X The Divine Service of God X
If you have not already done so, you may wish to first read the link entitled Our Worship Format. It provides a foundation for the study of what follows. Simply click on the link from the side bar menu.
We provide this study of the Divine Service in the hope to attain several goals:
wUnderstand how different church bodies worship differently, since your form of worship evolves out of your specific theology.
wUnderstand the flow of the Divine Service from God to us as He serves us with the Means of Grace, the Gospel and the Sacraments for the forgiveness of our sins.
wHeighten awareness of, appreciation of and use of the Means of Grace.
wRecognize the continuity of the Christian Church from the age of Christ to present times.
wRecognize the Biblical basis of the Divine Service as its many parts are taken directly from Scripture and their context is similar to our own.
Early Development of the Divine Service – Pentecost gave birth to the New Testament Church, but the Christian Church was not born in a vacuum. Their worship was a continuum of the Old Testament Hope, now fulfilled with the reality of Christ. The daily sacrifices once performed as an offering to God are now transformed into the sacramental gifts of Christ coming to us, such as the forgiveness of sins, on a daily basis.
Among the influences upon the earliest Christians was the continuum of the Synagogue Sabbath. There was only one Temple and that was in
Jerusalem . The Synagogues were local and were first started upon the destruction of the
Temple during the Babylonian Captivity (@600 B.C.). The Synagogue service was the pattern for much of the first part of our service (The Service of the Word). It included the singing of psalms/hymns, prayers, Scripture readings and expounding on the Scripture text (cf. Luke 4:14-21).
From this Jewish background we also received words like “Amen,” “Hallelujah,” and “Hosanna.” Early Christians, Jews and Gentiles alike, included the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ himself, thus forming the second main thrust of our liturgy, the Sacrament of the Altar. The influence of Greek Christians is felt in the addition of lights or candles, and a musical system that formed the basis of medieval church music.
What follows is an examination of the Historic Liturgy, how it evolved and its purpose. Actual parts of the service are in red with explanations in black.
The Order of Holy Communion
(Page 15 in The Lutheran Hymnal)
The Minister introduces the start of the Divine Service with this reminder: "We are gathered here today to assemble around God's Word and Sacraments, trusting in His promise that through these means of grace His presence is among us."
The Hymn of Invocation (or Entrance Hymn)
wThe service begins with the singing of a hymn. It may be seasonal or may invoke the presence of the Triune God to bless the service. In some congregations the minister, choir, and an acolyte bearing a crucifer or cross, process into the church during this hymn, with all rising before the cross.
The Invocation: Minister: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”
wThe beginning is made in the baptismal name you bear. By baptism you are joined with Christ, his life, his death, his resurrection, his redemption of your body and soul. By this washing and adoption of grace you are members of God’s family and in your Father’s House.
wWhile facing God’s baptized children the pastor makes a sign of the cross as the Lord’s name is placed upon them. In baptism you bear the cross of Christ. It’s reminiscent of the words used during the baptismal rite: “Receive the sign of the cross both on the forehead and on the breast as a token and reminder that you have been redeemed by Christ the Crucified.” You bear the mark of Christ and you are about to kill/crucify your old Sinful Flesh once more.
Whenever the minister faces the congregation he represents Christ in his office and the emphasis is on God talking to the congregation. Whenever the minister faces the altar, the emphasis is on the congregation talking to God.
The Response: Congregation: “Amen”
wThe word comes to us from Hebrew worship. It is difficult to translate. It has the double meaning: I agree and I like it!
The Confession of Sin
wWe are about to meet the presence of our Lord. Whenever the sinful meets the sinless, the gulf of separation is felt. Therefore we are invited to confess both our sin and our faith in Christ. We don’t come to church to do our "own thing" on Sunday; we come because we did our own thing during the week in sin and are sorry.
Minister: Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins unto God, our Father, beseeching Him n the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.
Minister: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Congregation: Who made heaven and earth.
wThe words are taken from Psalm 124:8, a song of David written for the processional up to the
Temple and presence of God. Not unlike our preparation to meet our Lord’s presence.
Minister: I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.
Congregation: And Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.
wA psalm verse of David from Psalm 32. After David’s sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, he tried to cover his sin up. It crippled him, until he finally confessed his sin to God. We join David in the privilege of cleansing a guilty conscience. No one can live with guilt. You can try to hide it or deny, but you can’t live with it. We don’t exist as Christ’s Church to learn how to cope with sin and guilt. We take it away!
