The Divine Service – The Preparation
The Divine Service is made up of three parts. The first part is the Preparation, which includes the Invocation, and the Confession and Absolution. The second part is the Service of the Word, which includes the Scripture readings and the sermon. The final part is the Service of the Sacrament, which is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The Divine Service flows and advances from the Preparation until it reaches its high point, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Deuteronomy 12:5-6 But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
The word “invocation” is taken from the Latin word “invocare” which means “to call in” or “invoke.” As we have seen, God’s Name is more than simply the word we use to address God. In the Old Testament God’s Name indicated His presence, and God provides the assurance of His presence when He places His Name. In the invocation, God’s Name is called and placed upon us. This occurs using the Triune Name that we received in Holy Baptism as the pastor makes the sign of the cross. We are reminded that we gather as the baptized children of God who have shared in Christ’s death. We have been united as the body of Christ through Holy Baptism, and that fact will be made visible in the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar at the high point of the Divine Service.
Confession and Absolution
1 John 1:8-9 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
John 20:22-23 The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
We gather for the Divine Service as people who have sinned during the week. As we come into God’s presence we confess our sin and receive God’s forgiveness in Holy Absolution. We speak the versicle (“little verse”) and response from 1 John 1:8-9. The versicle and response serve to introduce what follows in the liturgy as they describe our sinfulness and God’s willingness to forgive repentant sinners. We confess our sins of thought, word and deed against God and our neighbor. Then the pastor in the Office of the Holy Ministry speaks for Christ as God forgives our sin through Holy Absolution.
The Divine Service – Service of the Word
After the Preparation, the Divine Service is made up of two main parts: 1) The Service of the Word 2) The Service of the Sacrament. In the Service of the Word, God’s Word is read and proclaimed. We also ask for God’s help and praise Him for the salvation He has provided in Jesus Christ.
The Introit is the beginning of the Service of the Word. The name “Introit” means “enter” in Latin. It is the psalm chanted at the beginning of the Divine Service as the pastor enters into the chancel (the area around the altar that is enclosed by the communion rail). The Introit is the main place in the Divine Service where we use the psalms. The psalms were the prayer book of the Old Testament people of God and have continued to be so for the Church for two thousand years. They are “inspired prayers” because they are the prayers of God’s people which have been recorded under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and speak about Christ.
The Introit is made up of four parts: 1) Antiphon 2) Psalm 3) Gloria Patri 4) Antiphon. The antiphon is a verse from the psalm that highlights the theme of the psalm and is sung at the beginning and the end of the introit. The Gloria Patri is a doxology, a statement which gives glory to God. The name “Gloria Patri” (“Glory be to the Father”) comes from the first two words of the Latin translation of the text: “Glory be to the Father and the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.” The Gloria Patri is a brief but clear confession of the Trinity.
As we begin the main portion of the Divine Service, the Introit summarizes and announces the theme of the day in the service. The Word of God becomes our prayer and we give glory to God in a confession of the Trinity as we enter into the main portion of the Divine Service. The Introit is the first of the Propers of the Day that we encounter – those parts of the Divine Service that change each Sunday and are “proper” or appropriate for that particular day or season of the church year (the other Propers are the Collect of the Day, the Readings, the Gradual and the Verse).
Matthew 15:22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.”
The Kyrie receives its name from the Greek phrase “kyrie eleison” which means, “Lord have mercy.” It was an expression that was used in the ancient world when a person addressed a superior such as the king or emperor and asked for help. The Kyrie is not a confession of sin (after all we just did that in the Divine Service!). Instead, it is a cry for help as the Divine Service begins. In a prayer form known as a litany, we ask our Lord to help us with each of the petitions spoken by the pastor as we pray for salvation; for the peace of the world; for the well-being of the Church of God; for the unity of all; and for those worshipping in the Divine Service.
Hymn of Praise: Gloria in Excelsis and This is the Feast
Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Isaiah 25:6 The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.
Revelation 5:11-13 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
In the Kyrie we have cried to God for help as we prayed for peace, salvation, the needs of the Church and the world. Now, in the Hymn of Praise we respond as we give praise and glory to God because the Lord has had mercy on us. We are assured that He has heard our prayers for peace and salvation because we know what He has already done for us in Jesus Christ. The Gloria in Excelsis receives its name from the Latin translation of the first words of the angels’ song, “Glory in the highest.” It does not praise God in general, but rather praises God for Christ’s work to save us. In the Gloria in Excelsis, we praise Jesus and address Him as God, Lord and the only Son of the Father. We use John the Baptist’s words as we praise Christ who is the Lamb of God that has taken away the sins of the world.
