Explanation of Service

The Lutheran Church is a liturgical Church. In keeping with this, we follow a very orderly and well-thought out order of Service. This order of Service respects the voice of those who have gone before us. Throughout the centuries the Church has added to and subtracted from this Service so that God’s service to us might be clearly seen. The Service is still growing and changing, albeit ever so carefully and gradually, so that only the best things and ways are passed on to subsequent generations.

The Divine Service follows the life of Christ. In the Gloria, we witness Jesus’ birth. In the readings, Creed, and sermon, we follow Jesus’ during His earthly ministry. In the Sanctus, we stand with the crowds of Palm Sunday. In the Words of Institution, we sit with the disciples in the upper room on Maundy Thursday. In the Angus Dei, we witness Good Friday. In the distribution of Communion, we see, touch, and taste our resurrected Lord. At the Benediction, we see Him ascend into heaven. Because the Service is the story of Jesus’ life, it is the story of our salvation.

As you browse the following order, take note that God’s mercy and peace are prevalent throughout. God is merciful to us by giving us peace. It is also important to note that many of the phrases are direct quotations from Scripture. The rest are paraphrases of Scripture. Thus the Divine Service is Scripture in action.

P = Pastor
C = Congregation

OPENING HYMN Lutherans were known as the singing church. We have carried this tradition on by continuing to confess the faith in songs. The Opening Hymn serves to focus our hearts and minds on the theme of the day or to call upon the Holy Spirit. The congregation rises to sing this hymn – a posture of confident joy and confession – as we joyfully welcome Christ who humbles Himself to serve us through His ordained Minister.
INVOCATION

P: In the Name of the Father and of the †✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit.
C (sing): Amen.

This is the same Name into which we were baptized. The only way we can approach God is through faith in Jesus. This faith was given at Baptism. There our sinful flesh was buried with Christ and God raised us up to new life with Christ. The sign of the cross is made reminding us of our Baptisms. “Amen” is a Hebrew word meaning “truth.” God has given; we respond.
HOLY ABSOLUTION

P: I will go to the altar of God.
C: To God my exceeding joy.

P: Our ✠ help is in the name of the Lord.
C: Who made heaven and earth.

P: Holy and merciful Father,
C: I confess that I am by nature sinful and that I have disobeyed You in my thoughts, words, and actions. I have done what is evil and failed to do what is good. For this I deserve Your punishment both now and in eternity. But I am truly sorry of my sins, and trusting in my Savior Jesus Christ, I pray: Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

P: Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God to all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the ✠† Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Our first words confess our sins. We acknowledge what God sees in us. We are born completely sinful. We have sinned in thoughts, words, and deeds. We cannot hide our sins from God so we humbly lay them before Him pleading for His mercy for Christ’s sake. And God does forgive us for Jesus’ sake. The called and ordained Minister stands in the stead of Christ to forgive. We hear his voice as we would Christ Himself. Notice once again the Name of God is spoken. What God promised in Baptism still is true: we bear His Name.
THE SERVICE OF THE WORD
INTROIT Introit means “entrance.” We have entered this building to meet God. God is not found in Jerusalem or in heaven, but at His altar in His Word and Sacrament. At this point the pastor approaches the altar. The introit changes with the theme of the day.
KYRIE

C (sing): Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

With this plea, we do not ask God for forgiveness, but this is a cry for mercy from all the effects of sin that still plague our lives. This phrase is the simplest form of Christian prayer.
GLORIA

C (sing): Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men. We praise You, we bless You, we ✧ worship You, we glorify You, we give thanks to You for Your great glory, O Lord God, heav’nly King, God the Father almighty. O Lord, the only begotten Son, ✧ Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. You take away the sin of the world; ✧ receive our prayer. You sit at the right hand of God the Father; have mercy on us.  For You only are holy; You only are the Lord.  ✧ You only, ✠ O Christ, with the Holy Spirit, are most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Jesus’ birth is God’s answer to our request for mercy in the Kyrie. Here we find ourselves in the fields of Bethlehem joining with the angels to declare the glory of God. The words of the angels are expounded on to highlight the meaning of the word “glory.” God’s glory is found in the birth of His Son and in the salvation that the Son would accomplish. Notice how many times the word mercy is repeated. We ask God to hear our prayers for mercy because He has given us salvation through His Son. It’s all about who God is and what He has done.
SALUTATION

P: The Lord be with you.
C (sing): And with your spirit.