Minister & Congregation: O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserved Thy temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray Thee of Thy boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.
Things to note in the confession are:
wThe Confession to the Father.
wThe Admission of being sin-full as well as committing sins.
wThe admission that I deserve temporal (right now) and eternal punishment.
wThe confession is “I am heartily sorry” -- not hardly sorry – I repent!
wThe second part of confession is the confession of faith in Christ. Our appeal for mercy is made in his name. Our faith is not generic or general. Notice how specific we are in what we offer as a reason for our forgiveness: “holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”
The Absolution of Sin -- Minister: Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
wThis is one of the "keys" to the Divine Service. In Matthew 16:19 Jesus promised His apostles: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” On Easter evening the victorious Redeemer fulfilled that promise and empowered the Holy Ministry with his power to convey the benefits of his death and resurrection: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven (John 20:23)” The word Absolve means "to set loose".
wGeneral Absolution is qualified with the words: “Upon this your confession.” It is issued only to those who confessed repentance and faith in the atoning work of Jesus. Only believers draw out the benefit of this promise of Christ conveyed to their life.
wThe forgiveness is issued "in the stead of Christ". That means the minister is standing in Christ's place. It's as though Christ himself were there, which is why we dress the minister in vestments and robes to symbolize the office he bears.
wMinister faces the congregation and conveys this blessed act. It is like taking the waters of Holy Baptism and splashing them across the assembled saints. (This was something once done in the church, especially on Easter morning, as the Minister dipped a hyssop plant in “holy” water and sprinkled it on the people).
wAs the Minister concludes the absolution with the words “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” he makes the sign of the cross, the symbol of Christ’s payment for the forgiveness now being distributed.
The Introit – “Entrance”
wThe history of the Introit goes back to 6th century.
wThe term is from the Latin “introitus” which means “entrance”. It marked the entrance of clergy into the sanctuary in the beginning of the service and expresses the thought of the day. Texts are usually from the Old Testament and consist of an antiphon and Psalm phrase. Intended to be sung or chanted by the choir, concludes with singing the Gloria Patri.
wThe introits change each week with the church year.
Gloria Patri – All sing: “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
wIn use since 6th century.
wNot an independent song, but the conclusion of the Introit in praise to the Triune God.
wTogether with the Kyrie and Gloria in Excelsis which follow next, we offer songs of thankfulness and praise upon receiving the absolution of our sin.
Kyrie – All sing: “Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.
wOriginally in Western churches, the Kyrie was part of a litany most likely used in procession to the church. In its current form, the Kyrie has been used in the Divine Service since the 6th century, if not earlier.
wTriplicate in form to reflect Trinity.
Gloria in Excelsis – All sing: “Glory be to God on high: And on earth peace, good will toward men. We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee, for Thy great glory. O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty. O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, That takest away the sin of the world, Have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sin of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us. For Thou only art holy; Thou only art the Lord. Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.”
wNot originally written or intended for the Divine Service, it was used as early as the 6th century as a well established song in the churches.
wIt begins with the Angels’ Song of Christmas Eve (Luke 2:14). Placed in our divine service, we have just received the gift of forgiveness and rejoice with the angels for the peace of God and his gracious good will that has been bestowed in our life. It is always linked to the incarnate Christ.
Minister: The Lord be with you.
Congregation: And with thy spirit.
wBoth the greeting and the reply hide their exact origins in Old Testament days and may come from synagogue worship. They are found in the earliest Christian liturgies.
wThis is not, as some currently suggest, just a formal greeting or way of saying hello to each other. It will occur three times in the Divine Service of the Sacrament:
1). Here before the prayers and reading of God’s Word.
2). Prior to the consecration of elements for communion.
3). Just prior to conveying the closing blessing of the Lord.
wIt’s been nicknamed by some as the “Little Ordination”, an appropriate reminder that the exchange between Minister and Member recognizes the Minister in the role of Christ in this drama of salvation being acted out before us and for us all.
