What is a Lectionary?


In Brief

Someone asked, “Why do we use the pericopes that we do; who chooses them?” An interesting question that gave me the opportunity to dig up some old notes and dig into some documents. This doesn’t go too deep, but gives a brief overview of how the Church’s lectionary developed and the choices that were made that has led to the lectionary being used by the majority of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod today.

 A lectionary gives the Church a framework for the most important task she has been given by her Lord: proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.

A lectionary is a set of appointed readings from Holy Scripture used in congregational worship. There are lectionaries appointed for use on Sundays, as well as appointed readings to be read on the major feast and festival days of the Church Year. A lectionary permits the preacher to preach through the counsel of God in an orderly manner, in a way that is both instructive and thematic. The Church Year, with its thematic structure of seasons, is central to the lectionary. Liturgical churches that use a lectionary take it totally for granted, but it comes as quite a revelation for those who know nothing about it and learn of it for the first time.

Generally, the lectionaries used today include a reading from the Holy Gospels, a reading from some other book in the New Testament, generally the Epistles, a reading from the Old Testament, and a Psalm. The Gospel reading is considered the main reading and sets the theme for the worship service. In the majority of Lutheran  lectionaries, the other readings (especially the Old Testament) are intended to support the preaching on, and explanation of, the content of the Gospel reading.

Origins of the Lectionary

St. Jerome

St. Jerome

It is generally accepted that what we know today as the historic lectionary was first established by Jerome (lived c. A.D. 342–420). Having the name of Jerome attached to the lectionary made it influential on its own, but when it was later included in the Leonine Sacramentary, it became a standard text for the Western Church. At this time, the lectionary only provided assigned readings for Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, with the rest of the year covered by optional Propers or by the choice of the local

bishop or pastor. Three hundred years later, when Charlemagne decided to standardize liturgical practices in his do

main, his religious advisor, Alcuin (c. 735–804), did a revision of Jerome’s work. This standardized worship in the Western Church and put everyone on the same page, at least for the festival part of the year.

The next major change to the lectionary would not come until the thirteenth century with the establishment of Holy Trinity as a major festival in the Church. Holy Trinity soon came to dominate the second half of the Church Year, and with that came the establishment of assigned Propers for the entire year. By the end of the thirteenth century, the liturgical practice of the Western Church, year round, was governed by the historic lectionary, though it wouldn’t be until the Council of Trent (1545–1563) that the Roman Church actually enforced and stabilized its use.

Johannes Bugenhagen

Johannes Bugenhagen

During the Reformation the question wasn’t, “Should the lectionary be changed?” only whether it should be used at all. While Zwingli and others abolished the use of lectionaries along with the observation of the Church Year, Calvin substituted a lectio continua for the lectionary, since he saw homiletical value in having some sort of assigned reading. The Lutherans judged that the lectionary did not promote false doctrine, and they retained the historic lectionary with only slight revisions—the most notable being the added Propers for Trinity 25 and 26. Additionally, they moved Transfiguration from August 6 to the last Sunday after Epiphany.

Luther prescribed the use of the historic lectionary in both the Formula Missae and Deutsche Messe (LW vol. 53 p. 23ff), and all Lutheran altar books continued in their use of it. Even the Augsburg Confession and the Apology testify to its official use in Lutheran congregations (Article XXVI and Apology XXIV.1). For the next four hundred years, Lutheran retained this common historic lectionary, along with Roman Catholics and Anglicans. It served as the basis for preaching and devotional books, hymnody and church music, and even until the mid-twentieth century was the index for every Lutheran hymnal.

There certainly is a history of other lectionaries being prepared. Even in Luther’s day, it is recorded that among the Lutherans there were different lectionaries beginning to be used. It is important and useful to note that these were not individual undertakings, but that all the churches in a district or area would be using the same “variation.” In 1896 the Eisenach Conference churches of the Prussian Union produced a lectionary, popularized in the United States by Lenski and his notes on the series. The Synodical Conference produced a series that was adopted in 1912 and included by the framers of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) as a “Second Series” available for use on Sundays (TLH p. 159ff). In 1868 the Scandinavian Lutheran Church produced a Three-Year Lectionary for their use. Most often these alternate lectionaries were produced, not to supplant the historic lectionary, but to supplement it, often adding Old Testament Readings or offering alternate texts for preaching. For the most part, the patterns and themes of the historic lectionary were maintained.

Already fifteen years after the production of The Lutheran Hymnal, American Lutheran church bodies were seeking a revision. In 1965 the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod resolved to appoint a commission that would work with other Lutheran church bodies to produce a new common hymnal. In February 1966 representatives of the LCMS, the American Lutheran Church, and the Lutheran Church in America met in Chicago and formed what would become the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW). Later, representatives of the Slovak Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada (ELCIC) joined the Commission. Among other issues, the ILCW dealt with the Church Year calendar and proposed a multi-year lectionary, citing a “widespread restiveness with the appointed readings, a great deal of experimentation, and a desire for either reform of the pericopes or a completely new lectionary,” resulting from “a variety of influences in current theology, social-ethical involvements, developments in worship practice, and especially the influential biblical theology movement of recent decades” (Contemporary Worship 6: The Church Year Calendar and Lectionary. Prepared by the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House; Philadelphia: Board of Publications of the Lutheran Church in America; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1973. p. 13).

Rembrandt's Mother reading a lectionary

Rembrandt’s Mother reading a lectionary

One of the outcomes of Vatican II was the publication of the Ordo Lectionum Missae in 1969, the new Three-Year Series that supplanted the historic (One-Year) lectionary in the Roman Catholic Church. The next year the Protestant Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church, and United Church of Christ adopted the Ordo as a basis for new lectionaries in their churches. Having already set aside concern for loyalty to the received heritage and reverence for Western tradition, the ILCW simply followed suit when, in 1973, the ILCW published its version of the Three-Year Roman Ordo. The ILCW Three-Year Series established a lectio continua of synoptic Gospel assigned to each year: “Year A” focuses on Matthew, “Year B” on Mark, and “Year C” on Luke. John is featured in all three Series during the Sundays after Easter, and appears extensively along with Mark in Year B, especially in Advent, Christmas, and Lent. The Three-Year Series assigned a First Lesson, usually the Old Testament, to coordinate with the Gospel Reading. A lectio continua Reading of the Epistles was assigned to each year with no special effort to coordinate the Epistle with the Gospel selection.

Contemporary Lectionaries, Especially Lutheran

With the inclusion of the ILCW Three-Year Series in the LCMS’s Lutheran Worship, the ELCA’s Lutheran Book of Worship, WELS’s Christian Worship, and the ELS’s Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, this Series quickly became popular in Lutheran circles. Even though the ILCW had offered a revision of the historic (One-Year) lectionary to be included with the Three-Year Series, within fifteen years its use had sharply fallen.

However common and widely used it was among Lutherans, the ILCW Three-Year Series become one of the most short-lived lectionary series. Two years after the formation of the ILCW, representatives of the ELCA, ELCIC, and LCMS had joined an ecumenical group called the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT). Composed of biblical, linguistic, and liturgical scholars from various Christian denominations, their purpose was to prepare worship texts and materials for use in North America, including lectionaries. In 1978 they sponsored a meeting in Washington DC whose purpose was to form a committee that would reconcile the differences between the various denominational uses of the Three-Year Series. Ultimately the LCMS withdrew from this group. In 1983 the remaining members published the Common Lectionary.

The biggest change in the Common Lectionary over its ILCW predecessor was the revision of Old Testament Lessons. The framers of the ILCW lectionaries had selected texts with reference to their New Testament fulfillment (typological approach). The CCT questioned the validity of imposed typology on the Old Testament Scriptures. Instead, the Common Lectionary used a pattern of semi-continuous readings, which were essentially independent from the Gospel. The CCT also included an appointed Psalm in the Sunday Readings. Another notable change was the adoption of the Episcopal Church’s practice of replacing the “Sundays after Pentecost” with “Propers” keyed to the civil calendar.

The Common Lectionary was first used on a trial basis by a number of Lutheran and Episcopal congregations. The first to officially adopt it for use in their congregations was the Anglican Church of Canada in 1985. Early on, the Common Lectionary received a number of criticisms. These criticisms were directed especially from Lutheran, Episcopal, and RomanRCL Catholic sources. Ultimately, and in response to those criticisms, the CCT published the Revised Common Lectionary (RLC) in 1992. In addition, three versions of the RLC were framed in response to the criticism of the Old Testament selections. There is a Roman Catholic version, which at times used readings from the Apocrypha for the Old Testament Lesson. And then there are two Protestant versions, one in which the typological approach to assigning the Old Testament Lesson matched to the Gospel is used, and the other where the semi-continuous Old Testament Readings of the Common Lectionary are mostly retained. The increasing influence of social issues on the selection of texts is seen in the revisions of the RCL, as more stories of women of faith are added and texts deemed to appear anti-Semitic when taken out of their cultural and religious context of the Ancient Near East are eliminated.

