Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Beautiful Gift from God: Divine Service Explained

    Why do we do what we do every Sunday morning? Why do we have what is called “traditional” or “liturgical” worship and not what is called “contemporary” worship? Interestingly enough one of the meanings of the word translated as “tradition” in the New Testament is that this is something that has value because it has Divine authority. In other words it is something that was given by God and passed down through the generations. After reading through the book of Leviticus, I believe that the Divine Service we use every Sunday flows out of the ceremonial instructions God gave the children of Israel in the wilderness. The Divine Service we use on Sunday morning is very similar to the Divine Service used by Martin Luther over 500 years ago and certainly had been used in the Christian church since the time of Jesus. Because our Divine Service is a service which was used by our ancestors, by us and by those who follow after us, that I say that our service transcends time for it is not simply “traditional” or “contemporary.” Our Divine Service is a “liturgical” service because of the pattern of the worship service. The usage of “contemporary” worship is a rather new phenomena in the church and suggests that worship is something that is constantly changing with the times. When we understand that the way we practice our worship flows out of what we believe (doctrine determines practice) and that what we believe is instructed through our practice (practice influences doctrine), then we can get a better understanding of why we do what we do every Sunday morning. As I have outlined in an article some time back (check my blog: http://rabswritings.blogspot.com/p/why-liturgical-divine-service.html) our Divine Service flows out of what we believe, teach and confess. If we should “act” a different way on Sunday mornings, that would instruct and inform us of a different belief system. If we change the way we “act” on Sunday, this would instruct and inform us of a different teaching, other than what we say we believe, teach and confess.
    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.

Scripture Readings
    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.

Lord’s Prayer
    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.

The Peace
    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.

Post-Communion Canticle
    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.

Post-Communion Collect
    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)

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