The Collect – Prayer of the Day
wThe name Collect comes from Latin “collectus” which means “to bring together, bind together”. It gathers the needs of the Church and the opening of the service into one thought to present it to the Lord in prayer.
wThe Collect changes each week and echoes the Introit to reflect the season of the church year or a specific theme.
wThe classic Collects of the church follow a pattern of structure (not all 5 parts are necessary):
ŸInvocation -- Addressed to God
ŸRelative clause (ground on which the prayer is offered)
ŸSingle Petition – specific request
ŸPurpose – benefit hoped for as a result
The Service of the Word Proper
wNow comes the reading of the lessons. We fall silent to listen to our Lord’s comfort and instruction. The lessons are known as “pericopes” (“to cut out” a section of Scripture). The Minister does not choose what topic, lesson or theme he would like to read about. He is self-disciplined in this task by the use of the pericopes which list the readings for the entire church year. In this way the pericopes serve as a “watch dog” of the people to insure that the full counsel of God is read during the year.
The First Lesson/Old Testament Lesson – (rarely taken from book of Acts)
wThe Old Testament reading is linked to the Gospel of the Day in thought: Old Testament prophecy = Gospel fulfillment.
wThe Divine Service of The Lutheran Hymnal 1941 did not include the Old Testament reading, but has historically been in place in the service. It was added to
Darlington ’s service several years ago. For this reason you do not see a flow from the Old Testament reading to the Epistle reading.
wSections of the New Testament epistles (letters) are read, taken from Romans-Revelation.
wIt does not always relate directly to the Gospel lesson. Is more doctrinal, but is usually a practical exhortation. Could be described as the Law before the Gospel.
wGradus is Latin for “step”. As the Gradual was sung, the Minister would move down the steps of the Altar to the people, just as the Gospel Lessons, next to be read, would relate how Christ stepped down from heaven to come to his people.
wThe graduals for the church year change with each service to also reflect the season of the church year or the same theme as the Introit and Collect.
Congregation sings response: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
wThe word Hallelujah comes to us from an ancient Hebrew word which means: “Praise the Lord!”
wIt is our expressed response to the Word of God.
The Gospel Lesson
XThe lesson is taken from one of the four Gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.
wThe Gospels were given highest honor in the Church as they are the accounts of Christ’s holy and incarnational work among us and for us. As such, when the reading of the Gospel is announced, the congregation rises to its feet in honor of the coming Lord and greets him with an expression of praise:
Congregation sings: Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
wWhen asked why we stand up for the Gospel, one Lutheran pastor appropriately replied: “Zacchaeus always wants to get a good view!”
wThe reading of the Gospel concluded, you have just heard Jesus Christ. The response is specifically pointed toward him:
Minister: Here ends the Gospel.
Congregation sings: Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
wThe Lord has spoken. The Church gives answer: I BELIEVE! The Latin word Credo means “I believe.”
wWhile the Apostles’Creed is the older of the two creeds, the Nicene Creed is used in the liturgy for the Sacrament of the Altar (Mass) as it is more specific concerning the deity of Jesus and the sacramental aspect of his incarnation.
The Nicene Creed: All Confess:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary And was made man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried; And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father; And He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets. And I believe one holy Christian and
Church . I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Sermon Hymn – sung the congregation
wA hymn is chosen to reflect the theme of the day, the tone of the upcoming sermon or a reflection of the Gospel Lesson.
wThe sermon is the exposition of God’s Word applied into your life. It is usually based on the Gospel lesson or one of the other lessons for the day. It should consist of both Law and Gospel, the awareness of our need in sin as fully met in the person of Jesus Christ.
wYou have reached the first of the
Towers of the Divine Service. It is a
high point of our time with God. The Lutheran Confessors rightly elevated the preaching of God’s Word to this lofty position. (Note in Lutheran Churches the dominance of the pulpit. Roman Catholicism has short homilies with no dominant pulpit; Reformed have podiums on stage to entertain or talk with the people).
wThe composition and delivery of the sermon appears more dependent on the minister than the other sacramental acts of the Divine Service. What if the sermon isn’t any good? Thank God that the sermon is flanked by the grace of God; it is preceded by Absolution and succeeded by the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. In fact, good preaching can be described as both pointing you back to your absolution (baptism) and getting you hungry and prepared for the meal of salvation yet to come.