The RCL has become the lectionary of the Episcopal Church, the ELCA, and ELCIC. It is the official lectionary of the United Methodist Church, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ, and Disciples of Christ.

The Lectionary for Lutheran Service Book

The LCMS did not adopt the RCL. Beginning in 1999, seventeen years after the introduction of Lutheran Worship, the LCMS Commission on Worship began work toward a new hymnal. In the 2006 Guide to Introducing Lutheran Service Book (p. 49, 50), the Commission’s Lectionary Committee summarizes the approach taken toward the lectionaries to be included in the new hymnal, Lutheran Service Book (LSB):

From the beginning of the development of LSB, the Lectionary Committee determined that both the three and one-year lectionaries would be included in LSB. Since the introduction of the three-year lectionary in the Lutheran Church in the early 1970s, the great majority of congregations have made use of it. Though the number of congregations currently using the one-year lectionary is relatively small, the committee believed it essential to retain this historic lectionary, though with some modifications.

 Three-Year Lectionary (LSB pp. xiv–xix)

The committee’s work concerning the three-year lectionary centered on the extent to which it would make use of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), which was published in 1992. The committee studied the issue carefully and, at the direction of the Commission on Worship, endeavored to bring considerable commonality with the RCL, especially during the Sundays after Pentecost. During festivals such as Christmas, Holy Week, and Easter, however, the lectionary reflects greater commonality with the one-year lectionary.

Among some of the features of the revised three-year lectionary are the following:

  • Some Old Testament readings have been changed so that they are more closely connected to the Gospel for the day.
  • Most of Acts 1–2 is read consecutively every year according to the following schedule:

Ascension Day Acts 1:1–11 (First Reading)

Easter 7 Acts 1:12–26 (First Reading)

Day of Pentecost Acts 2:1–21 (Second Reading)

Holy Trinity Acts 2:14a, 22–36 (Second Reading)

  • Following the original intentions of the three-year lectionary, the Psalm of the Day is not understood to be a separate reading but rather a response to the Old Testament/First Reading. With the inclusion of 107 psalms in the Pew Edition, the selections for Psalm of the Day have been completely revised. Every effort has been made to use whole psalms. When a portion of a longer psalm is appointed, the committee endeavored to make the selection of verses as straightforward as possible to avoid causing confusion for the worshiper.

lectionaryAs explained above, the Sundays after Pentecost follow the system that is used in the RCL. In this system, specific propers are assigned to a period of seven consecutive days, each being given the designation “Proper” with a number following. Unlike the current system in Lutheran Worship, where Sundays are skipped at the end of the church year, the new calendar places the “skip” at the beginning, right after the Sunday of the Holy Trinity. The designation “__________ Sunday after Pentecost” is retained as a more churchly way of identifying the Sunday, rather than by the “Proper” number. Though a bit different than our current practice, this new calendar is quite easy to use, partly because it is so logically conceived.

One-Year Lectionary (LSB pp. xx–xxi)

The committee quickly determined that the historic one-year lectionary, together with its calendar, would be retained. Benefits of using this lectionary include an annual repetition of key biblical texts and the ability to consult historic resources, such as Martin Luther’s various series of sermons on the Gospels and Epistles. Among the features of the LSB one-year lectionary are the following:

  • The traditional Gospels and Epistles are retained. In a few cases an alternate Gospel is provided. More frequently, an alternate Epistle is also included.
  • The Old Testament readings were completely revised with the goal of providing readings that are closely related to the Holy Gospel for each day.
  • The pre-Lent season, also known as the “gesima” Sundays, is retained.
  • A minor adjustment from the historic calendar occurs in the weeks following Easter. Whereas the earlier calendar referred to these as the Sundays “after” Easter, the revised calendar mirrors the three-year lectionary in designating them as the Sundays “of Easter. The traditional Latin names for the Sundays have been retained, as have the appointed readings.

At the time Lutheran Service Book was being planned, the Lectionary Committee acknowledge a small but loyal following for the historic liturgy. In reality there is increasing interest in the older historic (one-year) lectionary. For the first time since The Lutheran Hymnal, there is again support for the historic lectionary, with a separate LSB One-Year Lectionary book being published.

Concluding Thoughts

Now, I apologize in advance if what follows sounds preachy. You will never find the perfect lectionary, yet even the worst of them is probably better than no lectionary at all. What is hugely obvious is that just as there is no such thing as a theologically neutral translation of the Scriptures, so, too, there is no such thing as a theologically neutral lectionary. The RCL lectionary(s) often display an agenda that at many points finds itself at cross-purposes with confessional Lutheranism. (So stick with the LSB lectionaries—end of plug.) While the question of which lectionary we use (or whether we use a lectionary at all, for that matter) is certainly an adiaphoran, this does not make it an unimportant matter. In choosing a lectionary for use in the Divine Service, we should remember that we are choosing a catechetical tool. A lectionary is to be more than a means to dole out little parcels of Scripture, it gives a framework for the most important task the Church has been given by her Lord: proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. It sets the hearer on the path toward understanding the purpose and meaning of Holy Scripture, and serves as a guide for both pastor and congregation through the whole counsel of God. Understanding the history behind the lectionaries is important, especially for pastors called to these tasks of preaching and teaching God’s people.

It should be noted. Much of this article was first put together several years ago when several of us pastors in the circuit were keenly interested in the historic lectionary, and there was not talk yet of a new hymnal (probably 1997—1998). Back then I was involved in several listservs and while I can’t say for certain, I am fairly sure that some of this was picked up from posts and/or papers that we would circulate to start or lubricate discussion. Living in the world that I do now, I am more conscious of acknowledging sources and giving credit for seminal thoughts that have been incorporated into subsequent work. Sixteen or so years ago, when this was put together for my own use, my tracking and acknowledgement of sources was virtually none existent. This also leaves facts somewhat unverifiable. Had I meant to publish it, hopefully I would have done better at the time. Now, I have no idea how to reconstruct those sources.

Subsequent to the posting of this article I was contacted by the Rev. Alexander Ring. Much of the article is a condensaton and gloss of his paper The Path of Understanding:The Development of Lectionaries and their use in the Lutheran Church, presented to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod General Pastoral Conference, Bloomington, MN, January 6­8, 1998. It was later published in Lutheran Synod Quarterly, Vol 38, #2, 90–124. This version is now posted with Rev. Ring’s knowledge and consent.

Lent


lent WordCloud_2

The resurrection of Jesus is our great salvation. To prepare to celebrate the feast of the Resurrection (Easter), the Church sets aside a season of preparation. In AD 325, the Council of Nicaea recorded the first reference to the specific number of days for Lent: forty. This forty-day preparation was first prescribed for baptismal candidates and became known as Lent (from the Old English word for “spring”). During this period, the candidates were examined in preparation for Baptism at the Easter (or Paschal) Vigil. Later, these forty days were associated with Jesus’ forty days in the desert prior to His temptation. The forty day period is is symbolic of other periods of 40 in Scripture: the forty years Moses and the children of Israel were detained from entering the Promised Land, Elijah’s forty days spent in the wilderness, Noah had rain for forty days and forty nights, the Israelites wondered forty years to the promised land, and Jonah gave the city of Nineveh forty days to repent.

ChurchYear

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of  a 40-day season of repentance and preparation called Lent. The name is derived from the practice of placing ashes on the forehead as a sign of penitence and a reminder of human mortality. The color for Ash Wednesday is black, while the liturgical color for Lent is violet. Lent is a season of forty days and concludes on Holy Saturday–the Saturday before Easter. During Lent the Church takes to opportunity to focus on our need to repent of our sins and our need of a Savior from sin. The Sundays during this season are not counted as a part of the forty-day season; the Sundays are not “of Lent” but “in Lent.” Thus even during Lent, while the worship services that congregations typically offer are penitential and solemn, the the Gospel appointed to Sundays in Lent do not speak of Christ’s Passion, rather they prefigure the great Easter victory. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s proof that our salvation has been completed and that the promise of life forever with our God and Father has been secured. The ritual observances of Lent are concrete reminders of the greater solemnity of this season, yet in all things, Lutherans emphasize the Gospel of Christ and the hope of Easter as central even to this penitential season.

The Lent Quarantine

The observation of Lent is characterized by the liturgical omission of the joyous Alleluias in the Divine Service. After the Epistle we hear the Tract or Verse instead.  The Gloria in Excelsis also is not sung. Some congregations choose to silence  the organ or limit its use to accompanying congregational singing, thus there are no instrumental preludes, postludes, or anthems. Though less enforced today, it has been traditional to not schedule weddings during Lent. Some congregation honor the Lenten quarantine by choosing  to not place flowers in the chancel and some will cover crucifixes and crosses with veils of violet or unbleached white linen. The quarantine sets the tone for the liturgy of Lent which is patient preparation and waiting for the climactic liturgies and services of Holy Week.