The pastor does not simply wish the Lord to be with you, but through his ministrations the Lord is with you. The congregation’s response is often referred to as “the little ordination.” It assures the people that this man is called and ordained by God and it assures the pastor of the same.
COLLECT OF THE DAY

(Pastor prays the Collect)
C (sing): Amen.

The pastor prays a short prayer connected with the theme of the day. The people make it their prayer by adding “Amen.”
OLD TESTAMENT READING

After the Reading:
P: The Word of the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God.

A Psalm is chanted 

The Old Testament reading announces the coming of God in the flesh. The congregation gives thanks to God for bringing His Word to them. For the first two readings the congregation sits. Sitting is the position of learning and listening.
EPISTLE READING

After the Reading:
P: The Word of the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God.

The Epistle reading usually expounds on a doctrine from the Gospel or shows the fruits of faith that flow from the Gospel. Once again the congregation gives thanks to God for declaring His Word to them.
GOSPEL READING

(sing): Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Verse of the day is sung

P: The Lord be with you.
(sing): And with your spirit.

P: The continuation of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior ✧ Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew/Mark/Luke/John:
C (sing): Glory be to You, O Lord.

Reading of the Gospel

P: The Gospel of the Lord.
C (sing): Praise be to You, O Christ.

The Gospel reading is the first high point of the Service. Everything has led up to these words. The congregation stands for this reading not only to honor the words and works of our God while He walked on this earth, but also to confess that Jesus is bodily present in our midst speaking the Word to us. Thus the congregation praises Christ for coming to them this day in the Word.
THE NICENE CREED

C: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, ✧ Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven, ✧ was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became fully human. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death and was buried. On the third day He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who in unity with the Father and the Son is ✧ worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the †✠ life of the world to come. Amen.

The Creed is a confession of faith not a prayer. Having heard the Gospel and believed the words spoken to us, we confess our entire faith before God and the world. Many have shed their blood holding fast to these words. By confessing the same words, we unite ourselves with these holy martyrs and beseech God to keep us faithful to Him even in the face of death.
CHIEF HYMN This is the teaching hymn. With meter and rhyme, the poet paints Scripture in a most memorable way to strengthen and reinforce the truths of the Gospel Reading. We sit to sing this hymn.
PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL Often called the sermon, the purpose of this is to preach the Gospel. This is not a time for entertainment or education, although we may learn, but proclamation. At its basic the sermon is an extension of the confession and absolution. It takes the Scripture readings and applies them to us; after all, they were spoken to us. The Law of God accuses us of sin. It reveals where we have failed. It shows us that our just punishment is hell. But the Gospel in the readings also applies to us. It absolves us, forgives us, releases us, and makes us alive. This is the message that Christ was crucified for us and now comes to bless us. Ultimately, Christ comes to bless us in Holy Communion. Thus the preaching of the Gospel serves as a bridge between the Gospel in Word and the Gospel in Communion.
OFFERTORY

C (sing): Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your free Spirit. Amen.