The Votum – Minister: The peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
wSpoken by the Minister upon conclusion of the sermon it expresses the purpose of the sermon. It is a quote from the Apostle Paul’s blessing upon the Philippians: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
The Offertory – Congregation sings: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit. Amen.”
wOriginally (and especially in the Eastern Church) it was comprised of several songs and chants sung during the time when people would bring their offerings of food and gifts to the altar of God. From these offerings of food, the minister would receive a share (not unlike practice of the Old Testament priest); some was given to the poor and selection was made for the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the altar prepared for Holy Communion. When produce was replaced with money and the communion elements were already pre-selected and prepared on the altar before hand, the offertory was seen as connected more with the sermon and a response to God’s Word.
wThe words of the Offertory are taken directly from David’s prayer in Psalm 51:10-12, a hymn he wrote after Nathan the Prophet came to him concerning his sin with Bathsheba and conveyed the Lord’s forgiveness.
wThe sacrificial gifts of praise are offered to the Lord and the useful blessing of his hands.
wIt is reminiscent of the bread offered daily before the Lord in the Tabernacle as the blessing of His land.
wAn offering hymn is sung at
Darlington , usually one that reflects the true nature of our gifts to God are actually His gifts to us.
w “The Church not only breathes in the promises of God, but it also exhales – it prays” (Senkbeil).
wIn Acts 2:42 we learn that the early church, among other things, “devoted (itself) to…the prayers” (Gk).
wThe General Prayer was first reported in use by Justin Martyr (d. 166).
wHaving received the Word of God, we speak a word of praise in return and petition our Lord for the needs of his Church, his body.
wSpecial prayers for special needs or occasions can be requested and inserted at this point.
XThe Sacrament of the Altar or Service of the MassX
We are about to ascend to the second summit of the Divine Service, the Holy Sacrament of the Altar and the real presence of our Savior’s body and blood. It’s the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Possible Hymn – a hymn of invitation or preparation for Communion may be sung.
wThe three greetings of the preface are from the earliest Christian liturgies and some of the oldest liturgical phrases still in use. They can be dated back to the mid-3rd century.
Minister: The Lord be with you.
Congregation: And with thy spirit.
wThis is the second time this exchange takes place in the service to remind us of the relationship between the minister, the representative of Christ, and His people.
Minister: Lift up your hearts.
Congregation: We lift them up unto the Lord.
Minister: Let us give thanks unto the Lord, Our God.
Congregation: It is meet and right so to do.
wOur hearts are tuned for the Eucharist (give thanks), the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. The Spirit breathes life into us and we in turn exhale praise.
wWhat does the word “meet” is an old word that means “proper”.
The Proper Preface
wThis links the preface with the next song, the Sanctus.
Minister: It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God: (Insert one of the Proper Prefaces, a seasonal sentence which links the church year with the Sacrament). Therefore with angels and archangels and will all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee and saying:
wIt is proper, correct and beneficial to give thanks to God, therefore we do so. But notice whom we confess actually joins us in this praise and the Wedding Supper of the Lamb? We are joined by angels, archangels and all the saints of heaven. Wow!
The Sanctus – Congregation sings: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory; Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He, Blessed is He, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.”
wDates back to within the first three centuries; always linked to the Sacrament.
wThe Sanctus is actually a two part song: The first half is taken from Isaiah’s vision of the Lord seated on his throne in heaven (Isaiah 6:3). It is the song sung by the seraphim as they hover in the Lord’s presence and proclaim: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth: Heaven and earth art full of Thy glory!" The triple “holy” is reflective of the Trinity. He is the Lord of Sabaoth, that is, the Lord Almighty of the heavenly hosts, the armies of the living God.
wNot only is heaven full of the Lord’s glory, thankfully his glory extends to earth, to us below. It comes from the Father through the Son. Thus comes the second half of the song as it is sung on earth. It’s the song of welcoming praise and honor that was addressed to Jesus on Palm Sunday: “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest!” Hosanna is a word of acclamation that literally means “save Lord”. This one who comes among us is blessed, (again sung in triplicate). He is the blessed one who comes from above in the revelation of, in the character of -- in the name of Lord. The people of Palm Sunday shout out this praise because Jesus is there, in their midst, body and blood, to save them.
wPut the two halves together and you have this song of heaven and earth-the throne of heaven and the coming to where we live. Jesus now comes to save. The song is appropriately placed in the divine service for we are about to receive the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion.
wThe Palm Sunday Lesson: Jesus did not appear like a conquering King on Palm Sunday as he rode into
Jerusalem atop a donkey. But appearances are deceiving to the naked eye. Because God’s prophetic word had foretold and connected the coming of the Christ with a donkey, the eyes of faith could recognize him (Zech 9:9). Is it any different among us? No. We confess the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the humble, ordinary-looking means of the bread and wine. To the naked eye, it is nothing. But because it is connected to God’s Word and Christ’s promise, the eye of faith sees its reality and welcomes the mystery.