Altar_Lent

How Lutherans Worship -14: Response to the Word–The Creed and The Prayer of the Church


The Creed

Having received and been instructed from the Word of the Lord, we respond by confessing the Christian faith. This statement of faith is called a Creed (from the Latin word credo, “I believe”).

Romans 10:9–10
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

From the earliest times of the Church, there have been creeds. While certainly the Bible records some of the earliest creeds (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:11), challenges to correct doctrine required the Church to form responses that stated clearly the teaching of Scripture.

APOSTLE’S CREED

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.
From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Apostle’s Creed is the oldest of the Christian creeds. It appears to have arisen out of the earliest worshiping communities as a concise and easily learned way to catechize converts what to believe about the person and work of God. This creed is often confessed at Baptism, personal devotions, and in corporate worship when the Lord’s Supper is not being celebrated.

NICENE CREED

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life +of the world to come. Amen.

While the earliest creeds arose out of need to teach what to believe, there were times that Church needed to take a stand and teach what not to believe. Fourth century controversies over the work and Person of Jesus Christ caused chaos in the Church and threatened to destroy the true Scriptural teaching about Jesus. The Nicene Creed was formed in response to the false teachers. The larger second article, which teaches about Jesus, is in direct response, and condemns, the false teachings of that time. The Nicene Creed became the standard by which congregations, and a Christian, were in unity with the teaching of Scripture. The Nicene Creed, with it’s teaching that Christ came into the world “for us” to pay for our sins, and that He will “come again” have won it a place as part of our celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar.

ATHANASIAN CREED

Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally. And the catholic faith is this, . . .

 . . . This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.

The third of the Church’s historic creeds is also her longest. The Athanasian Creed stresses the right teaching of the faith, and the unity, which comes only from a right confession. Because of its clear teaching on the nature of God, the Athanasian Creed is often confessed on Trinity Sunday.

These statements, while never seen as being the same as the inspired Word of God, are confessed because they clearly and accurately present the teaching of Scripture. Because their contents, then, are Scriptural, the doctrines they taught are held to be true and necessary for all members of the Church to confess. By confessing one of the Church’s historic creeds, we express our unity in the faith, a unity of what we believe, teach, and confess—a unity of faith that unities us with what the entire Church has confessed throughout the world and across the ages.

Prayer of the Church

1 Timothy 2:1–4
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Corporate prayer has always been a mark of the public worship of the One True God. It is both our duty and our privilege as God’s children to bring our concerns before Him. Within the Divine Service, the public prayer is a response to the Word and all that has been heard. The Prayer of the Church is the congregation’s prayer and all join this response to the riches that have been received, and uses the themes of the day as a focus for the petitions that are offered. In the Prayer of the Church teaches us to pray not only for our own needs but also for our neighbor. This is seen in the traditional invitation: “Let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.” This is the longest prayer in the Divine Service and may include petitions

  • for the local congregation and the Church at large,
  • for right teaching,
  • for protection from the assaults of the devil,
  • for the government,
  • for those who suffer,
  • for the welfare and safety of ourselves and others,
  • for the conversion of the unbeliever,
  • and for the restoration of those who have left the Church.

All those in the congregation are invited to add their voices to each petition by responding with “Hear my prayer” or with the words from the Kyrie, “Lord, have mercy.”

The traditional position of the Prayer of the Church at the conclusion of the Service of the Word and before the Service of the Sacrament also teaches us the interrelationship of these parts of the liturgy. Having heard the Word read and proclaimed in the Service of the Word, the congregational members, as the body of Christ, carry out their God-given status as the royal priesthood of believers. We glorify God and intercede before Him, thereby serving Him and our neighbor. Then in the Service of the Sacrament, we are reminded and taught anew the very means by which God richly provides for our greatest need; for surely if God did not spare His own Son, but sacrificed Him for our salvation, then He will secure for us the things for which we pray in this life.

Previous post: Response to the Word–The Creed and The Prayer of the Church

Next: THE SERVICE OF THE SACRAMENT–The Preparation

Rubrics and Notes for Celebrating Lent and Holy Week in the Lutheran Congregation


valasquez_christ-on-the-cross

The more general liturgical practices of Lent and Holy Week are assumed and taken into account, but they are not necessarily specified in connection with each of the particular services of this Lenten series. For the sake of clarity, some of these traditional practices are as follows:

  • The Gloria in Excelsis is omitted from the Divine Service, even on the Sundays in Lent (though these Sundays are festivals in their own right and are not counted in the forty days of Lent). Exceptions to this omission of the Gloria in Excelsis are the festivals of St. Joseph, the Guardian of Jesus (March 19), and the Annunciation of Our Lord (March 25), as well as Holy (Maundy) Thursday.
  • Traditionally the “Alleluia” is not sung from Ash Wednesday until the Easter Vigil. It is also not then proper to display paraments or banners with the word “Alleluia.”
  • The Gloria Patri (the lesser Gloria) is not used during Holy Week, including the daytime services of Holy Thursday.
  • Depending on local custom, the organ is not played during Lent except to accompany the singing of the congregation. Likewise, other instruments are silenced, including the ringing of bells in the service.
  • Crosses throughout the church may be veiled with unbleached linen or violet cloth throughout Lent, though there are differences of opinion as to the significance of this practice and how (or if) it ought to be done. Where crosses are veiled, it is done with penitential reverence and humility, not for the sake of hiding or forgetting the cross. The intent of veiling the cross is to increase the longing of the faithful for the cross. Local circumstance and pastoral discernment will determine how best to handle such a practice. For example, the processional cross may be unveiled for the services of Holy Week, beginning with the procession of palms on Passion Sunday. The veil of the altar cross may be changed to white for the Holy Thursday Divine Service, and then the cross may be removed altogether at the stripping of the altar.
  • Another local custom is the choice not to place flowers on the altar (or anywhere in the church) from Ash Wednesday until the Easter Vigil.
  • In brief, there is comprehensive restraint of celebration while waiting and hungering for the Paschal Feast.
  • In those congregations that use the Paschal candle, the candle remains in its place at the baptismal font and is used at Baptisms and funerals during Lent and Holy Week.

Accompanying the restraint of celebration, and serving the catechetical purpose of the Lenten season, it is well to emphasize, teach, and encourage the practice of individual confession and absolution during Lent.

It is recommended that during Lent the so-called “declaration of grace” (the right-hand column in the settings of the Divine Service, as for example on p. 167 of Lutheran Service Book) be used in the rite of preparation instead of the indicative-active “I forgive you.” Historically, the “declaration of grace” was by far the more common practice in this context among Lutherans and is less easily confused with the absolution of individual confession (from which the indicative-active form derives).

The Annunciation of Our Lord (March 25) will occasionally fall on a Sunday in Lent. While normally a feast day of Christ (sometimes called a ‘first-rank’ festival) would displace the ‘ordinary’ Sunday celebration, the traditional rule is that no feast may displace a Sunday in Lent. Should March 25 fall on a Sunday in Lent, the Annunciation is not omitted, but transferred to the next available day. The reason the Annunciation does not take precedence in this case is that the Sundays in Lent are also feast days of the first rank. In addition, if the Annunciation falls at any time during Holy Week, it is transferred to the first available day after the Easter Octave.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and sets the tone of the season. It is a pointed call to repentance, which is to say that it is a return to the death and resurrection of Holy Baptism by way of confession and faith in the forgiveness of sins. Thus the imposition of ashes, from which the day receives its name, recalls both the mortality of sinful man and the redemption of Christ into which His followers have been baptized. This context of contrition and repentance, fully and firmly centered in the cross and resurrection of Christ Jesus, is the framework within which the Lenten fast is undertaken. A focus on Christ’s Passion will not be chiefly an emotional or intellectual exercise, though the Word and Spirit of God engage both the intellect and the emotions. Rather, in faith the Passion is approached as the very heart of the Gospel, which the Lord our Savior has accomplished for us and now bestows on us with His Means of Grace.

There is a liturgical connection between Ash Wednesday and Holy (Maundy) Thursday. The penitential discipline begun on this day is resolved in the Lord’s cleansing of His disciples, and the fasting of repentance is ended with the Lord’s feeding of His disciples in Holy Communion. Of course, this cleansing and feeding occur also on Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent, but they come into special focus on Holy Thursday at the beginning of the Paschal Triduum. On a seasonal level, one may think of the relationship between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday as following the rhythmic pattern of each Divine Service: a liturgical progression from contrition and confession, through the catechesis of the Word, to the feasting of the Lord’s Supper.

