Every Lord’s Day God calls us together for renewal of his gracious covenant with us. The essence of this renewal is that we are both served by God and serve him. This is why historically the worship service was described as the “Divine Service” or “the service of God.” Such designations are deliberately ambiguous. Is God serving us? Or are we serving God? The answer is both.

What is primary is God’s service of us. This reflects the very nature of the gospel. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for man” (Mark 10:45). Elsewhere Jesus said, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

We may think that God has already served us in bringing us to faith but now that we’re saved we serve him in worship and obedience. However, this is a short-sighted view of reality. The fact is that our Lord must continually serve us with the gifts of his grace if we’re going to do anything profitable in kingdom work (John 15:5). The gospel means that we are constantly dependent on and confident of God’s grace.

So, in worship we gather to receive. God lovingly meets us with two special means of blessing: Word and Sacrament. These are the primary vehicles by which we are cleansed from sin, renewed in our trust in Jesus, instructed in truth, and strengthened as a community for holy living.

Although God’s service of us is primary, worship certainly means as well that we serve our God. As we open ourselves to his marvelous gifts of Word and Sacrament, we respond with praise, thanksgiving, and renewed self-surrender. Our Lord is pleased to receive such gifts from us through music, prayer and confession of faith (John 4:23).

So to summarize: Worship is both for receiving and giving. God brings us together to give us gracious gifts; we gather at his call to receive those gifts and to respond with adoration and praise.