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


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,”

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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.

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[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

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

Another part of my ongoing answer to the one who wanted to know about Lutheran worship. First let’s define the essence and dynamic of worship and then we’ll take a look at how the Lutheran Confessions talk about worship and the role of faith and works in the Divine Service.

What is worship?

I think Dr. Norman Nagel captured the essence of the Lutheran Gottesdienst (roughly translated as “worship”) best when he wrote in the Introduction to Lutheran Worship: “Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise.” “Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and sure is his name, which he put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are his.” “The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol him. We build each other up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition”

What is worship as defined by our Lutheran confessions?

St. John Lutheran Church, Jefferson WI

From the Book of Concord. Citations are given in the following form Symbol:Paragraph

Athanasian Creed:3, 28 –that our worship is catholic
And the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.
For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

Apology XXIV:27 -that we worship in spirit and in truth
Christ says, John 4, 23. 24: True worshipers shalt worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. This passage clearly condemns opinions concerning sacrifices which, they imagine, avail ex opere operato [“on account of the work having been performed”], and teaches that men ought to worship in spirit, i.e., with the dispositions of the heart and by faith.

Apology IV:49 -the Divine Service is objective and subjective
And the difference between this faith and the righteousness of the Law can be easily discerned. Faith is the Gottesdienst [divine service], which receives the benefits offered by God; the righteousness of the Law is the Gottesdienst [divine service] which offers to God our merits. By faith God wishes to be worshiped in this way, that we receive from Him those things which He promises and offers.

Apology IV:307-310 (186-189) -the Divine Service delivers to us God’s good gifts
But because the righteousness of Christ is given us by faith, faith is for this reason righteousness in us imputatively, i.e., it is that by which we are made acceptable to God on account of the imputation and ordinance of God, as Paul says, Rom. 4:3, 5: Faith is reckoned for righteousness. Although on account of certain captious persons we must say technically: Faith is truly righteousness, because it is obedience to the Gospel. For it is evident that obedience to the command of a superior is truly a species of distributive justice. And this obedience to the Gospel is reckoned for righteousness, so that, only on account of this, because by this we apprehend Christ as Propitiator, good works, or obedience to the Law, are pleasing. For we do not satisfy the Law, but for Christ’s sake this is forgiven us, as Paul says, Rom. 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. This faith gives God the honor, gives God that which is His own, in this, that, by receiving the promises, it obeys Him. Just as Paul also says, Rom. 4:20: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. Thus the worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive from God gifts; on the contrary, the worship of the Law is to offer and present our gifts to God. We can, however, offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage, too, brings the greatest consolation, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to wish to receive remission of sins, grace, and righteousness.

Apology IV:154-158 (33-37) -through the Divine Service we recieve remission of sins and reconciliation
The woman [Luke 7:36-50, a sinful woman forgiven] came with the opinion concerning Christ that with Him the remission of sins should be sought. This worship is the highest worship of Christ. Nothing greater could she ascribe to Christ. To seek from Him the remission of sins was truly to acknowledge the Messiah. Now, thus to think of Christ, thus to worship Him, thus to embrace Him, is truly to believe. Christ, moreover, employed the word “love” not towards the woman, but against the Pharisee, because He contrasted the entire worship of the Pharisee with the entire worship of the woman. He reproved the Pharisee because he did not acknowledge that He was the Messiah, although he rendered Him the outward offices due to a guest and a great and holy man. He points to the woman and praises her worship, ointment, tears, etc., all of which were signs of faith and a confession, namely, that with Christ she sought the remission of sins. It is indeed a great example, which, not without reason, moved Christ to reprove the Pharisee, who was a wise and honorable man, but not a believer. He charges him with impiety, and admonishes him by the example of the woman, showing thereby that it is disgraceful to him, that, while an unlearned woman believes God, he, a doctor of the Law, does not believe, does not acknowledge the Messiah, and does not seek from Him remission of sins and salvation. Thus, therefore, He praises the entire worship, as it often occurs in the Scriptures that by one word we embrace many things; as below we shall speak at greater length in regard to similar passages, such as Luke 11:41: Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. He requires not only alms, but also the righteousness of faith. Thus He here says: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much, i.e., because she has truly worshiped Me with faith and the exercises and signs of faith. He comprehends the entire worship. Meanwhile He teaches this, that the remission of sins is properly received by faith, although love, confession, and other good fruits ought to follow. Wherefore He does not mean this, that these fruits are the price, or are the propitiation, because of which the remission of sins, which reconciles us to God, is given. We are disputing concerning a great subject, concerning the honor of Christ, and whence good minds may seek for sure and firm consolation, whether confidence is to be placed in Christ or in our works. Now, if it is to be placed in our works, the honor of Mediator and Propitiator will be withdrawn from Christ. And yet we shall find, in God’s judgment, that this confidence is vain, and that consciences rush thence into despair. But if the remission of sins and reconciliation do not occur freely for Christ’s sake, but for the sake of our love, no one will have remission of sins, unless when he has fulfilled the entire Law, because the Law does not justify as long as it can accuse us. Therefore it is manifest that, since justification is reconciliation for Christ’s sake, we are justified by faith, because it is very certain that by faith alone the remission of sins is received.