Ideally, the imposition of ashes may be done in the morning of Ash Wednesday, so that the entire day is spent in penitential contemplation of our sin and mortality in view of God’s grace and forgiveness. The rite is best administered in connection with confession and absolution, lest the penitent simply be turned upon himself. If it is unreasonable to suppose that many members of the congregation will be able to avail themselves of such an opportunity in the morning, the imposition of ashes and corporate confession may be repeated in the late afternoon or early evening, prior to the Divine Service allowing for a period of reflection and confession between the two ceremonies.

The color of the day is violet (or black). The pastor(s) may prefer to wear cassock and surplice for the imposition of ashes and the Service of Corporate Confession and Absolution, but alb (and chasuble) is appropriate for the Divine Service.

  • Due to the solemn character of the day, pre-service music and a hymn of invocation are omitted.
  • If the imposition of ashes and the Service of Corporate Confession and Absolution take place in the morning or at a time significantly prior to the Divine Service, the pastor(s) and congregation leave in silence. If the Divine Service follows these two orders within a short period of time or immediately, a period of silence should be allowed before proceeding with the Entrance Hymn. The pastor(s) may use this time to change from cassock and surplice to alb. The celebrant of the Divine Service may also be vested in a chasuble at this point.
  • The Gloria in Excelsis is omitted from the Divine Service.
  • Depending on local custom and circumstances, the closing hymn may be omitted.

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday marks a transition within Holy Week from Lent to the Holy Triduum. In this it serves as something of a bookend to Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent. The historic Gospel for this day (John 13) recounts the washing of the disciples’ feet by our Lord. Although this is an example of Christian love for the neighbor, the foot washing is first and foremost a demonstration of the Lord’s enduring love for His own and a depiction of our return to the significance of Holy Baptism through contrition and repentance, confession and faith in the forgiveness of sins. The penitential discipline of Lent has brought us to this point, and Christ Jesus, our Savior, loves us to the end. The dust and ashes of sin and death are washed away by Jesus’ word of Holy Absolution, and the One who humbles Himself, even to death, in order to serve us in love with His own holy body and precious blood, exalts those who have been humbled by the Law.

Although Holy Thursday is a culmination and completion of Lent, it is also the beginning of the Paschal Feast, which remembers with thanksgiving the sacrificial death and great salvation of the Lamb of God. Holy Thursday is the first of three sacred days that together constitute the Church’s celebration of both the cross and the resurrection of the Lord. Jesus Christ is the true Passover Lamb, who is sacrificed for us, whose blood covers us from death, whose body feeds us for life and salvation in the freedom of the Gospel; yet He is the same Lord God who by His mighty, outstretched arms brings us out of slavery, through the water and the wilderness, into the promised land, and He feeds us on the way.

One note on the title for the day. Lutheran Service Book calls the day Holy Thursday, and this is the common name for the day in most of world Christendom. It has, however, been called Maundy Thursday for many years in various Lutheran churches. There is no clear history behind the word, though it is most likely from the words of our Lord, “A new commandment (mandate) I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). Less likely is from the words of our Lord at the Last Supper, “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24).

With its rich and varied emphases, there are different ways and means of observing Holy Thursday. It may be best to consider the day incrementally. Thus the congregation may gather in the morning for The Litany and for Corporate Confession and Absolution, both in culmination of the Lenten fast and in expectation of the evening Feast.

If it is unlikely that many members of the congregation will be able to participate in such a morning service, the same opportunity may be provided in the late afternoon or early evening, but still prior to and distinct from the Divine Service. If this option were used, the evening Divine Service would begin with the Introit.

Prior to sundown, the color of Holy Thursday is appropriately the scarlet of Passion Sunday (or the violet of Lent). This fits the penitential character of The Litany and of corporate confession.

After sundown, the color of the day at an evening Divine Service is preferably white. For this reason, also, there should be a clear separation of the penitential rites and services from the evening feast. Although Holy Thursday may be observed with a more penitential emphasis, it rightly bears a festive mood. Although the Alleluia continues to be omitted and now during Holy Week the Gloria Patri is omitted, traditionally the Gloria in Excelsis is sung on this occasion. Typically, the Holy Thursday service is marked by restrained exuberance throughout the Divine Service, until the stripping of the altar concludes this portion of the Triduum with a distinct turning toward the solemn depths of Good Friday. Holy Thursday looks ahead to both the Passion and the resurrection, and so looks to the Lord’s cross as the very tree of life from which our Savior feeds us.

  • The suggested Rite of Preparation may be observed in the morning or late afternoon.
  • The Litany in the Rite of Preparation is from Lutheran Service Book.
  • The collect in the Rite of Preparation is the Collect of the Day for Ash Wednesday.
  • If the optional Rite of Preparation is observed separately from the Divine Service, the pastor(s) and congregation leave in silence.
  • If a Service of Confession and Absolution or the optional Rite of Preparation is followed immediately by the Divine Service, a pause is appropriate, and the color of the day should be changed to white before the Divine Service begins.
  • During the stripping of the altar, Psalm 22 is chanted or spoken. For further details on the stripping of the altar, see pages 506–7 of Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book.
  • The Benediction is not given until the conclusion of the Triduum at the Easter Vigil.

 

Good Friday

Good Friday stands at the heart and center of the Triduum even as Christ’s death on the cross, which it commemorates and celebrates, stands at the heart and center of the Christian faith and life. The service of this day is marked by the Church’s deepest humility and most solemn reverence, for she gives her attention to the cross and Passion of her dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her sorrow and contrition do not give way to despair, however; nor does she mourn the death of Christ. Rather, in repentant faith the Church gives thanks for Christ’s atoning sacrifice and lays hold of His redemption in the hearing of His Gospel (and in the eating and drinking of His body and blood).

Although the Chief Service of Good Friday is appropriately held between the hours of noon and 3 p.m., nevertheless it may be held whenever the majority of the congregation will be able to attend.

The rites and ceremonies of the Good Friday service are profound and powerful and invite deliberate care, calm, and an unhurried approach that allows for a quietly eloquent proclamation of the Passion of the Christ. It is easy to overdo the drama of the day and of the service with theatrical effort, but careful study of the notes and rubrics of the service will help to maintain the appropriate focus.

The color of the day is black, though the altar remains bare (other than for the vessels of the Lord’s Supper, at that point in the service when the Sacrament of the Altar may be celebrated). For the bulk of the service, the pastor(s) may be vested in cassock and surplice; the preacher may wear a stole (preferably black) for the sermon.

  • The congregation stands for the concluding portions of the Reading of the Passion, beginning with John 19:16b–24 (Jesus’ crucifixion), and continues to stand through the final stanza of the hymn.
  • As the Church remembers with thanksgiving the suffering and death of her Lord and Savior for the redemption and reconciliation of the world, it is particularly fitting that she should pray and intercede for the entire world in His name. The Bidding Prayer does this most beautifully and profoundly, identifying all sorts of particular conditions and needs. Such prayer is not historically unique to Good Friday, but was typical of the Church’s prayer from its earliest days. Because the most solemn occasions also tend to be the most conservative in form and practice, the Bidding Prayer has been retained as part of the venerable character of Good Friday.
  • If possible, the congregation may kneel for the Bidding Prayer, and the presiding pastor may kneel before the altar (at or near a rough-hewn cross, if this is part of local custom and practice).
  • The rite associated with the adoration of the cross can be found on page 517 of Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book. There are two options associated with this rite. If the rough-hewn cross is carried in procession and placed in the chancel at this point in the service, the sentence “Behold, the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the world” and its response are sung or spoken at three points in the procession. If the cross is already in position at or near the altar, the sentence and response are sung three times, pausing after each for adoration of the cross. The cross is not adored as though it were a relic or a magic talisman, but as a sacred sign of the Lord’s redemption (similar to standing for the Holy Gospel).
  • There are differences of opinion as to whether the Sacrament of the Altar should be celebrated on Good Friday, and no definitive answer may be dictated. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths distribute Holy Communion on this day from elements consecrated on Holy Thursday and reserved intentionally for this purpose. Lutherans should be reluctant to follow such a practice, yet they do also recognize the appropriateness and benefits of receiving the body and blood of Christ on this day as the very fruits of His holy cross.
  • A satisfying and salutary way of celebrating the Sacrament of the Altar on Good Friday is suggested on pages 512, 522–24 of Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book. The Communion linens, vessels, and elements are brought to the altar and the celebrant is vested in alb (and chasuble) during the hymn “Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle.” The Service of the Sacrament is marked by a reverent simplicity, spoken rather than sung. The Sanctus and the Agnus Dei are not sung; however, hymns of the Passion may be sung during the distribution. The Communion vessels and linens are removed from the altar during the singing of the service’s concluding hymn.
  • The Benediction is not given until the conclusion of the Triduum at the Easter Vigil.


