Divine Services

THE DIVINE SERVICE

 

AN EXPLANATION OF THE

LUTHERAN CHURCH MISSOURI

SYNOD LITURGICAL SERVICE

 

THE DIVINE SERVICE

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We welcome you to First Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This booklet will help you understand worship here at First Lutheran, or what we call the Divine Service. The two high points of the Divine Service are the Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion, two means our Lord has chosen to bestow His gifts upon us.  We generally observe the pattern described in this booklet every Sunday, believing that this is the way our Lord has provided us to worship Him by receiving His gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and life everlasting.

The dictionary defines “worship” as an action whereby people honor or revere a supernatural being with appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies.  Many Christians and all non-Christians believe that worship is an action on our part that pleases a deity, but Lutherans in the Missouri Synod believe a scriptural understanding of worship is just the opposite.  In true worship, God does the action and we are the receivers of God’s action in our behalf.  No, God is not the audience and we are not the performers.

The pattern of true worship is from God to us, and then from us back to Him.  Our Lord speaks and we listen.  His Word bestows what it says.  Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise.  God gives His gifts, and together we receive and extol them.  We build one another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  How best to do this we learn from His Word and the way the Word has prompted worship throught the centuries.  (Colossians 3:15-17).

We begin by preparing ourselves for the Divine Service:

 

PREPARATION

 

The high and holy worship of God is faith in Jesus Christ.  Such faith is created and sustained by God’s Service to us.  In the Divine Service, the Lord comes to us in His Word and Sacrament to bless and enliven us with His gifts.  The Service is not something we do for God, but His service to us received in faith.  The liturgy is God’s work.  He gives; we receive.  (John 4:20-26; Hebrews 8:1-6).

We begin Divine Service as soon as we enter the nave, or the main part of the church.  Preservice music helps us tune our hearts to seek God in humility and penitence.  The ringing of the bell calls the faithful to gather together for the Divine Service.  A brief time of welcome and announcements follows.

 

THE INVOCATION

 

An invocation is calling upon God.  From God’s Word we know that wherever God puts His Name, there He is to bless.  God has put His Name-Father, Son and Holy Spirit-on us in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  Therefore we invoke, or call upon, God, “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Every Divine Service is for the hallowing of the Lord’s Name, which Luther’s Small Catechism reminds us is done “when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it.”  (Matthew 28:18-20; Luther’s Small Catechism is found on p.300 of our hymnal, Lutheran Worship).

We sing a Hymn of Invocation, calling upon God together in song.

 

CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION

 

It is only through the forgiveness of sins that we enter into the life of heaven.  Confession is to admit our sins and our sinfulness, speaking the truth about our lives.  God seeks that truth in the heart and on the lips.  To confess our sin is to say “Amen” to God’s just verdict that we have sinned against Him and so deserve only death and hell.  (1 John 1:8-10).

 

The truth of our sinfulness is answered by the truth of God’s forgiveness for the sake of the suffering and death of His Son.  From the lips of a man called and ordained as a servant of the Word, we hear God Himself speaking absolution, that is, the complete forgiveness of sins.  To that forgiveness faith says, “Amen,” that is, “Truth.”  Amen is the great word of true worship; it indicates that the gift has been received.  (John 20:19-23; 2 Corinthians 2:10).

 

INTROIT

 

Having received the Lord’s forgiveness, we are glad to enter into His courts with praise and thanksgiving.  The Introit, or entrance, is made with the Lord’s own words, most often drawn from the Psalms.

 

KYRIE; GLORIA (HYMN OF PRAISE)

 

Kyrie eleison is a Greek phrase meaning “Lord, have mercy.”  In the Kyrie we come before the King of mercy with the prayer of blind Bartimaus, whom Jesus healed.  We approach our merciful Savior and King as citizens of heaven, seeking His mercy for our salvation, the peace of the whole world, the well-being of his church, our worship, and our everlasting defense.  (Mark 10:49).