The Lord’s Prayer:
wThis Prince of Prayers was taught to us by Christ himself and is the perfect prayer amid so many of our imperfect petitions. Used as a password among early Christian, it is found in liturgies from the 4th century, but most likely predates that. It is properly connected with the Holy Sacrament as the table prayer of God’s children who pray to “Our Father”.
The Words of Institution – Minister: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it and gave it to His disciples, saying ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.’ After the same manner also He took the cup when He had supped, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”
wFirst used by Christ in his Last Supper, the Words of Institution appear in all known liturgies.
wWhile recorded in the Gospels, it is recounted by the Apostle Paul, having been received from Christ himself: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you. That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me (1 Cor 11:23-26 KJV).
wThis is the Lord’s Supper. He was the host at the first holy meal on the night he was betrayed and remains the host in each celebration of the sacrament. He spoke his powerful and creative word which makes the Supper what it is. When the elements of bread and wine are consecrated, they are blessed by the words of Jesus himself. Jesus’ words and blessings have never been removed or withdrawn: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ” (1 Cor 10:16 KJV).
wWe believe in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Sacrament, not his real absence (as the Reformed teach). Based on Christ’s words we are assured that his promised gifts are present. Luther wrote: Further, we do not make Christ’s body out of the bread… We say that his body, which long ago was made and came into existence, is present when we say, ‘This is my body.’ For Christ commands us to say not, ‘Let this become my body,’ or ‘Make my body there,’ but ‘This is my body.’” (AE 37:187).
wIt is not a mere memorial meal in which we reach back to recall the events of Good Friday. Good Friday’s sacrifice (Christ’s body broken and His blood spilled) comes to us, along with its purpose and effect – the forgiveness of sins. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor 11:26 KJV). The proclamation of the Lord’s death in Holy Communion is the dramatic, soul-refreshing words: given for you for the remission of all your sins. Behold the wonder, beauty and power of two little words: for you!
wWhen God made a testament (covenant) with , he sealed it with the eating of a fellowship meal (confer Exodus 24:5-11). That was the Old Testament. As prophesied through Jeremiah, the Lord promised the coming age of a new covenant based on the forgiveness of sin (confer Jeremiah 31:31-34). This is the new covenant sealed in Christ, in Christ’s body, and is to be consumed. Thus you hear the words of Jesus when he instituted Holy Communion: “This cup is the new testament in my blood”. A covenant is an agreement or contract. A testament is also an agreement or contract. In this case, the word testament may be preferred, since this is Jesus’ last will and testament. A testament requires the death of the author. This Jesus did!
wIt is to be consumed! The Passover Lamb was to be fully consumed (Ex 12:4). God’s Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, is to be consumed: Take, eat...take, drink. Here the word “take” is the same word Jesus used to ordain the apostles: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).
The Pax Domini – Minister: “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”
wNot simply spoken by the minister, but issued by the minister as the representative of Christ. It is the Lord’s peace as issued to the apostles on Easter evening: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’” (John 20:19-23).
wThe Lord’s peace is issued with the gift of the Holy Spirit but and directly linked to the forgiveness of sins. The same applies to you at this point of the divine service; you receive peace from the Holy Spirit who is directly linked to the forgiveness of sin you now receive in Holy Communion.
The Agnus Dei – Congregation sings: “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace. Amen.”
wNote the spelling Agnus Dei and not Angus Dei. It means Lamb of God, not Cow.
wIn the early church, only one loaf of unleavened bread was consecrated, then broken for distribution. As congregations grew, so did the loaf and the time it took to break it apart. In order to accompany this action, the Agnus Dei was introduced in the 7th century.
wWe join John the Baptist in his confession as he pointed to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:35). The Passover Lamb is present among us, so our prayers for mercy and his promised peace are addressed to him.
The Distribution of the Sacrament
wWe leave the anonymity of the pew and approach the Lord’s Altar to receive his blessed gift. “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Rev 19:9).
wSee it! Smell it! Taste it! Touch it! Take it! Eat it! Drink it! It is for you! It is for the forgiveness of all your sins. How great is the Lord’s grace that it comes to his creatures in concrete creaturely form. The Lutheran Confessors nicknamed Holy Communion “The Visible Word” or “The Fleshy Word”.