Easter Vigil

The Great Vigil of Easter, kept on the Eve of the Resurrection of Our Lord, is the culmination of the Holy Triduum. It brings to a festive completion the three-day service that began on Holy Thursday and continued on Good Friday. In itself, the Easter Vigil is a transitional service. In much the same way that Holy Thursday was both the conclusion of Lent and the beginning of the Triduum, so the Easter Vigil both completes the Triduum and ushers in the Fifty Days of Eastertide. This transition is poignantly manifested in the course of the vigil, which progresses purposefully from darkness to light. It celebrates specifically the passage of Christ from death into life, and the Church’s passage through death into life with Him through Holy Baptism. The night begins with hushed anticipation, proceeds with eager expectation, and finally climaxes in the exuberant celebration of the Paschal Feast.

The Easter Vigil is very much a Christian “Passover,” that is, a celebration of the great exodus that Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, accomplished by His sacrificial death and brought to light in His resurrection from the dead. All that the Lord God did for Israel in bringing His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land He has perfectly fulfilled for all the baptized, who are the new Israel, in His cross and resurrection. In Holy Baptism we have come out of Egypt and have crossed the Red Sea with Him, and have entered with Him into Canaan through the Jordan. In the Paschal Feast of Holy Communion, we eat and drink the true Passover Lamb. His blood covers us and protects us from sin, death, and hell; His body feeds and sustains us on our way. (Pless)

In particular, the Easter Vigil proclaims and confesses that as we have died with Christ by our Baptism into His death, so do we also rise with Him and live with Him in newness of life. It is for us that He died and rose from the dead. The Vigil lays hold of that sure and certain hope in the Gospel, or, better, the Vigil lays hold of us and brings us with Christ out of death into His life. It does so not by any sort of magic, but by the Word and Spirit of God.

With its rites, ceremonies, and propers, the vigil itself catechizes pastors and their congregations in the paschal mystery celebrated on this night. The most important preparation, therefore, is for service participants to study carefully and rehearse the notes and rubrics of the Easter Vigil. When all is well prepared and the service can proceed according to its proper rhythm, the Word of God in the readings and prayers of the Easter Vigil will do its own work among the people of God.

The Easter Vigil is presented in six parts: the Service of Light, the Service of Readings, the Service of Holy Baptism, the Service of Prayer, the Service of the Word, and the Service of the Sacrament. Each part has its own integrity and contributes to the progression of the whole. The Service of Light, in which the paschal candle is consecrated for use and lighted as a sign of the Lord’s resurrection, may take place at a bonfire outside the church building. To accentuate the continuity of this night with the Passion of our Lord, the gathering may occur where the congregation assembled for the procession with palms on Passion Sunday. After the consecration of the paschal candle, the people follow it into the church, as Israel followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night in the exodus from Egypt. During this procession, “The Light of Christ” (“Thanks be to God”) is chanted at three points, which may replicate the points at which the sentence “Behold, the life-giving cross” was stated during the adoration of the cross in the Good Friday service. These ceremonial associations contribute to the way in which the Easter Vigil holds together the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the New Testament Passover.

The Service of Light crescendos in the chanting of the Exsultet (which ideally is sung rather than spoken). This beautiful proclamation of the paschal mystery sets the tone of the entire Easter Vigil, celebrating the fulfillment of the Old Testament exodus in the resurrection of the Christ. It rings out in the night, in much the same way that the candles break into the darkness with their shimmering light. There is the tension of waiting, a pregnant expectation of that which has already been accomplished but has yet to be openly announced. It is no secret that Christ has risen from the dead—no more so now than on Ash Wednesday or at any other time throughout Lent. Yet the Church on earth lives in, with, and under the cross of Christ; thus she experiences the now-and-not-yet of the resurrection in the Word of the Lord.

Although the handheld candles of the congregation should be carefully extinguished at the end of the Exsultet, the Service of Readings should proceed in semidarkness, with only as much light as necessary for the reading of the Holy Scriptures and for the prayers and canticles of the people. The Readings are the distinctive and definitive heart of the Easter Vigil. They set forth a series of Old Testament prophecies and types of the Christ, of His cross and resurrection, and of the Church’s participation in His dying and rising again. It is not expected that congregations will employ all twelve Readings, but as many of these as possible should be used. At least the first three Readings should always be used (the creation, the flood, and the exodus), and preferably the twelfth Reading (the three men in the fiery furnace). A selection of four Readings is given here, along with congregational responses in the form of two psalms and two canticles. The congregation should sit for the Readings, kneel for the collects that follow each Reading, and stand for the psalms or canticles that are interspersed with the Readings. Because the Church waits on the Lord in steadfast faith and hope by giving attention to His Word, there is no need to hurry through the Readings. Congregations comprised largely of younger members may arrange to observe the Easter Vigil through the hours of the night, culminating in the early dawn of Easter Sunday. In such a case (presumably rare), all of the Readings would be used; each followed by its collect, the appropriate psalm or canticle, and separated with periods of silence. The Readings do not require commentary because within the context of the entire week, the collects, psalms, and canticles provide appropriate and sufficient reflection of the Word by which the Lord catechizes His people and accomplishes His purposes among them.

Whether or not there are catechumens to be baptized at the Easter Vigil, the Service of Baptism follows the Readings as a return to the death and resurrection of repentance and faith that all the baptized share with Christ by the washing of water with His Word and Spirit. Here is the crossing of the Red Sea with the One who is greater than Moses, which already anticipates the crossing of the Jordan with the New Testament Joshua (Jesus, the Christ). This returning to the significance of Holy Baptism through contrition, repentance, and faith in the forgiveness of sins is to be the daily and lifelong discipline of every Christian. It is here embraced at the very heart of the Easter Vigil, in remembrance and celebration of the cross and resurrection of Christ. It is not meant to replace the daily taking up of the cross to follow Jesus as His disciples, but it is observed in service and support of that Christian faith and life. This is the fulfillment of Lent and the rebirth of an Easter life.

The Divine Service of the Easter Vigil is somewhat simpler than the usual Sunday observance, yet it is not as full and festive as the chief Divine Service on Easter Sunday will be. The same basic movement takes place: from the Word of the Gospel to the Word made flesh in Holy Communion, received in faith and with thanksgiving. In this case, the Prayer of the Church (in the Litany of the Resurrection) precedes the basic pattern of the Word preached and the Sacrament administered, which serves to further heighten the unity of the Holy Gospel and Holy Communion.

The Service of the Word at the Easter Vigil is really as much or more a part of the entire Eucharistic rite rather than a separate component. In contrast to the deliberate and steady pacing of the Readings, the Service of the Word proceeds forward swiftly. Ideally, this would occur after night fall as there is now a striking transition from darkness to light, from the sobriety of Holy Week to the sights and sounds and celebration of the Easter feast. That is signaled by the Easter acclamation: “Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” The altar candles are now lighted from the paschal candle, the lights in the church are turned on, bells are rung, the organ opens up in jubilation, the Gloria in Excelsis is sung, and the Lord’s altar is prepared for the Sacrament (there is no offering or offertory in the usual manner).

The proclamation of the Easter Gospel (John 20:1–18) testifies that the Jesus who died and was buried is not only no longer in the tomb, but has been raised bodily from the dead. The preaching of this Gospel should be straightforward and direct, brief and to the point. All of Holy Week and the entire Easter Vigil have been an extended proclamation and catechesis of the Word, the Law and the Gospel, to repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore it is neither necessary nor desirable to have a lengthy sermon at this point.

The Service of the Sacrament will follow according to one of the usual settings of the Divine Service, beginning with the Preface. Here it is suggested that Setting Four continued to be used as it has throughout this Lenten series. While other settings may surely be preferred in some congregations, Setting Five should not be chosen for use at the Easter Vigil. Note the special Post-Communion Collect appointed for the Easter Vigil.

The color of the day at the Easter Vigil is white and/or gold. However, the church should be kept in semidarkness until the Service of the Word, at which point there is a transition to all the trappings of Easter, as previously indicated. Depending on the circumstances, the altar may be dressed and adorned with the appropriate paraments, Easter flowers, and other accoutrements at this point in the service. The logistics for such a transition require planning and rehearsal to avoid awkwardness or uncertainty. Similarly, the celebrant and his assistant(s) may prefer to be vested in cassock and surplice, but at this point they would vest in alb (and chasuble for the celebrant) for the Service of the Word and Sacrament.

How Lutherans Worship -13: The Hymns & The Sermon


Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Hymns and The Hymn of the Day

God’s people have been encouraged to sing their prayers, praise, and thanksgiving to God. Why do we sing? Psalm 98 gives us the reason.

Psalm 98:1
Oh sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.

