Monday, July 7, 2014

Lord, This Day We've Come to Worship

A Bible Study Inspired by a Hymn
Primary Bible Passages: Psalm 86:11–12; Acts 2:42; Deuteronomy 31:11–13; Luke 24:13–35
(Lutheran Service Book 911)

Lord, this day we’ve come to worship;
            Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Grace us with Your blessed presence;
            Blessed Savior, be our host.

            Alleluia, alleluia,
                        Alleluia, praise the Lord! Alleluia.

In the pow’r of resurrection
            We have come to praise the Lord.
Celebrate His blessed supper,
            And to learn His holy Word.  Refrain

May Your Word enrich our spirit,
            Give us strength to do Your will,
Show the kingdom we’ll inherit,
            When at last our voice is still. Refrain

As we meet our blessed Savior
            At the Table of the Lord,
May this body broken for us
            Strength and comfort, Lord afford. Refrain

Celebrate the resurrection
            In the church and sing His praise,
Till we come to true perfection:
            Serve the Lord through all our days. Refrain

The words of “This Day We’ve Come to Worship” were written by Rev. Dr. Richard C. Dickinson
(1925-2010). Lutheran Service Book is the first of our hymnals to contain this hymn (actually, it is the first that could have it, it is that new). Dickinson is an example of a contemporary Christian who, though he wrote Christian “songs,” would not be called a writer of Contemporary Christian Music because he did not write in a pop style. Dickinson was described in his biography as “a multi-talented man functioning in multiple roles – minister, teacher, musician, poet, hymn writer, author, historian, husband and father, a soldier of many battles, a military veteran and a warrior of the cross.” He was a true blessing to the LC-MS, serving in many roles.

This hymn would typically be the first hymn in a worship service, especially in a service where the Lord’s Supper is being offered. It will be our first hymn this coming Sunday. The opening line reflects the idea of the opening of a worship service. The second line leaves nothing to guess work; the God we worship is the one true Triune God. Thus invoking God’s presence with his name, we make it clear that it is the gracious presence of God we desire. That gracious presence is found only in Jesus Christ.

The second and fourth stanzas make clear reference to the Lord’s Supper. When we celebrate Communion we reflect the practice of the Apostolic Church, as we read in Acts 2:42: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The “breaking of bread” is a reference to Communion. Also Sunday worship is a reflection of Apostolic practice, as we see in Acts 20:7: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” The first day of the week was then, and still is, Sunday. Just look at most any calendar. Saturday was (and is) the seventh day of the week.

In the refrain we praise the Lord with the word “alleluia.” “Alleluia” is a Hebrew word which means “Praise the Lord.” This phrase is first used in Genesis 29:35 and is last used in Romans 15:11, where Paul is quoting the Old Testament, but is most used in Psalms. This hymn, like any true “praise” music, is all about the goodness, mercy, grace, and gifts of God; in this case, chiefly his gifts in Word and Sacrament. David gives God praise in Psalm 86:12. He sings, “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” So we join David when we sing “Lord, this day we’ve come to worship … Alleluia, praise the Lord!”

The third stanza lifts up the central role of the Word of God in our worship services. This is also reflected in the Acts 2:42 passage where we read that the Apostolic Church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. We continue to do that as we read from their epistles. Of course their teaching focused on Jesus, and we continue in their practices by reading from the Gospel accounts each Sunday.

In worship we hear God’s Word, not only in the scripture lessons (and liturgy, and hymns) but also in the sermons. So David sings, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth” (Psalm 86:11). The sermon is to make God’s Word relevant to our lives. Now not every sermon is created equal. Also, what is relevant to you in your life might not be all that relevant to someone else. For example, the sermon might be about Christian marriage. The 89 year-old widow might not find it all that relevant to her current situation in life. However, with the words of the liturgy, the hymns and the readings from the scriptures, every preacher operates with a safety net. All of the service carries God’s word and God teaches us his way through every part of the service. At least in the historic liturgy as found in the Lutheran Service Book, there is no “filler.”

As we consider the great gifts we receive in corporate Sunday worship, one can’t help but wonder at the modern practice of many who claim to be Christians when they abstain from Sunday worship. Moses once wrote:

“… when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 31:11-13)

Clearly God expects everyone to be in the worship services. The reason is also clear, “that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of his law.” This is so important that God even made it part of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8; Deuteronomy 5:12). In Sunday worship, in Sunday School, in Bible classes, and in Christian instruction for membership, God’s Law and Gospel are taught. To avoid regular gathering with God’s people is to walk a dangerous line with your faith and is to deliberately ignore God’s desire for you. “This Day We’ve Come to Worship” reflects this divine reality with the use of plural pronouns. It isn’t an individual thing.

Luke 24:13-35 is a story that takes place on the day Jesus rose from the dead. Two disciples were headed back to their home town, Emmaus. Jesus joins them, but they do not recognize him. As they walk, Jesus reveals how the entire Old Testament is really about him. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. At the end of the day the disciples invite Jesus to stay with them and Jesus joins them. At dinner Jesus picks up a piece of bread, says a blessing, breaks it, and gives it to the disciples. The Communion overtones are hard to miss. At any rate, at this moment Jesus vanished from their sight and they realized it had been Jesus all along. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

While the theology of the Lord’s Supper is far too rich to go into detail here, some of what is going on is a proclamation of his death and resurrection, his keeping his promises, and a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. This last idea, of a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come, is reflected in Dickinson’s last verse. The second and last verses also reflect the importance of the resurrection in our worship. It is the resurrected Lord who comes to us in Word and Sacrament, blessing our worship together. He is truly our “host” (stanza 1). In his Word and Sacrament we recognize the Lord, and so we praise him, singing Alleluia!


  1. These hymn studies are so insightful! Do you want these on a separate page so people can go through any of them at any time without having to hunt them down?

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  3. Not a bad idea. Maybe when I have a half-dozen or so, we can do it.