The Distribution Hymn
wA hymn is sung during the distribution of the elements which deals with the Sacrament or is seasonal in character.
wOnce the distribution has ended, the congregation rises to sing:
The Nunc Dimittis – Congregation sings: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation: which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
wThis chant replaced the singing of variable psalms. It appears to be unique to Lutheranism and is believed to have been placed in the Liturgy sometime after the Reformation.
wThe song is taken directly from Luke 2:25-32 where the prophet Simeon had received God’s promised Word that he would die until he had seen the promised Messiah, the Savior, in flesh and blood. When forty-day old infant Jesus was taken to the
Temple , Simeon bursts into this song as he takes Jesus in his arms.
Imagine that! Simeon touched the Son of God! Simeon held on to the Incarnate Word! Well, you don’t have to imagine it. With faith in Christ’s promise of His real presence in Holy Communion, you have just held the Incarnate Christ and like Simeon we can now depart in the peace which we have received from our Lord, the peace he promised and provided in the body of his Son. Glory be to the Triune God:
UThe Father from whom grace has come in his gift of love.
UThe Son through whom God’s grace is secured through his redemptive sacrifice.
UThe Holy Spirit by whom we have received this grace by faith – he gave us rebirth and now feeds us.
wNo more mourning, no more weeping, no more sorrow. We have tasted heaven! The final portion of the Divine Service moves swiftly and joyfully. We are coming down the summit!
Minister: Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good.
Congregation: And His mercy endureth forever.
wThis psalm phrase of thanks is found in several Old Testament psalms.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Minister: O God the Father, Fount and Source of all goodness, who in loving-kindness sent Your only-begotten Son into the flesh, we thank You that for His sake You have given us pardon and peace in this Sacrament; and we ask you not to forsake Your children, but evermore rule our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit, that we may be enabled constantly to serve You; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
wThe prayer gives thanks to God specifically for the Sacrament, together with the request for its intended blessing in our lives.
Minister: The Lord be with you.
Congregation: And with thy spirit.
wThis is the third time this exchange takes place in the service to remind us of the relationship between the minister, the representative of Christ, and His people.
Minister: Bless we the Lord.
Congregation: Thanks be to God.
wAt every Divine Service since earliest times, the deacon sang a statement to dismiss the congregation. Originally “Let us go forth in peace” was sung in Eastern churches and “The Mass is ended” in Western churches. In both cases, the faithful answered, “Thanks be to God.” Perhaps as early as the 8th century, “Let us bless the Lord” was sung in some French and German churches, and three centuries later was used during Advent and Lent in Roman churches. Following Luther’s lead, the Lutheran churches chose to use “Let us bless the Lord” exclusively prior to the Benediction.
wCan we truly “bless” the Lord? What we have received by the Holy Spirit, we return by the Holy Spirit. He has served us with his grace that we might be his servants!
Minister: The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
wWhile the Divine Service has apparently always ended with some blessing or blessing prayer, Luther is the first to suggest using this specific benediction/blessing at the conclusion of the service. As such, it is a uniquely Lutheran innovation and therefore dated during the time of Luther.
wIts called the “Aaronic Benediction”, so named because the Lord told Aaron, the first High Priest in the Old Testament, to use these specific words as a blessing with the result: “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them” Num 6:24). Triplicate in structure, it again reflects the Holy Trinity.
wThe Divine Service opened with the minister placing your baptismal name of God upon you: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” Now the Divine Service closes with the Lord placing His name upon you for his blessing. From start to finish, you live in your baptismal name and grace.
wAs the minister announces the blessing he raises his arms and stretches his palms toward the people. It is body language to support the fact that a blessing is being conveyed, not simply spoken.
wThe service closes with the congregation singing a hymn that expresses the blessings of the Divine Service, praise to God, or a seasonal hymn.
V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V
Let’s take a moment to speak about ritual, since there are many rituals performed in the Divine Service: rising from the pew, bowing heads in prayer, making the sign of the cross, outstretched arms in blessing, etc. Do you like them? Do you dislike them? Do you think they’re right? Do you think they’re wrong? We need to address them in order to consider them intelligently.
Fact: Everyone performs rituals. If you choose to do nothing at all, that becomes your ritual. Rituals have the intended purpose to both express attitude and create attitude. Rituals are learned and rituals teach. They can both express an idea and confirm an idea by practice. If you do not understand the meaning of a specific ritual, you do better to task than to criticize.