The Word of God not only creates faith but teaches us, His children, His gracious will toward us. God has freely given us His own righteousness. In our hymns we respond to this Good News with singing, reciting back to Him the great acts of our salvation in thanksgiving and praise.

University Lutheran Chapel, University of Minnesota

Taking cues from Scripture’s own songbook, the Psalms, the Church’s hymns give us a variety of ways to thank, praise, and proclaim the God who has done all good things for us. In the Divine Service, our singing is related to the readings from Scripture. Hymns enable everyone to join together in proclaiming the scriptural truths read at the lecturn, preached from the pulpit, and spoken before the altar.

Within the Divine Service, congregational hymnody relates to the Scripture appointed for each Sunday. The Hymn of the Day is the principle hymn of the Divine Sercice and relates to, and reflects on the theme of the day, most often set by the Holy Gospel.

The Sermon

Our Lord sent His apostles into the world to preach that forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are found through Him. In the preaching of the Sermon, that apostolic Word is proclaimed among us today.

sermon: The pastor’s proclamation, usually based on the Scripture readings for the day.

Scriptural and Christ-centered

The Sermon is dependent on all that has gone before it in the Divine Service—the liturgy, the hymns, and the readings. Therefore the message of the Sermon is the fullest expression of the theme of the day. The Sermon is the pinnacle of the Service of the Word. It is the Word studied, explained, and expounded through the pastor, the one called by the congregation to preach.

In the Sermon the pastor speaks God’s words of judgment and grace to the current situation. In this way, the Sermon also prepares the hearer for the celebration of the Service of the Sacrament. Like the Absolution, the Sermon delivers the forgiveness of sins earned by Christ on the cross. The Divine Service, then, becomes for us grace upon grace (John 1:16).

1 Corinthians 1:18
For the word of the cross is . . . the power of God.

Lutherans believe and confess that preaching from the Word of God is a means of grace. That is, that the power of God to forgive sins is available and received through the Word of God proclaimed by the preacher. The sermon is placed in the service of the cross, and as in the Absolution and the Sacraments, the hearer is engaged in a person encounter with the living God who is strong to save.

means of grace: The means by which God gives us the forgiveness life, and salvation won by the death and resurrection of Christ: God’s Word, Absolution, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

Previous post: How Lutherans Worship – 12: Hearing God’s Word

Next: Response to the Word–The Creed and The Prayer of the Church

How Lutherans Worship -12: Hearing God’s Word


The Service of the Word makes a transition from prayer and praise to the hearing of God’s Word. The bestowal of God’s grace, which was announced in the Introit and prayed for in the Collect, will now take place in the reading and preaching of God’s Word. The reading of Scripture in the Divine Service is testimony of our high view of the Bible’s inspiration and authority. God’s Word shapes, forms, and norms what we say and do. Reading God’s Word, and the preaching that is governed by these Scriptures, is the high point for the Service of the Word.

Romans 10:17
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Wherever God’s Word is, there our Lord has promised to be (Matthew 18:20).

Our service follows a simple pattern for the hearing of God’s Word then responding with thanksgiving and praise. Typically the readings for the Divine Service are one from the Old Testament, one from an apostolic letter (Epistle), and one from a Gospel. In a real sense, the readings from the Old Testament and an Epistle lead to and find their fulfillment in the Gospel. In this way, the first two readings function like John the Baptist preparing us to hear in repentance and faith the gracious voice of Christ. Origen, an early Christian, called the Holy Gospel the “crown of all Holy Scripture.”

The Word of God comes to us through His Scriptures with power to deliver what He promises. They do this by not only telling us about Jesus but also by giving us Jesus, who was crucified for our sins and raised to life for our justification. Through the reading and the preaching of His Scripture, God is at work creating faith, bestowing His peace in the forgiveness of sins, strengthening His people in their struggle against sin, and nurturing the hope of everlasting life.

As Jesus came to us in the lowliness of our flesh in His incarnation, so now He comes to us in human words. Through these words, God himself is at work to “make [us] wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). The Word of God is the Word of life.

Old Testament Reading and Epistle

Luke 24:27
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

The first reading is typically from the Old Testament. Through the recorded history of Israel and the words of the prophets, we are taught God’s work of salvation in the Old Testament. There we hear the prophecies of the Messiah who would come to men that all people might once again be brought back to God. The Old Testament Reading prepares us to hear the Holy Gospel, which is the fulfillment of the prophecies and promises made in the Old Testament.

This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Hearing the Word of God, the people respond with words of praise. The Gradual is a portion of a psalm or other Scripture passage that provides a response after the Old Testament Reading. It is a proper selected to help the hearer reflect on the reading in context with the theme of the day or the season of the Church Year. It also serves as a bridge between the first reading and the Epistle that follows.

2 Timothy 3:16–17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

The Epistle,  a reading from a New Testament letter, gives us God’s counsel on how His gracious Word is applied to the hearer and the Church. Often in this reading we hear how God’s Word accomplishes what it says—creating faith, bestowing forgiveness, strengthening God’s people in their struggles against sin, and enlivening in them the hope of eternal life.

This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Holy Gospel

The Holy Evangelists

Like the Gradual, the Alleluia and Verseprovide a transition between the readings. The word alleluia is Hebrew for “praise the Lord.” The Verse prepares us to meet the Christ of God in His Word, hearing of His life, ministry, death, and resurrection for the salvation of all.

Alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Alleluia, alleluia.

John 6:68
Simon Peter answered [Jesus], “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” 

The Holy Gospel according to St. ___________, the ________chapter.

Glory to You, O Lord.

The Holy Gospel always contains the very words or deeds of Jesus. This makes the reading of the Holy Gospel the summit of the Service of the Word, and we recognize this by surrounding our Savior’s words with songs of glory and praise and by standing to receive His gracious words.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

Praise to You, O Christ.

The Holy Gospel is seen as the summit of the Service of the Word, and that fact is acknowledged with the acclamation of glory and praise. Often, the congregation will stand during the reading of the Gospel in honor of the gracious Word of Christ that is being proclaimed before it. In His speaking in and through the Scripture, God is serving His people. From His words we receive life and we receive salvation.

John 20:30-31
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Previous post: How Lutherans Worship – 11: Prayer and the Collect of the Day

Next: Hymns and the Sermon

How Lutherans Worship – 11: Prayer and the Collect of the Day


Salutation

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

The Salutation is a special greeting between the congregation and its pastor. Originally the pastor would have spoken “Peace be with you,” purposefully repeating our Lord’s post-resurrection greeting to His fearful disciples gathered together in the upper room on that first Easter evening. The present wording of the Salutation is inexorably tied to His incarnation (Luke 1:28) and with His promise to be with His church (Matthew 28:20). In the Divine Service the announcement of the Lord’s peace heralds His coming to us in the readings that follow and makes us aware that important things are about to happen.

Salutation. Special greeting between pastor and people: “The Lord be with you,” followed by the response “And also with you” or “And with your spirit.”

Prayer and The Collect of the Day

Prayer is how the Christian acknowledges the gifts of the Gospel. “Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise (Lutheran Worship, pg. 6). In the Scriptures God speaks to human beings, but in prayer, human beings speak to God. Prayer is the life of faith in active communion or conversation with object of our faith–God. Prayer is the evidence of the relationship we have with the Father because of the redemption won for us by the Son. It shows our childlike trust and confidence in the One who does for us all that we need and more.

Let us pray.

The Collect of the Day “collects” in a concise and beautiful manner the Gospel message for the day to implore God, by His grace and through His mercy, to manifest His love in and through our thoughts, words, and deeds. We pray these things to remember Him who always provides for us, and to receive these gifts with godly thanksgiving. Most of these prayers have been in continuous use in the Church for more than 1,500 years. In praying the Collect, we join with the great body of believers, the communion of saints, and with the generations yet to come.

 Amen. Declaration that what has been said is true and affirming its trust in the Lord’s Gospel promise; “yes, yes, this is most certainly true.”

A special advantage of using the collects, both ancient and modern, is that they keep the fundamental needs of salvation and the great objective facts of divine grace in clear focus, and they align us with the revealed will of God which will soon be proclaimed in the reading of Scripture. The congregation makes the Collect its own with its “amen,”

Previous post: How Lutherans Worship – 10: Excursus: What is Lutheran Worship?

Next: How Lutherans Worship – 12: Hearing God’s Word

How Lutherans Worship – 9: Excursus: Trinitarian Nature of the Lord’s Supper


This post was written by Seminarian Christopher Gillespie at Outer Rim Territories.