During the Sundays after Easter we use the Hymn of Praise, “This is the Feast.” We have seen that Scripture describes the final salvation as a feast, and that the Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of this feast. “This is the Feast” begins by praising God for the feast of salvation that we already begin to experience in the Lord’s Supper. We then sing words drawn from Revelation as we join the heavenly host in singing praises to Christ, the victorious Lamb who has won us salvation.
2 Timothy 4:22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
The salutation is the exchanged that occurs between the pastor and the congregation at several different points in the Divine Service. The pastor says "The Lord be with you" and the congregation responds, "And also with you" (historically, the response has been, "And with your spirit," just as we in Setting Three in the hymnal).
The Salutation carries out a practical function. It serves to introduce new parts of the service and renew the attention of the congregation as the Divine Service moves along. However, it also plays a much more important theological function. The statement by the pastor “The Lord be with you” is a blessing. It is a proclamation of the Lord’s gracious presence in the Word and Sacrament of the Divine Service. The Salutation also indicates the special relationship between the pastor and the congregation. It is sometimes called the “Little Ordination,” since here the congregation acknowledges the pastor as the one called by Christ through the Church to carry out His ministry in the midst of His people. The congregation acknowledges that God has placed the pastor there in the Office of the Holy Ministry to carry out the next portion in the Divine Service.
Collect of the Day
The name “Collect” is taken from a Latin word which means “to gather” or “to collect.” Just as the name’s background indicates, in the Collect the Church gathers and sums up the intercession of the people on the basis of God’s Word. The Collect is one of the propers for a given Sunday. The Collect of the Day is associated with a certain Sunday because it states the theme of the day and usually has a strong relation to one or more of the Scripture readings. This is especially true in the first half of the Church year (those after Pentecost tend to be more general in nature as they pray for general spiritual blessings and faithful hearing of God’s Word). Because the Collect is related to the Scripture readings, the prayers take their content from God’s revelation in His Word and they end with a confession of the Trinity. The Collects that we use have a long history. Many of them date back to the 5th century, and had already been in use for nearly a thousand years at the time of the Reformation. The Collect of the Day helps us to see the catholic (universal) nature of our worship.
Old Testament reading
1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
Luke 24:27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
The first of the Scripture readings in the Service of the Word is from the Old Testament. We hear about how God dealt with His people before Christ, and about the promises of salvation that Jesus Christ fulfilled.
The reading of Scripture in the Divine Service is different from reading the Bible at home or in Bible class. In the Divine Service, the Scriptures are heard as a prophetic message from God that comes to our hearing from outside ourselves. The pastor reads the three Scripture lessons because God has given the Office of the Holy Ministry to administer the Means of Grace in the midst of His Church.
The Scripture readings for each Sunday are determined by the lectionary (the word lectionary is based on the Latin word for “reading” – lectio). The readings assigned by the lectionary take us through the liturgical (church) year as we follow our Lord’s life, death, resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The lectionary helps us to hear all of God’s Word and not just the parts that the pastor or people want to hear.
The gradual is a brief portion of a psalm sung after the Old Testament reading. The name Gradual is based on the place from which the psalm was once sung. “Gradus” means step in Latin and the Gradual was sung from the step of the ambo (a piece of furniture in the early church that looked like a pulpit) and later the altar. The gradual provides a pause between the readings. It serves as a prayerful moment of commentary and reflection on the Scripture readings.
Colossians 4:16 When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.
An epistle is a letter. In the epistles, the authorized representatives of Christ (the apostles) instructed His Church. God continues to address the Church today through the apostles’ words. After the Old Testament lesson and the Epistle, the pastor announces that we have heard the Word of the Lord. The congregation responds by saying “Thanks be to God” as we give thanks that God has revealed Himself to us through His Word.
Verse and Gospel Acclamation
Both the Verse and the Gospel acclamation are a preparation for the Gospel reading and a welcome of it. They prepare us for the reading of the Gospel lesson, which along with the sermon is the high point of the Service of the Word. We prepare as our Lord comes into our midst and is present through His Word.
In the Holy Gospel we hear our Lord’s words and witness His actions. We stand for the Holy Gospel in recognition of the fact that Christ is present among through His Word. God created us as the unity of body and soul, and our body is included in the worship that takes place in the Divine Service. On festival days the reading of the Gospel is accompanied by a Gospel Processional. The processional cross and the lectionary are carried into the center of the nave symbolizing that Christ is present in our midst through His Word. After the Holy Gospel, we praise Christ for revealing Himself to us through His Word.
Hymn of the Day
The Hymn of the Day is a unique Lutheran feature of the Divine Service. It is the main hymn of the Divine Service and is related to the Scripture readings of the lectionary, and to the day and time in the Church year.
The sermon is the proclamation of God’s Word, addressed by God’s called servant to His people.