We now prepare to enter heaven itself and communion with our God in the Sacrament. We rejoice to have received Christ in Word, now we desire to receive Him in Sacrament. We pray that our reception of Christ in the Supper may be to our benefit. Thus, we ask God to keep us faithful. During this time, the Altar is prepared for Communion.
OFFERING Out of love for our God who has taken on flesh to redeem us from hell by His death, we give to God. The purpose of the offering is not to pay the bills, but it is an act of worship. It is a tangible way that we can show our faith. There is no set amount, but each one gives in proportion to his faith and in the blessings he has received. All give out of love and thanks for all that God has done.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH This is a longer prayer. God has promised us blessings in His Word now we simply ask God for those blessings in prayer. (Prayer is repeating back to God what He has promised to us.) Here we pray for the needs of the Church throughout the world. This is in accord with St. Paul’s words to Timothy. Since the needs of the Church are unchanging, this prayer does not follow the seasons of the church year. If any specific prayers have been requested, they are inserted at the appropriate place in this prayer.
THE SERVICE OF THE SACRAMENT
PREFACE

P: The Lord be with you.
C (sing): And with your spirit.

P: Lift up your hearts.
C (sing): We lift them up unto the Lord.

P: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.
C (sing): It is good and right so to do.

P: It is truly good, right and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Everlasting God,

(Proper preface is prayed)

Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify your glorious name, evermore praising you and saying:

This section is oldest and least changed part of the liturgy. Once again we have the “little ordination.” We find this phrase whenever the pastor is about to act in the stead of Christ. We are asked to “lift up our hearts,” since our God is coming to us to unite His Body with ours so that we are even more certain of His love. The Communion Service is full of joy and thanks.
SANCTUS

C (sing): ✧ Holy, holy, holy Lord God of heavenly hosts; heav’n and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest. Blessed ✠ is He, blessed is He, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.

This is the Great Thanksgiving of faith. His arrival is near. Heaven crashes with earth as the song of the heavenly hosts (Holy, holy, holy) is joined with the song of Palm Sunday (Blessed is He) to create one of the most comforting and sublime portions of the liturgy. We stand in heaven before the Holy Lord with angels and archangels and all the saints to give thanks to God Himself. Yet we do not fear. Just as Christ humbly rode forth on Palm Sunday to win salvation, so now He rides forth in humble bread and wine to give us salvation. This is why we give thanks. Notice the lack of “I” or “we.” We do not draw any attention to our act of giving thanks, but to the One, who is being thanked.
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER & WORDS OF CONSECRATION

P: For our Lord, Jesus Christ, on the night when he was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples and said: Take, eat. This is My Body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.

In the same way also, He took the cup after supper and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying: Drink of it, all of you. This is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

Christ has now arrived. This is the second high point in the liturgy. Everything has led up to Christ uniting Himself to us in this Meal. What is present for us to eat and drink is made clear: His Body and His Blood. It is not the worthiness or words of the pastor that brings about the true presence of Christ, but Christ’s command to do this. He has united His command and act with our speaking. God does not lie to us. When He says, “This is My Body…/this is My Blood…,” we believe the bread to be Christ’s Body and the wine to be Christ’s Blood, although we cannot explain or understand it. These words are pure Gospel. It was “for us” that Christ was sacrificed. It is “for us” that Christ now comes.
LORD’S PRAYER & THE EMBOLISM

P: As our Savior has commanded and taught us, we are bold to pray:

C: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation; but deliver ✠ us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

P: Deliver us, O Lord, we beseech you, from every evil past, present and to come, and graciously grant peace in our days that by your compassionate aid we may ever be free from all sin and sheltered from all turmoil through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen.

The one perfect prayer that our Lord gave to us we now repeat back to Him. It is a perfect table prayer for this Supper since God is giving to us the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.
PAX

P: The peace ✠ of the Lord be with you always.
(sing): Amen.

Pax means “peace.” On the first Easter evening, Jesus appeared to the disciples and spoke these words to comfort them. Now the resurrected Christ appears to us in consecrated bread and wine to comfort us with His peace. There is forgiveness in these words.
ANGUS DEI

P: Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

C (sing): O Christ, Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. O Christ, Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. O Christ, Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world; grant us your peace. Amen.