Apology XXIV:27
In short, the worship of the New Testament is spiritual, i.e., it is the righteousness of faith in the heart and the fruits of faith.

Apology VII, 35-36 -our works are not necessary for righteousness before God
Paul clearly teaches this to the Colossians, 2:16-17: Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Likewise, 2:20–23 sqq.: If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using), after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have, indeed, a show of wisdom in will-worship (Geistlichkeit) and humility. For the meaning is: Since righteousness of the heart is a spiritual matter, quickening hearts, and it is evident that human traditions do not quicken hearts, and are not effects of the Holy Ghost, as are love to one’s neighbor, chastity, etc., and are not instruments through which God moves hearts to believe, as are the divinely given Word and Sacraments, but are usages with regard to matters that pertain in no respect to the heart, which perish with the using, we must not believe that they are necessary for righteousness before God. [They are nothing eternal; hence, they do not procure eternal life, but are an external bodily discipline, which does not change the heart.]

Summary of the citations:

· Rites and ceremonies are not used as works to satisfy the law of God. That is what God prohibits. On the contrary, the (Gottesdienst) is the righteousness God delivered to us.

· When humanly-invented customs like gathering on the Lord’s Day for divine service (to hear God’s Word, to receive the Lord’s Supper, to praise God and to pray) are useful innovations for assisting people toward faith and a life of service to God, they should be continued and be interpreted in a Gospel way.

· A service like the Service of Holy Communion does not confer God’s grace ex opere operato or merit remission of sins as some kind of sacrifice to God. It is rather a “liturgy,” that is, a public ministry offering the forgiveness of sins, won by Christ, which is conveyed through the means of grace and received by faith.

From the Confessions we learn:

The Lutheran Confessions address central questions about worship (Gottesdienst), teaching what worship is, what it is not and how human traditions can be used in the worship of God.

The Lutheran Confessions teach that worship is a spiritual act, not an outward act. This spiritual worship is a trusting in God and a desiring of the forgiveness, grace and righteousness of God. The righteousness of faith truly honors and obeys God for through the Gospel (Word and Sacrament) the Holy Spirit overcomes distrust and creates faith. The Spirit does not come directly (subjectively), through an inner experience or by one’s own efforts, but through this ministry of the Gospel in teaching the Word of God and rightly administering the sacraments (objectively). Reliance on one’s own works as a way of making peace with God has no place in this kind of faith; Christ has earned salvation for us and God freely and graciously gives it to us. Without faith there can be no worship nor can there be any fruits of faith.

Human traditions are no divine worship yet when they contribute to order and tranquility and are used in love, without offense or confusion, they may be profitably used. They are not necessary to salvation; they are not essential to the unity of the church. However, it may be that in times of persecution, for the sake of confessing Christ, it is necessary not to give them up. When used properly, rites and ceremonies contribute to the public ministry of conveying forgiveness of sins that is received by faith. This faith also bears fruit, thanking and serving God.

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

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.


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


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.

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.

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.


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).

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How Lutherans Worship – 7: The Service of The Word & Introit

The Divine Service continues with SERVICE OF THE WORD. 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.

The Service of the Word begins with the song of entrance. During this song of entrance the pastor makes his entrance to the chancel. The chancel is the area immediately around the altar–the center and symbol of the Lord’s presence among His people. While a hymn or psalm can be used as the song of entrance, the most common beginning is found in the use of the Introit.