In response to the reading and proclamation of God’s Word, we stand and confess the Christian faith using the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed is always used in the Divine Service because it clearly confesses the incarnate One, Jesus Christ, who comes to us in His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. The use of the Nicene Creed joins us together with the holy catholic (universal) and apostolic Church in the one, true faith.
Prayer of the Church
Colossians 1:3-4 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
The Prayer of the Church is a response to the reading of the Gospel and preaching of the Word in the sermon. Here we pray for the specific needs of both the Church and the world around us. God has made us a royal priesthood through Holy Baptism, and we serve by praying for others.
Offering and Offertory
1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.
Psalm 116:12 What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.
During this time in the Divine Service, the Offering is gathered and then brought forward to the altar during the singing of the Offertory. The Offering is not just a collection of money so that congregation can continue to operate. It is an act of worship in the Divine Service in which we respond to God’s grace with a sacrifice and return to a Him a portion of that with which He has blessed us. For this reason it is a separate and important part of the liturgy of the Divine Service. The Offertory draws upon words from Psalm 116 and is itself a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” The words of the Offertory point us forward to the Lord’s Supper in the Divine Service when we will “take the cup of salvation and will call on the name of the Lord.”
The Divine Service – Service of the Sacrament
The Divine Service reaches its highpoint in the Service of the Sacrament. We join the heavenly host in giving thanks and glory to God as Jesus Christ comes to us in His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar to give us the forgiveness of sins and strengthen us in the faith.
2 Timothy 4:22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which 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 He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
The Preface is made up of three exchanges between the pastor and congregation.
Just as when it occurs before the Collect and Scripture readings, the Salutation introduces a new part of the service and renews the attention of the congregation as the Divine Service moves forward. The congregation once again recognizes the pastor as the called servant in their midst and indicates that he should proceed with administering the Lord’s Supper as Christ’s authorized representative. The statement, “The Lord be with you” is once again a blessing and proclamation of the Lord’s gracious presence.
In the words “Lift up your hearts” the pastor invites the congregation to rejoice in welcoming our Lord Jesus who will come into our presence in His body and blood. These words encourage us to turn to our Lord for forgiveness as He comes into our presence in the Lord’s Supper and remind us to focus on Christ and the miracle He is about to carry out in our midst rather than being distracted by worldly things. In the response, the congregation states that as it prepares to receive the Lord’s Supper, it is doing just this.
When our Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper He gave thanks over bread and wine. Another name for the Lord’s Supper that comes from the early Church is “Eucharist.” The term “Eucharist” is based on the Greek verb that means “to give thanks.” The pastor invites the congregation to give thanks to God for the salvation that Jesus Christ has won for us and for Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament through which Jesus delivers the benefits of His cross to us. In its reply to the pastor, the congregation agrees that giving thanks to the Lord our God is the only right and fitting thing to do when Christ comes among us in his body and blood in order to deliver forgiveness to us.
In the Proper Preface we give thanks to God for the salvation He was won for us through Jesus Christ. This portion of the liturgy is the called the Proper Preface because there is a prayer for each season of the Church year and for some individual festivals. Each of these prayers focuses on a particular part of God’s saving action that we meet in that season. All of the Proper Prefaces end with the words, “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying….” These words introduce the Sanctus and remind us that in the liturgy of the Divine Service we join in the heavenly liturgy as we are united with the angels and the saints who have gone before us in praising God. In the Divine Service we experience “heaven on earth” as we receive a foretaste of the feast to come.
Isaiah 6:1-3 In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”
Psalm 118:25-26 O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; we have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
Matthew 21:8-9 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”
The Sanctus takes its name from the cry of the angels, “Holy, holy, holy,” that Isaiah heard in God’s presence. The Latin word for “holy” is “sanctus.” The Sanctus is the Hymn of Praise in the Service of the Sacrament, just as the Gloria in Excelsis and “This is the Feast” are the Hymn of Praise in the Service of the Word. As Christ comes into our presence and delivers the salvation He won for us, we break forth in praise. In the Sanctus we acknowledge that we stand in the presence of the holy God who comes into our midst in His body and blood. We join the song of the angels and all the saints, just as the words that conclude the Proper Preface indicate. As we prepare to encounter God in a way that does not occur at any other time, we confess that in the Divine Service we experience “heaven on earth” – God in our midst.
The phrase “Hosanna” is Hebrew for “save us!” and comes from Ps. 118. The crowds in the Jerusalem used the words of Ps. 118 and said “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” as Jesus arrived and entered Jerusalem. We use these same words to greet Jesus Christ as He comes to us in His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Isaiah 25:6 The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain.