How is the confession of the Trinity a description of the church’s experience at the Supper? There should be no doubt that the Trinity acts in the Divine Service[1]. We begin with the trinitarian invocation and end with the trinitarian benediction. Our psalms and collects end with a trinitarian doxology. Unfortunately for Lutherans, our catechetical heritage mistakenly cleaved God into three distinct characters- Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. These descriptions accurately portray the principal action of each person of the Trinity. Yet, good intentions gave way to a near modal understanding of God. The Father acts in the way of the Law, the Son makes it right with the cross, and the Spirit helps us believe these actions as true. While teaching in simple terms remains useful, the simplification has altered the confession, and so runs a dangerous course of altering the liturgy of the church.[2] In a reversal of lex orandi, lex credendi, the liturgy may be misunderstood in these simplified terms of theology.

The Lord's Supper by Salvador Dali

While the whole of the liturgy is necessarily trinitarian, it is also christocentric. The height of the Father’s love is the gift of His son Jesus Christ for the life of the world. The Spirit keeps our focus on Christ as the Word incarnate and the source of faith and life. “He comes to us and does things for us when we gather together in His name. He brings the Holy Spirit with Him and ushers us into the presence of His Heavenly Father. In worship, then, we come into contact with the Holy Trinity. We come into the presence of the Triune God and share in the ministry of Jesus.”[3] We begin our liturgy with trinitarian invocation and absolution to prepare us for the Lord’s Supper where participation confesses the same.

The forgiving Father comes to us in the Supper. He gives us of this forgiveness as we receive the gift of His Son, whose body and blood was given and shed for us. “Through [the office of preaching, giving the Gospel, and the sacraments], he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills in those who hear the gospel.”[4] The Spirit grants us faithful eating by His Word and Spirit. The prayer of thanksgiving[5] expresses this well: “Blessed are You, Lord of heaven and earth, for You have had mercy on those whom You created and sent Your only-begotten Son into our flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior … Gathered in the name and the remembrance of Jesus, we beg You, O Lord, to forgive, renew, and strengthen us with Your Word and Spirit … To You alone, O Father, be all glory, honor, and worship, with the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”[6]

Trinity by Jeronimo Cosida

The liturgy entrance hymn, the Kyrie, reflects the Trinity with its triple reference “Lord… Christ… Lord, have mercy.” The trinitarian imagery continues in the Gloria in Excelsis, especially notable in Luther’s “All Glory Be to God Alone” and Decius’ hymn “All Glory Be to God on High.” Immediately following the Preface in the Service of the Sacrament is the Sanctus with its trifold “Holy.” The vision of Isaiah 6:3 is the Lord before the throne, whose glory fills the whole earth, as his body and blood are offered. The Nunc Dimittis refers directly to the Father’s gift of the Son, the salvation which is given “before our face” in the Supper.

Jesus himself is the liturgist of the Divine Service. Jesus is the “Word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) This Word is made flesh. (John 1:14) Jesus, the Word incarnate, is the bread of life. (John 6:35;48) This Word feeds and nourishes His people. By the Spirit, we receive Him.[7] And further, Jesus is the chief celebrant of the Service of the Sacrament.[8] He feeds us with Himself. We receive Him as His Word says, “this is my body … this is my blood.” The Sacrament is not enacted by Jesus alone but is the body and blood conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary and given by the Father for the sake of the world.[9]

The invocation of the Spirit (epiclesis) in the liturgy of the Sacrament follows Luther’s explanation of preparation for the Lord’s Supper. “Fasting and bodily preparation are in fact a fine external discipline, but a person who has faith in these words, ‘given for you’ and ’shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,’ is really worthy and well prepared.”[10] The Spirit is invoked to strengthen the faith of the recipients so that they are truly worthy and well prepared.[11]

The Creed sits in the middle of the Divine Service providing trinitarian focus. The Creed excludes error and summarizes our understanding of the Trinity.  It leads us to the full expression of the Trinity as He is present in the Supper. The Lutheran liturgy especially in the Sacrament is christocentric, focused upon incarnation, and sacramental, following with God’s trinitarian self-disclosure in the Word.

When the church celebrates the Lord’s Supper, it confesses the doctrine of the Trinity. The community of believers gather to hear the Word of the Father, the Son incarnate in body and blood, and the Spirit’s faith-giving breath. The communion of saints mirrors the trinitarian fellowship (koinonia) of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God dwells with His people. In His supper He dwells within (perichoresis) His people. In the Word and Sacraments, the whole Trinity acts to redeem His people and keep them steadfast in this faith into eternity. The Lord’s Supper is not merely the presence of the Son but demonstrates the unity of the Trinity, acting for the salvation of man.

Previous post: How Lutherans Worship – 8: Kyrie & Hymn of Praise

Next: Exscursus: What is Lutheran Worship?

NOTES:

[1] For a fuller exposition on this theme see: Maschke, Timothy. “The Holy Trinity and Our Lutheran Liturgy” Concordia Theological Quarterly 67 (2003) no. 3-4:241-269.
[2] “When we speak of the relationship between the Trinity and worship, we are speaking of the relationship between theology and liturgy. Since theology is the language of Christ and liturgy is the language of the church, their relationship reflects the marital union between Christ and the church. In other words, theology is to liturgy as husband is to wife. This defines theology as the source and life of the liturgy, and liturgy as the expression and glory of theology” (Bushur, James. “Worship: The Activity of the Trinity,” Logia 3 [July 1994]: 3).

[3] John W. Kleinig, “The Biblical View of Worship,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 58 (October 1994): 247.

[4] AC V:1-2, Kolb and Wengert, 40.

[5] “The eucharistic prayer underscores this trinitarian emphasis as we praise the Father, remember the Son, and invoke the Spirit.” (Reed, Luther D. The Lutheran Liturgy: A Study of the Common Liturgy of the Lutheran Church in America. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960, 264.)

[6] Lutheran Service Book, 161.

[7] “Where Jesus’ words are going on, there is also the Spirit (John 6:63). Any spirit apart from Jesus is not the Holy Spirit (John 16:15). The Holy Spirit is most pleased when we speak of Jesus and not of him. He gives only Jesus gifts.” (Norman E. Nagel, “Holy Communion,” in Precht, Lutheran Worship: History and Practice, 290.

[8] “The chief celebrant is Jesus, our great high priest in the heavenly sanctuary. He leads us in our worship by representing us before the Father in intercession and thanksgiving (Hebrews 7:25; 9:25) and by representing God the Father to us in proclamation and praise (Hebrews 2:12). By means of His service in the heavenly sanctuary Jesus leads us, together with the angels and the whole communion of saints, in the performance of the heavenly liturgy (Hebrews 2:11; 8:2; 12:22-24; 13:15).” (Kleinig, “Biblical View”, 246.

[9] Maschke, 260.

[10] SC VI:9-10, Kolb-Wengert, 363.

[11] Maschke, 265.

The original post is at Outer Rim Territories

The Divine Service


These are the parts of the Divine Service, that is the chief worship service by which we celebrate Holy Communion. They are basically the same in all orthodox Lutheran hymnals. This order of service is not unique to Lutherans. We did not invent it. It is the ancient form of worship that has been developed among Christians the world over from the very beginning of the New Testament era. It is based exclusively on scripture and is focused completely on Jesus Christ and His saving grace on the Cross of Calvary.

Because of our sin, we cannot come to God, but God must come to us. This is what takes place in the Divine Service. Through the Word and Sacraments God speaks to His people. He reminds us of our sinfulness and failure to love completely and He then forgives us and assures us of the grace we have in Jesus Christ.

This grace is central to our lives as Christians and we must treat it with all reverence and respect. It was not of our doing and it is not ours with which to tamper. Therefore worship is not a matter of novelty or entertainment, much less a matter of attempting to please the masses. For this reason we choose hymns that are doctrinally sound and theologically significant to round out our worship. Hymns, like the Divine Service, must reflect this Christo-centric “God coming to man” theology or else they are unfit for the service. May our worship always be pure and always emphasize this Biblical Christo-centric attitude.

The Preparation

INVOCATION: Since we are Trinitarian we call upon the Triune God to bless. The Trinitarian invocation also recalls our Baptism. The Invocation is addressed to God, so the pastor will face the altar. Facing the altar, the sign of the cross connected to the invocation is a personal signature, and it is appropriate that all may join in this act as a remembrance of their baptism.

CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION: As Christians, our lives are to be lives of continual repentance as God promises eternal forgiveness. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 2:9.

Service of the Word

The Service of the Word is the second part of our Divine Service. The purpose of the Service of the Word is to present Christ to the assembled congregation as they prepare to meet him in his Supper.

INTROIT: The Introit is a collection of passages from scripture that set the tone for the service. The verses chosen are different each Sunday and reflect the theme of the Gospel reading to come. It is itself scripture.

KYRIE: As we draw toward the reading of God’s Word we join with all the faithful through the ages and ask the Lord for mercy. The Kyrie (from the Latin Kyrie, eleison, “Lord, have mercy”), is a litany, the first prayer of the gathered congregation.

