Don’t Worship

Introduction to Lutheran Worship and Daily Chapel
for Australian Lutheran College
Everything we do in worship here at ALC centers on God’s Word and centers around the readings for the
day. That is the ideal, that is what we hope to encourage. A student from Indonesia asked about
congregations that meet only for teaching classes. They don’t meet for worship. Dr. Kleinig’s response
was that they are not a church. They are heretics. They are not Christians. If you don’t worship then you
are not a Christian. If you don’t worship Allah you are not a Muslim. If you don’t worship the Triune God
you are not a Christian. It is not a matter of the ideas in your head but whether you worship or don’t
worship. The first commandment is, You shall have no other gods before me. The positive side to it is,
Worship the one, true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And whether a person worships or not is a pretty good sign of someone’s spiritual status. What is a good
indicator that someone has lost their faith? They don’t come to worship. If someone stops praying,
they’ve lost their faith. Turn it around the other way. What’s a sign that someone has faith? They pray.
They worship. And they want to worship and they want to pray.

Church Year, Sundays, Daily Readings, and Festival Days

At ALC we focus on the church year, the church calendar in the readings. You are familiar with the
church seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost. There is much more to it than
that. All of the readings focus on the church year. The most important part of the church year is Sunday.
Every seven days we gather together as a congregation for worship. Why worship on Sunday? It is the
day Jesus rose from the dead. And Jesus is present with us and he makes himself known to us just like he
did to his disciples travelling to Emmaus and in the closed room on the Sunday when he was
resurrected. Jesus also gave his Holy Spirit on Sunday. So Sunday is very important to Christians. It is

On Sundays you will be worshipping with your congregations. The readings each day during the week
following Sunday’s worship will in some way be connected to the Gospel reading from the last Sunday.
And the psalm for the week is the same psalm that we sang on Sunday.

We celebrate church festival days and we celebrate all of the days devoted to various saints and other
special commemorations. So the next saint’s day on the calendar is for St. Matthias, who is one of the
twelve apostles. Next Monday when the school year begins, we celebrate the feast of the presentation
of Jesus. This is one of three commemorations that involve Mary: the Presentation, the Annunciation,
and the Visitation. So you will probably be experiencing a wider church year than you are used to.

In our weekly cycle of worship, we have a variety of orders that we use. Whatever order we use, the
emphasis is on hearing the Word of God and praying and praising. The basic order is Matins. It is
morning prayer and praise.

Four Emphases in Our Worship

There are four things that we give special emphasis to. First of all, we have a pattern of intercession.
Intercession means praying not for yourself but for others. Every week we pray for three pastors in the
Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) and their congregations as well as one principal and one school. So
Introduction to Lutheran Worship and Daily Chapel
for Australian Lutheran College
over the period of one year we pray for every pastor, every congregation, every principal , and every
school in the LCA. We also pray for the other churches we are associated with such as in Indonesia and
New Guinea, and Malaysia and so on. We also pray for our own needs, things that are happening in the
world, and things that are happening in our community. That’s one of the main emphases in our
worship, praying for others. The best way we can help others in their faith journey is by praying for them
and that’s what we do.

The second thing we emphasize, which might seem as unusual, is we emphasize the singing of psalms.
The book of Psalms is basically the songbook of the OT. What is so special about the psalms? What’s the
difference between the psalms and the songs that are in the hymnbook? The psalms are songs that are
inspired by the Holy Spirit and are full of the Spirit. So by singing the Psalms, you are filled with the Holy
Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in you and teaches you to meditate and to pray and to praise. That is why
we put great emphases on the psalms. When you sing a psalm for a couple of days during the week, it
becomes fixed in your mind, you remember it.

There are two more things we emphasize. One is emphases on meditation and praying the catechism.
And the other is we celebrate Holy Communion at the end of each trimester. Why is it that we don’t
celebrate Holy Communion every day or every week? That needs to be done in your congregation.

Practicalities of Worship

First of all, what is most important is that you attend chapel to hear the Word of God and receive the
Holy Spirit. You cannot be a Christian by relying on your own spirit and your own strength. You need the
Holy Spirit, not once but minute by minute and day by day, every moment of your life.

Second, music is very important. If any of you are musicians, you can help with that part of worship. Or if
you can sing, you can be part of the choir. We do not have bands out front leading worship. If you want
to sing in the choir you don’t have to know a lot about music. Part of this experience is learning about
music and singing.

Part of being a pastor is leading worship. At ALC we have care groups and each week a care group is in
charge of organizing and leading worship for that week. You then will be involved, as you are ready, in
various ways. The most obvious way you are involved, besides planning it, is reading Scripture. A second
way you will be involved in worship, is to help with the prayers, by praying. A third way you can be
involved is by being a cantor, a lead singer. And then when you are ready, you can lead an order of
worship. You will start with simpler easier orders and then move on to more complex orders. So you will
be trained to lead and that is part of your training. And for those of you who are pastoral students, once
you’ve done trial preaching in class, you will preach in chapel.

The Purpose of Daily Chapel

Very quickly before we go to chapel, the purpose of chapel is stated as follows. 1) Chapel is your daily
meeting with the risen Lord Jesus. The whole Christian life focuses on and is lived around Jesus. If we are
going to be serious about the Christian life, we don’t just meet with Jesus every now and then. We meet
Introduction to Lutheran Worship and Daily Chapel
for Australian Lutheran College
with Jesus every day. 2) We need God’s Holy Spirit to do God’s work every day. So every day we receive
the Holy Spirit in our devotions and in our daily worship. 3) Paul says that everything is sanctified, made
holy, by the Word of God and prayer. God wants to make you and everything you do holy every day.
How does that happen? You and the work you do are sanctified by hearing the Word of God and by
praying. So it is through hearing the Word of God and praying to God that our whole day becomes holy.
4) All of us are priests. Priests are ones who have access to God. We can use that access for our own
benefit, but more importantly we can use it for the benefit of others. So daily worship, involves our daily
service as holy priests. And we serve as priests through daily prayer, praying for others, and by praising
God. 5) And most practically, since this is an educational institution, daily worship involves daily training
for assisting and leading in various kinds of communal worship. Not just Sunday worship, but anywhere
from a simple devotion to very elaborate services. You learn to pray not by theorizing about prayer, but
by doing it. You learn to worship by doing it. You learn to lead worship by leading it.