Matthew 8:11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
This prayer continues the theme of thanksgiving for Christ’s work of salvation and the gift of His body and blood by which he delivers the forgiveness of sins won on the cross. As we gather in the remembrance of Jesus we pray that God would strengthen us through the work of the Spirit. We pray that we would be gathered together on the Last Day with all the faithful at the great feast of salvation, of which we receive a foretaste in the Lord’s Supper.
The Words of Our Lord (Words of Institution)
The Words of Institution as spoken in the liturgy of the Divine Service draw upon the various biblical accounts from Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians. They take in the whole biblical witness. The Words of Institution are a words of Gospel. As Gospel, they are meant to be proclaimed to Christ's people. For this reason, the Words of Institution are addressed to the congregation during the Lord's Supper. Jesus' words do what they say. After Christ's called servant speaks these words over bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ are present on the altar. For this reason, the pastor elevates the bread and chalice, and also bows in adoration of Christ who is present in His body and blood.
Proclamation of Christ
1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Luke 22:19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
The coming of Jesus Christ in His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar points us forward toward His coming in glory on the Last Day. In the Proclamation of Christ, we speak verses from Scripture that proclaim this fact. Then we pray to Christ who is present on the altar as we remember His saving ministry for us.
Very early in her history, the Church recognized that the Lord’s Prayer was a natural choice for use at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord was the source of both and therefore it was fitting that the prayer the Lord gave should be used at the Supper the Lord had given. As we have learned, the Second Petition (“Thy kingdom come”), Fourth Petition (“Give us this day our daily bread”) and Fifth Petition (“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”) are closely linked with the Lord’s Supper.
“Pax Domini” is Latin for “Peace of the Lord. The Pax Domini is a declaration of the peace that comes from the Lord. As the pastor speaks the Pax Domini, he directs the congregation toward the source of this peace – the body and blood of the crucified and risen Lord.
The Pax Domini also reminds the congregation of the need for peace among those receiving the Lord’s Supper. It is a reminder of the need for forgiveness and reconciliation as we avoid bringing our divisions to the Lord’s Supper, which is the sacrament of unity.
John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Agnus Dei is Latin for “Lamb of God” and is based on John the Baptist’s statement about Jesus Christ. It is a hymn of adoration directed toward Christ as we greet the One who is present for us in His body and blood on the altar. It confesses the presence of Christ’s true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper and the benefits it brings.
We kneel at the communion rail out of reverence for Christ who is present in His body and blood. When we kneel we involve our whole person, body and soul, in worship. The pastor distributes the Lord’s body, because he bears responsibility for those who are admitted to receive the Sacrament. The words used in the distribution emphasize that the body and blood of Christ are being given to each person. Communicants may have the Lord’s body placed in their mouth or they may lay one hand on top of the other and receive it in their hand. Communicants say “Amen” after receiving the body and blood in order to confess their faith in the gift Christ gives.
John 6:53-54 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The Large Catechism states regarding the Lord’s Supper, “Therefore, it is appropriately called food for the soul, for it nourishes and strengthens the new creature” (5.23). Later it states, “We must never regard the sacrament as a harmful thing from which we should flee, but as a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine that aids you and gives life in both soul and body. For where the soul is healed, the body is helped as well” (5.68). This truth is confessed when the pastor states that the body and blood Christ strengthens and preserves the whole person, body and soul. As we have seen, the reception of the body and blood of Christ assures us that we will share in Christ’s resurrection on the Last Day and will enjoy life everlasting. The pastor tells us we can depart in peace because in the Lord’s Supper we have received the forgiveness of our sins.
Luke 2:27-32 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
Nunc Dimittis is Latin for “now you let depart,” which were the words spoken by Simeon when he held the infant Jesus. Simeon’s words are appropriate for us to sing after the Lord’s Supper because having received the forgiveness of sins from Christ, we are able to depart in peace. Just as Simeon could say his eyes had seen the Lord’s salvation when he held the infant Christ, we can sing these words because in the Sacrament we have seen the Lord’s salvation – the body and blood of Christ.
After receiving the Lord’s Supper, we give thanks in prayer for the gift of Christ’s body and blood that we have received. We pray that as a result of receiving the Lord’s Supper, God would strengthen us in the faith and in holy living. We thank Him for giving us a foretaste of the feast of salvation and ask him to keep and preserve us until Christ’s return.
Numbers 6:23-27 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.’ So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.”
The liturgy of the Divine Service begins with God’s Name (the Invocation) and ends with God’s Name (the Benediction). In the Benediction, God acts through His called servant to impart His Name upon His people as they prepare to go out into the world. In doing so, He gives them the assurance that they are His own and that the blessings of His Name – forgiveness, peace and salvation – are theirs.