In the Gloria, or hymn of praise, we join with the angels who announced to the shepherds at Bethlehem the coming of our Savior in the flesh the night He was born by proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.”  In this hymn we acclaim and extol the Son of God Who humbled Himself to be our Brother and now reigns over us as Savior from the right Hand of His Father.  A favorite hymn of praise is “This Is the Feast of Victory” taken from the Book of Revelation.  This hymn proclaims the victory of the Lamb Who was crucified for us  (Luke 2:14; Revelation 5:11-14).

 

SALUTATION; COLLECT OF THE DAY

 

The Pastor stands in the congregation as Christ’s servant.  The vestments he wears indicate that he is not speaking on his own but as one sent and authorized to represent Christ Jesus.  As the authorized representative of the Lord, he pronounces the Salutation, saying, “The Lord be with you,” a greeting repeated many times in Scripture.  The congregation responds, “And also with you.”  Pastor and congregation are bound together in this salutation, or greeting, as the pastor prays the Collect of the Day on behalf of the gathered congregation.

The Collect (pronounced COLL-ect) is a short prayer that “collects” in one short petition all it is that we are asking God to do for us on the basis of the Word that we are about to hear-both read and preached. (Philippians 4:6).

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THE WORD

 

Now we enter upon the first of two high points in the Divine Service, the reading and preaching of God’s Word.  Throughout this part of the Divine Service, God speaks to us in His spoken and written Word.

First we hear God’s Word from the Old Testament. The reader, upon completion, proclaims, “This is the Word of the Lord.”  The Lord’s Word is embraced by the congregation’s response of thanksgiving, either spoken or sung, “Thanks be to God.”  In this way, the church confesses Holy Scripture for what it is-the Word of God.

The Gradual, selected verses of Scripture, may be sung by the congregation at this time.  The Gradual (from a Latin word meaning “steps”) is a bridge of praise that links the Old Testament with the New Testament.

‘Next we hear God’s Word from a New Testament epistle, or letter written by one of the apostles.  The reader again proclaims, “This is the Word of the Lord,” and the congregation again responds, saying or singing, “Thanks be to God.”

The Alleluia, from John 6:68, may be sung at this time.  This Alleluia Verse is our anticipation of the Lord Who comes to us in His Words, Words that are spirit and life.  Alleluia is the Hebrew word meaning “Praise the LORD.”

Third, we hear God’s Word from a Holy Gospel.  The Gospels are four New Testament books, all written by apostles and evangelists, that most directly speak to us the words of Jesus Christ Himself-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  In the words of one of these evangelists we are given the Word of Life, Jesus Christ.  The congregation acknowledges the Lord’s Presence in His Gospel by standing and extolling His glory and praising Him.  After the Pastor announces the Gospel passage, the people respond by saying or singing, “Glory to You, O Lord.”.  After the Pastor finishes reading the Gospel passage, he proclaims, “This is the Gospel of the Lord.”  The people respond by saying or singing, “Praise to You, O Christ.”

 

HYMN OF THE DAY

Praise for God’s Word continues in the singing of the Hymn of the Day, As the Word of God dwells in us, it calls forth songs of faith and love.  This hymn reflects the particular theme of the Scripture readings that have just been proclaimed.

 

SERMON

 

In continuity with the prophets, apostles, and evangelists, our Pastor stands in our midst to deliver the Lord’s Law and Gospel in the Sermon.  He is God’s mouth for the congregation as through him the Good Shepherd’s voice sounds forth to call, gather, and enlighten His flock.  (Ephesians 4:11; Colossians 3:16; John 6:63; Luke 10:16).

 

CREED

 

Having heard the Word of God, we confess our faith in His Name.  The Creed, from the Latin word credo, meaning “I believe,” is our saying back to God what He has first said to us.  The three creeds used in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod are called the three ecumeenical creeds:  The Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.  These may be found in our hymnal, Lutheran Worship, on pages 134 and 141-142.