GLORIA IN EXCELSIS OR HYMN OF PRAISE:  The Pastor begins with the angelic hymn in Luke 2: 14.:Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth. The congregation follows with the earthly confirmation of the praise.

SALUTATION and COLLECT: The Collect is the pastor’s first prayer in the name of the people; he speaks for the congregation. The Collect “collects” in a concise and beautiful manner the theme for the day

The Collect is preceded by the Salutation. The Salutation is indicative of the special relationship between the congregation and its representative before God – their called Pastor.

OLD TESTAMENT and EPISTLE READING: Selected portions of the Word are appointed to be read according to the arrangement of the church year. It has been traditional for the congregation to be seated for the reading of the Old Testament and Epistle Readings, because these are seen as instruction in contrast to the Gospel which is an account of the life and words of Jesus, the Lord of the Church.

VERSE: In response to the Epistle we sing the appropriate verse.

GOSPEL READING:  The Gospel is properly announced and read by the pastor or an ordained assistant, as part of his work in the holy ministry of Word and Sacrament to proclaim the person and work of Christ to all..

CREED: The Creed is a solemn confession and response of faith to the Word which has just been proclaimed and heard. The Nicene Creed is the proper Creed for Sunday and festival celebrations of Holy Communion because of its expanded confession of the person and work of Jesus, the Christ.

HYMN OF THE DAY: also sometimes known as the Sermon Hymn;  it highlights the theme of the day and/or the theme of the Sermon which follows.

SERMON: The preacher “says what the Word says” to those whom the Word has gathered here and now, to hear it with open hearts and receive it in faithful hearts

OFFERING:  The gifts that are shared represent the gifts of creation and are offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord that by means of them he might accomplish his purpose to bless his people.

PRAYERS: Here we pray that what we have heard from God may be taken to heart. We also ask God to take care of our needs. We give Him thanks, praise and honor as well.

OFFERTORY: The Offertory allows us to accompany our gifts to the Lord with praise for his many benefits in our lives, the very benefits from which our gifts were taken.

Service of the Sacrament

In the Service of Holy Communion God joins His act and deed to His Word; He gives us the body offered and the blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins and for strength for Christian living.

PREFACE: There is little in the liturgy of the Evangelical church that is older than the versicles and responses, the dialogue between the Pastor and the people, known as the Preface.

PROPER PREFACE: During the major Festival seasons of the Church year the Proper Preface gives glory to God recalling the specific mercy emphasized during that season and leads into a united praise of the Church on earth, the saints above, and all the heavenly hosts, worshiping the Holy Trinity in the Sanctus.

SANCTUS: The people’s response to the Proper Preface is the Sanctus. The text is built on the opening verses of Isaiah 6 and John 12:41.

In the BENEDICTUS, we join with the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven in singing.

THANKSGIVING: Before the altar, the presiding pastor offers the Prayer of Thanksgiving on behalf of the assembled congregation. This sets the proper framework for our “remembering” – participation in the worship that God has established and blessed through Word and Sacrament.

LORD’S PRAYER: The Lord’s Prayer, is the “Prayer of the Faithful” children of the heavenly Father who tenderly invites them to call upon Him as his beloved children. This is the family prayer of the Church of Christ.

WORDS OF INSTITUTION: In the Words of Institution, the Pastor recites the Words of Jesus Himself. In these words Christ Himself assures us that He is indeed bodily present in the sacrament of Holy Communion and that through it our sins are forgiven.

THE PEACE: In anticipation of the blessings to be received through the Body and Blood of our Lord in, with , and under the bread and wine, the Pastor and the people announce the peace of God to one another; as did Christ Himself on that first Easter.

AGNES DEI  serves as a hymn of adoration to the Savior who is present in the Body and blood. For this reason it has not been seen in the liturgies of the Reformed churches.

THE DISTRIBUTION: In communion, we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through it our sins are forgiven because we have been given faith in the words “Given and shed for you” in our baptism. At this, the climax of the second half of the Divine Service, we are reminded of the way in which we began, reminiscent of our baptism.

POST-COMMUNION CANTICLE and PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING: Following reception of our Lord’s forgiving Body and Blood, we join in singing a hymn of thanks.”Amen…” We add our own and the Church’s undying gratitude in this Collect of Thanksgiving–a prayer that the gifts now received from the Lord may accomplish His purpose in His people.

BENEDICTION: also known as the “Aaronic Blessing,” or the “Priestly Blessing,” is the blessing the Lord directed Moses to use when he blessed the people in the Lord’s name.

+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +

How Lutherans Worship

A fuller treatment of the parts of the Divine Service can be found under the CATEGORY: How Lutherans Worship.

WWAA book coverAnother very accessible presentation of the Divine Service, both in its theology and its practice is:
Worshiping with Angels and Archangels:
An Introduction to the Divine Service

by Scot A. Kinnaman
available from Concordia Publishing House

How Lutherans Worship – 8: Kyrie & Hymn of Praise


KYRIE

As we move toward the reading of God’s Word we join with all the faithful through all the ages and ask the Lord for mercy. The Kyrie is a litany, or a prayer recited in parts.

kyrie
Latin Kyrie, eleison, Lord, have mercy.

The Kyrie is the first prayer of the gathered congregation.

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.

The Kyrie, then, is not a confession of our sins but an expression of our emptiness without God and our need for him to be present and fill us with his grace. The Kyrie is the heartfelt cry for mercy that our Lord and King hear us and help us in our necessities and troubles. This most basic prayer is encountered frequently in Scripture, for example, the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15: 22) and the Ten Lepers (Luke 17: 13).

Mark 10:47
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The ancient three-fold Kyrie is often omitted and in its place one finds the litany form of the Kyrie.

In peace let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy.

For the peace from above and for our salvation let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy.

For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the church of God, and for the unity of all let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy.

For this holy house and for all who offer here their worship and praise let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy.

Help, save, comfort and defend us gracious Lord.
Amen.

This form of the Kyrie, found in many of the more contemporary orders of Divine Service, acknowledges the gift that will be received as Christ comes to us in his Word—the gift of peace—peace from above, peace for the whole world, peace that brings wholeness and well-being, peace that bring unity. We have this peace on account of the all-sufficient atoning death of Jesus.

HYMN OF PRAISE

John 1:29
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

The cry for mercy and acknowledgment of God’s gracious peace is answered in the traditional Hymn of Praise, the Gloria in Excelsis. The Lord has had mercy upon us—he has sent his Son to meet our need. Confident that the Lord is merciful, we join the whole Church and all the angels in singing Glory to God.

gloria in excelsis
Latin Glory to God in the highest

The Pastor begins the Gloria with the angelic hymn in Luke 2: 14: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.” The congregation follows with the earthly confirmation of the praise. In this way the Divine Service commemorates the inaugural event in the life of Christ.—his birth. This ancient and incomparable hymn of praise spells out the whole plan of salvation to us, and we, along with the shepherds, are invited to go and see Jesus in the Scripture Readings that follow.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly king, almighty God and Father: We worship You, we give You thanks, we praise You for Your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God: You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. You are seated at the right hand of the Father; receive our prayer. For You alone are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Attached to the angel’s song is a Trinitarian hymn that proclaims that the peace prayed for in the Kyrie is answered in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Gloria announces what will be experienced by the people of God gathered in worship, that is the presence of the Lamb who died and rose again and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, the Lamb who is the host of the ongoing Feast in heaven, of which our Supper is a foretaste. We join Gabriel in rightly calling the Lamb of God holy, and by so doing we declare that the very space in which we have gathered for the Divine Service is holy because of presence of the Holy One of God.

While it is difficult to be exact about the origins of the Gloria in Excelsis, we can assume that it was established throughout Christendom as part of the Divine Service since before the fourth century. There is some who would claim its origins go back to about A.D. 136 as a Christmas hymn.

Contemporary settings of the Divine Service offer a second option for the Hymn of Praise, “Worthy is Christ,” often referred to as “This Is the Feast.”  This Easter hymn to the crucified and risen Savior is based on passages from Revelation 5 and 19. Because of its resurrection theme, this hymn is used more frequently during the Easter season and on the festivals of Christ celebrated throughout the Church Year.

Refrain: This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God. Refrain

Power, riches, wisdom, and strength, and honor, blessing, and glory are His. Refrain

Sing with all the people of God, and join in the hymn of all creation:
Blessing, honor, glory, and might be to God and the Lamb forever. Amen. Refrain

For the Lamb who was slain has begun His reign. Alleluia. Refrain

Revelation 5:12–13; 19:5–9

Dr. Arthur A. Just, in his book Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service, has an excellent entry on the background of “Worthy is Christ” and its use in the Divine Service (pp. 194–197).

Previous post: Service of the Word and The Introit

Next: Excursus: The Trinitarian Nature of the Lord’s Supper