On another blog, I was asked what liturgy means. I posted a short response there, and repeat it here (slightly edited) because I think it is crucial for us as Lutherans to state where we stand on this issue.
Liturgy = informally described as what is done in a worship service. Even non-denominational churches that claim to be non-liturgical have liturgy. It is just what you do repeatedly service after service. I taught 10 years ago at a Bible college run by charismatics, held at a cutting edge charismatic church. For the worship class, I asked the class members to notice carefully what happened during each service. They were astounded to discover that they were much more rigid in what happened during their service than what is often caricatured as a conservative Lutheran service.
As Lutherans, we specifically state that the proper term for what happens is Gottes Dienst (“divine service”), meaning that God is the primary actor coming to us in Word and Sacrament. We respond to his initiative with praise and thanksgiving. Thus, the Invocation (“In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”), the words of our Baptism, are spoken as the saving-God in Baptism now invites us to come into his presence. Note carefully that we do NOT start our service with the generic Protestant rubric: “We make our beginning in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” To do that reverses the order, putting ourselves as the initiators. The service ends with the Benediction (typically Numbers 6:24-26) in which the “divine service” continues as we leave. Everything that God has done for us, forgiving our sins, strengthening, encouraging, etc. through Word and Sacrament now goes with us until we gather again at the invitation of our saving God. Thus God begins our liturgy and God ends our liturgy… kind of like His saving work.
There’s much more, but I hope you understand a little of what I mean by being a liturgical kind of guy.