 

OFFERING AND OFFERTORY HYMN

 

Having received from the generosity of the Father Who is the Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift, we now give of the gifts that we have been given.  The Offering is often accompanied by an Offertory hymn that teaches that the highest offering is to receive, in faith, the cup of salvation from the Lord’s Hand.  (Psalm 116).

 

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

 

God’s Word is always primary in worship.  We speak only as we are spoken to.  Gathered in Jesus’ Name, we bring the petitions and thanksgivings before Him that grow out of His Word.  This prayer is called the Prayer of the Church for in it the royal priesthood of all believers does its priestly work of making “requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving” for all people, “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”  After the Pastor presents each petition, he says, “Lord, in your mercy,” or “Let us pray to the Lord;” the congregation responds, “Hear our prayer,” or “Lord, have mercy.”  (1 Peter 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:1-2).

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THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION

 

The second high point of the Divine Service is the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the receiving of Christ’s very Body and Blood in the earthly forms of bread and wine

 

PREFACE; SANCTUS; OUR FATHER

 

In the Preface, sometimes followed by the Sanctus, we acknowledge that the Lord is indeed with us in His Body and Blood, we lift up our hearts to give Him thanks and praise.

 

Drawn toward the gifts of Jesus’ Body and Blood, our hearts are lifted up in thanksgiving and praise as we anticipate the reception of the gifts that carry with them our redemption.  The Sanctus, meaning “holy,” brings together the song of heaven’s angels in adoration of the holy Three in One and the acclamations of Palm Sunday:  “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  In prayer we give thanks to the Lord for the redemption that He has secured for us by His Cross; we ask Him to prepare us to receive that redemption in living and joyful faith.

 

The Our Father, or Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray, is the table prayer with which we come to the Lord’s Table.  (Lamentations 3:41; Luke 21:28; Isaiah 6:3; Mark 11:9-10).

 

WORDS OF INSTITUTION; PEACE OF THE LORD; AGNUS DEI; DISTRIBUTION

 

The Pastor speaks the Lord’s own words, the Words of Institution:

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

These words give what they declare, the Body and Blood of Christ.  Through this Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood we receive forgiveness.  Forgiveness of sins means peace with God.  The same peace Jesus declared to His disciples Easter evening is given to us with the Lord’s Body and Blood.  By sharing the Peace of the Lord with each other, we lay aside everything that stands in contradiction to this forgiveness.

With the words of John the Baptist, the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) confesses the mercy and peace that we receive from the Lamb of God, sacrificed once for all, in His Supper.  We come to the Lord’s Table hungry and thirsty, and He feeds us with His Body and refreshes us with His Blood.  It is the Lord’s Supper.  As Luther reminds us, “Our Lord is at one and the same time chef, cook, butler, host, and food.”  (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 20:21; John 1:29; Hebrews 9:26-28).

 

During the Distribution, the congregation sings the Distribution Hymns, all of which speak of the grace given to us through this most holy sacrament.

 

COMMUNION BLESSING; NUNC DIMITTIS; PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

 

The Pastor pronounces a Communion Blessing upon the congregation, that the Lord’s most holy Body and Blood will strengthen and preserve us to life everlasting.

Having received the Lord’s Body and Blood for our salvation, like Simeon who held in his arms the Savior of the world, we go in peace and joy, singing Simeon’s song from Luke 2, the Nunc dimittis (Now dismiss) or perhaps another Hymn of Thanksgiving.  Before we leave the Lord’s Table, we give thanks through the Prayer of Thanksgiving, asking that the salutary (healthful and beneficial) gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood would have its way in our lives, strengthening us in faith toward God and fervent love toward one another.  The Sacrament draws us outside ourselves to live in Christ by faith and with our neighbor by love.  (Luke 2:29-32).

