Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Mark's thoughts: A brief explanation of the Divine Service - Part 1

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 Worthy is Christ

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 exchange that occurs between the pastor and congregation at several different points in the Divine Service. The pastor says, "The Lord be with you" and the congregation respoinds, "And also with you" (historically, the response has been, "And wiht your spirit," just as we say 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 sixth 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.

Holy Gospel

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.”

Next: A brief explanation of the Divine Service - Part 2

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