John the Baptist’s comment about Jesus is true. Jesus took away our sins by His death. His Body hung on a cross. His Blood dripped from His wounds. That Sacrifice now comes to us in consecrated bread and wine to take away our sins. By receiving Him with our mouths, we receive Him and the peace He won by His death. Therefore this song is directed toward Christ’s real presence on the altar.
THE DISTRIBUTION of Christ’s Body and Blood

(Here are appropriate prayers for before, during, and after the reception of the Sacrament.)

Here our Lord unites Himself to us and us to Him through our eating and drinking. Our Lord is Host of this Feast, yet He is also our Meal. This is a remedy against death for we are united flesh to flesh and bone to bone with Jesus. Thus we will live forever with our bodies. Yes, we have received forgiveness in the Absolution. Yes, we have heard and received it in the preaching of the Gospel. But God in His mercy has instituted many ways for us to receive Christ and His forgiveness. So we make full use of them all.During the distribution, the communicants kneel – a position of humility; we are not worthy to receive this Feast. The pastor holds up the Host and says, “The Body of Christ.” It is fitting for the communicant to respond, “Amen,” meaning, “Truth,” that is, “What you have said is true. It is the Body of Christ.” The pastor gives the Host to the communicant with the words, “given for you.” The distribution of the Cup follows with a similar pattern. The pastor then dismisses the table with a word of peace, once again recalling Jesus’ visit to the disciples in the locked room on Easter. The sign of the cross is made signifying that we have received the full blessings of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and so we have received God’s peace.
NUNC DIMITTIS

C (sing): Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace according to Your word. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which You have prepared before the face of all people. A Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of your people Israel.

Just as Simeon rejoiced to see Christ so too we rejoice that our eyes have seen Christ in the blessed bread and the blessed wine. Now we may depart from church in peace. We can also depart this life in peace. We are ready to die. Salvation is ours. Christ’s death was for us. Christ and His blessings have been given to us.
POST-COMMUNION

P: O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
C (sing): For his mercy endures forever.

P: Prayer of Thanksgiving by the Pastor
C (sing): Amen.

God has served us in the Divine Service by coming to us in His Word and Sacrament. Now we go out into the world to serve others. This is our worship to God. There is no void between Sunday morning and the week days. The peace and love poured into us here flows out of us to our neighbor. We give ourselves to the service of others just as Christ gave Himself to us. The Prayer highlights these truths.
BENEDICTION

P: The Lord be with you.
C (sing): And with your spirit.

P: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord look on you with his favor and †✠ give you peace.
C (sing): Amen. Amen. Amen.

At the beginning of the Service, we were reminded that God had placed His Name on us in Baptism. Here God once again places His name on us. It is threefold for God is Triune. Therefore we respond with a threefold “Amen.” The Father has given His Son through the Holy Spirit in Word and in Sacrament.
RECESSIONAL HYMN The congregation remains standing to once again thank Christ for serving them in Word and Sacrament. As the members depart, Christ goes with them for He was placed in them through Word and Communion.

Concluding remarks on the Divine Service: There is no greater story than God’s story. It is a story of God’s grace and mercy shown to the world, of God giving and man receiving. Therefore God’s story is the world’s story. All history centers in this divine love and mercy. Only when we understand God’s story will we rightly understand our individual stories.

Here in the Divine Service, God’s story is told week after week. We have done nothing to move God to act in this way. Daily we sin and pile up God’s wrath against us. But still Jesus took on flesh, suffered, died, and rose. In the Divine Service this is proclaimed to us. We are thrust into Jesus’ life and work in the very words we sing. The forgiveness, life, and salvation He won on the cross God now gives to us in Word and Sacrament. God has won it; we have received it. God has given; we are blessed.

In this Divine Service we are brought into heaven itself. Our voices join with the holy angels and all the saints. This is our true home. God is our true Father. Jesus is our true brother. This is our identity. But the triumphant saints remain where we cannot. We are one with them, but they have fought their battles, finished their race. We must continue to fight and run. But God goes with us. He has been placed in us through Word and Sacrament and He will sustain us in this world until we gather yet again with our family to hear God’s story and receive his heavenly gifts.

 

 

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