The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s message is based upon what cannot, must not change: Jesus Christ and His eternal word for our salvation.
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s message is based upon what cannot, must not change: Jesus Christ and His eternal word for our salvation.
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:
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next: Hymns and the Sermon
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 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,”
“Singing the Faith is a DVD-based study of the history of Lutheran congregational song. It “invites viewers and listeners to discover God’s Word proclaimed in a rich heritage of music that faithfully confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
“It is a study of the history of Lutheran congregational song – an accessible educational tool for teachers and students, pastors and congregations, parents and their children. “
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. 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. In a reversal of lex orandi, lex credendi, the liturgy may be misunderstood in these simplified terms of theology.
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.” 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.” The Spirit grants us faithful eating by His Word and Spirit. The prayer of thanksgiving 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.”
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. And further, Jesus is the chief celebrant of the Service of the Sacrament. 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.
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.” The Spirit is invoked to strengthen the faith of the recipients so that they are truly worthy and well prepared.
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
 John W. Kleinig, “The Biblical View of Worship,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 58 (October 1994): 247.
 AC V:1-2, Kolb and Wengert, 40.
 “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.)
 Lutheran Service Book, 161.
 “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.
 “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.
 Maschke, 260.
 SC VI:9-10, Kolb-Wengert, 363.
 Maschke, 265.
The original post is at Outer Rim Territories
The week before Easter is called Holy Week and culminates the preparation time of Lent. During these days, we focus on the events of Jesus’ life from His entrance into Jerusalem until His glorious resurrection from the dead. Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9). Because the complete account of the Lord’s Passion from Matthew, Mark, or Luke is often read, this Sunday is also called the Sunday of the Passion.
This week begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday.
On Maundy Thursday, the Church gives thanks to Jesus for the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The Maundy Thursday service closes with the stripping of the altar while Psalm 22-a prophecy of the crucifixion-is read or sung. This reminds us of how our Lord stripped to the waist to wash His disciples’ feet-and how He was stripped and beaten before His crucifixion.
Good Friday is the most solemn of all days in the Christian Church, yet a note of joy remains, as the title of the day indicates. On Good Friday, as we remember that on account of our sin the Lord was crucified and died, we give joyful thanks to God that all sin and God’s wrath over sin falls on Jesus and not on us, and that by His grace we receive the benefit of this most sacrificial act.
God has two messages. He speaks Law and he speaks Gospel. The Law is God’s message of judgment against my sin. The Gospel is God’s word of forgiveness in Christ. It is his gracious response to my guilt.
The Law differentiates. It distinguishes. It says that I have failed God and I have failed you, my brothers and sisters. You might have something against me, as well. The Law forces me to measure myself against the standard of the Ten Commandments. And the Law has the nasty ability of making me better or worse than you.
The Gospel makes us all the same. When I am serving my neighbor then I am different and unique. But when I am being served by the Gospel, then I am just like every other sinner. I am equally as sinful as you. And I am equally as forgiven as you. We are the same. We are identical. Of course my sins might be more profound, more heinous, and more creative than yours. But in Christ both you and I are declared righteous, clothed and covered in the righteousness of the heavenly Bridegroom and cleansed in the blood of the Lamb. Sin, which makes us different and which divides, is forgiven. Good works, which distinguish and divide us, are irrelevant when it comes to salvation. So we are the same. The Divine Service reflects this.
If we are all the same, the services we attend should be pretty much the same. And if all the Christians in the world are the same, if the church is really “catholic,” then the worship services throughout the world should be pretty close to the same. If the saints from age to age are the same, and they are, then the worship services from age to age reflect our oneness and sameness in Christ.
But, if worship is primarily me serving God, then my worship will be different than yours because we are different in our good works. Worship will then be far from uniform. If we get the direction of the communication right in worship then we will also understand that uniformity in worship is good.
Paul addressed the problem of divisions in the church in his letter to the Ephesians. The Christians of Jewish descent felt that they were closer to God than the Gentile Christians. They thought they were more advanced in the law and where therefore better Christians. What a divisive attitude. Christian people have always had the same temptations toward disunity. Today we hear the same. Some Christians are considered more advanced, more dynamic, more mature, more committed, more engaged, more vital, more something. How did God create unity according to the apostle Paul? Continue reading
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.
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”
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.
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.]
· 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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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 +
A fuller treatment of the parts of the Divine Service can be found under the CATEGORY: How Lutherans Worship.
Another 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