"The Pharisees reproached Jesus for receiving sinners and eating with them. Like Jesus, we, too, must receive sinners and eat with them. This is how we live out the Gospel."
Mons Teig stresses that worship isn't simply our offering to God. "The liturgy is not just our work," he says, "it is first God's work on behalf of the world as proclaimed in Word and Sacrament. Or to put it another way: worship is God's 'I love you' to us and our 'I love you' to God."
And just as worship is at the center of the proclamation of God's work in Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit, it is also at the center of our witness in the world.
"We worship not to escape the world, but to enter more deeply into the world that God created," Teig says. "We go to worship to be church and to be made the body of Christ for the sake of the world."
These understandings were developed during Teig's 13 years of service as a parish pastor on both coasts. They were further refined during his studies for two masters degrees—one in liturgical studies, the other in New Testament—and Ph.D. studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.
Teig, who also spent 12 years as director for parish worship and preaching in the American Lutheran Church's Division for Life and Mission in the Congregation, notes that Lutherans tend to be conservative when it comes to worship. But he points out that Lutheran worship offers flexibility, variety and room for imagination.
That's why he sees no dichotomy between contemporary and traditional forms. "We need to tie them together, not divide them. I prefer to talk about 'traditional contemporary' or 'contemporary traditional' worship," he says.
Because worship is shaped by its setting, Teig is also a student of church architecture. He has just produced a video about the work of Ed Sövik, a well-known American church architect. "I'm interested in what worship spaces say about our understanding of worship and how they can invite people to greater involvement," Teig says.
Above all, he believes that effective worship must be hospitable and welcoming: "The Pharisees reproached Jesus for receiving sinners and eating with them. Like Jesus, we, too, must receive sinners and eat with them. This is how we live out the Gospel."