 

BENEDICTION; CLOSING HYMN

 

The Name of the Lord is the beginning and the end of the Divine Service.  We are now marked with the Lord’s Name in the Benediction, that ancient Word of God’s blessing from Numbers 6 in which He favors us with His grace and peace.  With the Lord’s Name given us in Holy Baptism, we were drawn together.  Now, with that same Name, He sends us back into the world, to the places of our various callings, to live by the mercy we have received as living sacrifices to the praise of His glory and the good of our neighbor.  (Numbers 6:22-27; Romans 12: 1-2).

We end with a Closing Hymn of joy and thanksgiving for all God has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  We observe a moment of prayerful, joyful silence as we finish singing the hymn.  We exit to the triumphant sounds of an organ postlude, reminding us that our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered sin and the grave, and that we share with Him eternally in His victory.

 

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A FINAL WORD ABOUT THE DIVINE SERVICE

 

We pray you have been blessed by the Divine Service here at First Lutheran.  We hope that this Divine Service is what God intends it to be:  Scriptural, liturgical, and confessional–and therefore distinct from the world.

God’s Word tells us that true worship belongs to God; true worship is not doing something for God to receive His favor; true worship is receiving what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ.  Therefore the Divine Service here at First Lutheran is scriptural, based firmly and only upon God’s Word, not on what we think might be right worship.

Because it is scriptural, worship at First Lutheran is liturgical, that is, worship is carefully written down in a form that is purposeful, correct, and timeless.  Liturgy, from the Greek word meaning “service to the gods,” is actually God’s service to us, as you have seen.

Finally, worship here at First Lutheran is confessional.  A confession is a public acknowledgement of belief.  In the Divine Service, our primary reason for gathering together is not for fellowship or enjoyment or to “reach people” — although those things take place at other times.  In the Divine Service, we gather together to confess our common faith in Jesus Christ, using God’s Word and the ancient confessions of faith.  This confession is more significant that you may think.  What makes the church is neither its activities nor its people nor its outward appearances, but the Word of God preached and embodies in the Sacraments.  The church comes into being when it confesses–when it speaks the Word by which God creates, redeems, and produces faith in those who hear it.  Because of our confession of faith, we receive in worship the gifts of grace provided for us by Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.  That is why we call it Divine Service; it is God’s service to us through His Son.

If you have questions or need spiritual help, please do not hesitate to call our church office at 479.785.2886.

 

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Sources

 

Concordia Self-Study Bible, New International Version (Saint Louis, Missouri:  Concordia Publishing House, 1984).

 

Lutheran Worship (Saint Louis, Missouri:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982.

 

Nestigen, James A., Martin Luther:  A Life (Minneapolis, Minnesota:  Augsburg Books, 2003), pp.83-83.

 

Pittelko, Roger D.  Worship and Liturgy:  God Speaks, We Respond.  (Saint Louis, Missouri:  Concordia Publishing House, 1995).

 

Pless, John T., “A Narrative Commentary on the Divine Service,” in Craig A. Parton, The Defense Never Rests (Saint Louis, Missouri:  Concordia Publishing House, 2003).

 

Precht, Fred L., ed.  Lutheran Worship:  History and Practice (Saint Louis, Missouri:  Concordia Publishing House, 1993).

 

OUTLINE OF THE DIVINE SERVICE

 

PREPARATION

Pre-service music; time of meditation

Ringing of gthe bell

Welcome and announcements

Invocation

Hymn of Invocation

Confession and Absolution

Introit

Kyrie

Gloria or Hymn of Praise

Salutation

Collect of the Day

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

God’s Word from the Old Testament

Gradual

God’s Word from a New GTestament epistle

Alleluia

God’s Word from a Holy Gospel

Hymn of the Day

Sermon

Creed

Offering

Offertory Hymn

Prayer of the Church

 

THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION

Preface

Sanctus

Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer)

Words of Institution

The Peace of the Lord

Agnus Dei

Distribution

Communion Blessing

Nunc Dimittis or Hymn of Thanksgiving

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Benediction

Closing Hymn

Postlude