Because every part of our Divine Service has meaning and value, the following article is here presented to help you understand the different parts of our Divine Service.
Invocation and Sentences
In the invocation we call upon God’s name as we gather for Divine Service remembering our Baptism into His name, and He promises that He is here in our midst (Matt. 18:20). The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their Baptism.
The Sentences or versicles and responses (1 John 1:8-9, Psalm 124:8 and Ps. 32:5) introduce our time of confession.
Confession and Absolution
The presence of God reminds us of our sin and our unworthiness before Him. We are led to confess our sins and lay down our burdens at the doorway before entering upon the praises of God. Here at St. Matthew our pastor kneels at the altar for the congregation in confession. God hears the prayers of sinners who are sorry for their sins and promises to forgive all their sins.
Following our confession, the pastor turns to the congregation and announces, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, not from his own sinful volition, that those who have confessed are forgiven in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection which earned forgiveness for us.
“Introit” is Latin for “entrance” or “beginning.” The Introit, which is comprised of psalms, marks the actual beginning of the service and introduces the theme of worship for the day. You may notice that the pastor does move forward to the altar until after the confession and absolution. Much like the priest in the Temple (or Tabernacle) did not enter the Holy of Holies until after being consecrated. During the Gloria Patri, the pastor then moves toward (enters) the altar.
The word “Kyrie” (kir’-ee-ay) is the first part of the Greek phrase Kyrie eleison, which means “Lord, have mercy.” This prayer was very common in the worship of the early church. We call upon Jesus, our Lord, for His care and help in our every need. (Mark 10:46-52)
Hymn of Praise
The “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14; John 1:29) was spoken by the angels when Jesus was born. To it the early church added additional words in which we praise God for giving us His Son, Jesus, who took away our sin. The alternate hymn in Divine Service is, “This Is the Feast” (Rev. 5:12-13; 19:5-9) and is a hymn commemorating the resurrection.
Salutation and Collect
The pastor turns and faces the congregation for the Salutation (2 Timothy 4:22) which is indicative of the special relationship between the pastor and the congregation. It is more than a fitting sentiment; it is part of the every day speech of God’s faithful people, much like that found in Ruth 2:4; Luke 1:28; 2 Thess. 3:16 and elsewhere.
The pastor then turns back to the altar for the Collect which is a brief prayer which is also related to the theme of worship for the day. The name “Collect” refers to collecting all of the needs of the body of Christ and summarizing them in this short prayer.
God speaks to us today through His Holy Word. First, we read from the Old Testament which tells us what God said and did for his people Israel centuries ago. The Old Testament points us to Jesus as the coming Messiah. Next, we read from an “epistle,” one of the letters to churches or people in the New Testament. The Verse comes from John 6:68 and points us to the Gospel reading. Finally, we read from one of the four Gospels. The Gospel reading focuses on what Jesus did and said in order to accomplish our salvation. We stand for this reading to give honor to Jesus and His words.
Together we respond to the Word read and preached when we say the Creed. “Creed” comes from the Latin Credo, which means “I believe.” The creeds we use are the Apostle’ Creed (written c.390 ), the Nicene Creed (c. 325), and the Athenasian Creed (c. 500). The creed outlines Christianity’s fundamental beliefs; it witnesses to the perpetuity, unity, and universality of the Christian faith; it binds Christians to one another and to believers of all centuries.
The sermon is the public proclamation of the Word of God. Traditionally sermons are based on the Sunday readings. Especially during the seasons of Advent and Lent sermons may be topical or thematic.
Offering and Offertory
The offering is an act of worship and thanksgiving, acknowledging that all we have comes from the Lord. We offer to God our material gifts as an outward sign of our inner spiritual dedication to Him. (Psalm 51:10-12) The use of “What Shall I Render . . . ” (Ps. 116:12-13, 17-19) is traditionally associated with Holy Communion because the Hallel Psalms probably were sung by Jesus and His disciples on Maundy Thursday.
Prayer is one of the marks of the congregation established and gathered by God according to His purpose. Petitions, intercession and thanksgiving are made to our Gracious Lord. Requests for prayers should be made know to the pastor either personally or by using a prayer request card.
The Service of the Sacrament
The preface is a dialog between the pastor and the congregation in preparation for the reception of the Lord’s Supper (2 Timothy 4:22; Colossians 3:1; Psalm 136). The insertion of sentences from the Word of God appropriate for the seasons of the church year focus one’s attention on the Word and the season of the Church year.
Sanctus and Benedictus
The sanctus, “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Is. 6:3; Matt. 21:9) moves our Divine Service from a supertemporal nature (literally, “above time”) and becomes truly eternal. The Hosanna, translated “O Lord, save us,” and the Benedictus, “Blessed is He,” follow as the people of Jerusalem sang these Messianic verses as Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We sing these words as Jesus comes to us in the mystery and marvel of the Sacrament of the Altar.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
The prayer of thanksgiving of the Eucharistic Prayer traditionally has two parts, anamnesis and epiclesis (Greek for “remembering” and “invoking”). We “do this in remembrance” of Christ and ask for the Spirit’s continuing aid in making us worthy recipients of the Sacrament.
What better prayer can be spoken? The very words our Lord has given to us we speak back to Him. Where the Lord’s Prayer is spoken follows the Words of Christ in the consecration.
Words of Institution
The Words of Institution are designated as the “Consecration” in the Lutheran liturgical tradition. These words are the words spoken by Jesus on the night in which He celebrated the Passover with His disciples and from that Passover gave to us what is His Holy Supper, the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus’ Easter greeting (John 20:19) is recalled by pastor with this clear statement of proclamation. Luther suggested that this was another statement of absolution similar to the absolution spoken earlier in the Service.
The Agnus Dei
As John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29) , so we are reminded in this canticle that Jesus alone is the one who was sacrificed for our sin and through whom we have access to God’s mercy and peace.
Traditionally the Nunc Dimittis, or Song of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) was sang as a beautiful expression of spiritual satisfaction in appreciation for the manifestation of God’s salvation. The natural response after being given a gift is to “Thank the Lord” (Ps. 105) which is a newer song in Lutheran Worship. Because this song includes the alleluia, it is not used during the Lenten season.
The Post-Communion Collect combines thanksgiving with a prayer that the gifts here given by the Lord may accomplish His purpose for His people. This collect underscores the blessings of the Sacrament.
Following Aaron’s lead (Num. 6:22-27) the pastor speaks this Trinitarian blessing on the people. The last word of the liturgy comes from God who hosted the service.
The word “Amen” means that we believe God hears our prayers and will answer them according to His will. (Matt. 6; Luke 11)