Protestant Worship of the Reformation Era

(Family Faith : Worship)
James F. White, Protestant Worship, Reformation, Early Church Worship,

Protestants conducted worship in the vernacular and in forms that were distinctly different from those of the Roman church. Perhaps the most powerful expression of this difference was in the emphasis on the Word of God read and expounded.

Lutheran Worship

Luther's liturgical reform was guided by the principle that if the Scriptures did not expressly reject a particular practice, the church was free to keep it. Consequently, Lutheran worship retained much of the ceremonial practice of Catholic worship.

There are number of reasons for considering the Lutheran tradition as the most conservative of the Protestant traditions of worship. Martin Luther (1483-1546) had a high respect for the existing Christian cultus; there are 3 emphases stand our: music, preaching, and frequent communion in both kinds.
1 Luther considered music one of God's greatest gifts, and cultivated its use in worship through service music and hymnody. He led the way in writing hymns himself, and vigorous hymn singing has always been a hallmark of this tradition.
2 Luther's insistence that preaching be a part of all congregational worship contributed to a rebirth o preaching.
3 He also encouraged all the laity who were properly prepared to receive the bread and wine at each Eucharist.

As for vestments, images, and much of the medieval cultus that was theologically neutral, Luther allowed their continuance; they came to be known as adiaphora or things indifferent. Thus much more survived in Lutheran countries, especially in Sweden and Finland, where Lutheran worship remained its most conservative, than in other Protestant countries. Although the services were in German, one gets the feeling that not all that much had changed from the Middle Ages in two hundred years of Lutheranism.

The real change came not with the Reformation but with the Enlightenment. The nineteenth century saw a gradual reaction to the Enlightenment with an attempt to recover early Lutheran worship.

James F. White