The Introit is a collection of passages from scripture (usually the Psalms) that set the tone for worship. The verses chosen are different each Sunday and reflect the theme of the Gospel reading to come and serves as an introduction to the Divine Service that follows. Because the texts change each Sunday, the Introit is the first Proper of the Divine Service.

Latin introitus, entrance, to go in.

The historical purpose of the Introit was to bring the worshipers into the church and allow those who would lead and assist in the liturgy to take their places. Most Introits are taken from Psalms, though there exist some historic introit texts from Proverbs, Isaiah, the New Testament and even the Apocrypha. Most often the choice of Psalm has something in common with the readings that will be featured later in the Divine Service. The choir sang the psalm text, and the congregation repeated an antiphon after each psalm verse or group of verses. The antiphon for the introit was typically a verse of scripture that would express the theme of the season, feast, or occasion of the day. The introit continued as long as needed to accompany the entrance procession. After reaching the altar, the officiant would signal the choir to stop.

The conclusion of the Introit was signaled by the singing of the Gloria Patri, or “Glory be to the Father” which has become a traditional liturgical conclusion for any reading or singing of the Psalms. It is a venerable custom to bow the head in “due and lowly” at the Gloria Patri and at the Name of Jesus throughout the service. The Gloria Patri, sometimes called the Little Doxology has doctrinal as well as devotional value. It connects the Old Testament texts with the fulfillment in the New Testament. It is regularly added to every reading or singing of the Psalms, or poritons of the Psalms, in the Divine Service.

There is evidence that Celestine I (d. 432) originated the practice of the Introit (various portions of the liturgy are attributed to him by Roman Catholic scholarship), nevertheless it is seen regularized in structure and in its use in the liturgy by the time of Gregory I (ca. 540-604).

By the late middle ages, the introit was reduced to an antiphon, the first verse of the chosen psalm, and the Gloria Patri. In his reform of the Mass, Luther preferred use of whole psalms for the introit instead of just one verse. This was not widely adopted. The 1888 Common Service Book, which seems to be referenced as a pattern for most subsequent English orders of worship, used the classic sixteenth-century (historic) introits consisting of short psalms with antiphons. This remains the predominate pattern used in our liturgy today.

Historically the Introit has served another purpose: the names of particular Sundays of the Church Year, are derived from the first word or phrase of the Introit. For example, this is why the first Sunday after Easter Sunday, though having no official liturgical name, is colloquially labeled “Quasimodogeniti,” or as we used to say as children “Quasimodo Sunday,” as the first phrase of the Introit is “Quasi modo geniti infantes. . .” (“As newborn babes. . . .”). Even though Latin is no longer used widely in our liturgy, the traditional names serve a purpose in the organization of the calendar based upon the historic one-year lectionary.

Since the texts are taken from the Psalms, which were the hymns of the Old Testament, it is a common practice to sing, or chant, the Introit.

During the singing of the Introit, the ministers enter the altar area and go to their places. The officiant and assisting ministers stand facing the altar as one of the congregation. Even if the local custom is for the minister, or minister and congregation, to read the introit, this is done with the minister facing the altar because the introit is considered to be devotional in nature. It is appropriate for the choir to sing or chant the Introit. It can also be that the congregation may sing the antiphon and the choir the Psalm verses. Whenever the congregation has been involved in the singing or speaking of the Introit, they should unite with ministers and choir in the Gloria Patri.

It is difficult to speak of the movement and position of the officiant during the Introit in any concrete or universal way. I would dare say that for the last 30 years most Lutheran congregations are used to seeing the pastor approach the altar during the singing of introit just before the Gloria Patri and then prepare to lead the Service of the Word from the altar itself. However, an older rubric is becoming popular again and is showing up in the contemporary Lutheran manuals on the celebration of the Divine Service. This ‘new’ old rubric posits that during the Service of the Word the altar is not yet the focus of attention. That attention rightly comes with the Service of Holy Communion. So instead of leading the Service of the Word from the altar, all the ministers are directed to go to their chairs and the Officiant leads the liturgy from a prie dieu, or prayer desk, positioned before him, or from the ambo, or reading desk, at the side of the chancel.

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