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.

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Treasury of Daily Prayer–Wednesday after Pentecost


Meditation on Old Testament Reading

Numbers 23:4-28

What If God Was One of Us?

God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?  (Numbers 23:19)

Joan Osborn wrote a rather well-known song that was entitled, “What If God Was One Of Us.” This song was not a grammatical treasure nor can its lyrics be considered anything close to theological insight. But when I contemplated today’s reading from Numbers 23, verse 19 brought to mind the idea of Osborn’s song.

Here’s Osborn’s chorus to the song :

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make His way home

Listen again to verse 19:

God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?  (Numbers 23:19)

What if God was one us? Just on the two comparisons made in Osborn’s chorus, to think of God in terms of being just one of the guys, to be just another stranger on the bus with us, is disturbing. That He might lie, or maybe even worse, change His mind, that thought is  frightening.

My meditation meandered around and I began to really think about how much different we are from God. Although created in the image of God, we are so far from God’s image that it sometimes seems impossible that we could  ever be spiritually connected to Him.

From the inception of sin into the world through Adam and Eve, man has continually expanded the great spiritual divide by choosing worldliness over and holiness. Yet God—despite all of our faults, —God still loved us—loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, so that whoever believes in Him, would not perish on account of their sin, but have everlasting life. Despite all of our mistakes, God still cares about us. Despite all of our poor choices, God still would not condemn us to eternal death. And yet even after two thousand years since Christ laid down His life for us, mankind  still makes choices, time and time again, that are directly opposite the will of God, to the direction that God has for our lives. Continue reading