What is worship?


The Divine Service-an Introduction

The worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive gifts from God...The chief worship of the Gospel is to desire to receive the forgivness of sins, grace, and righteousness.  Christ says that of this worship, "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day"(John 6:40).  And the Father says, "This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased: listen to Him"(Matthew 17:5).   (Apology of the Augsburg Confession V 189)

Divine Service

Divine-the source and origin of worship is the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Christian worship is centered in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.

Service-Our Lord calls, gathers and enlightens the whole Christian Church on earth.  Jesus Christ serves us with His Word and His Supper.  "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many"(Matthew 20:28).

"Okay....so when do i get to do something?"

"The key to understanding the way Lutherans worship is realizing that God initates a holy conversatation:  He speaks first.  Only then do His people respond, not the other way around.  Such is the way God has worked from the very beginning of creation(Genesis 1:3).  God speaks into nothingness, emptiness-and then there is something to talk about! (Lutheranism 101, Page 206).

At Home in God's House

In Baptism we are made children of God and are given access to the house of our Father.  In confession and absolution we return to our Baptism and are prepared anew to enter into the presence of our living Lord.  From the entryway we are next invited into the living room where we, like Mary, sit at the front of Jesus and hear His Word(Luke 10:39).  From the living room we are led into the dining room where our Lord nourishes us wit His very body and blood.  Finally, with His gifts of Word and Sacrament alive in us, we are sent out into the world, in His name, to bring glory to Him through service to our neighbor.

The Divine Service Tells the Story of Salvation

"In the Divine Service, God invites us to take part in that story, to be immersed in it and to find our place at the table...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."(Lutheranism 101, pp. 206,211) See also Acts 2:42.

"So what's the big deal??"

Because of our sin, we cannot come to God, but Gof 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 to tamper with. Therefore, worship is not a matter of novelty or entertainment, much less a matter of attempting to please the masses."(Lutheranism 101, p. 211).

In summary, prayerfully consider these words taken from the Introduction to the hymnal, Lutheran Worhsip.  "In Christian worship our Lord speaks and we listen.  His Word bestows what it says,  Saying back to Him what He has said to us in His Word, we repeat what is most true and sure.  Most true ans sure is His nane, which He put upon us with the water of our Baptism. 


Kyrie Elesion (pronounced "keer-ee-ey e-ley-uh-sawn") is a Greek expressiom that means, "Lord Have Mercy!"  It is believed that worship services as far back as the fourth century began with this prayer.

As we draw nearer to hearing God's Word (His speaking to us), we ask the Lord for mercy.  This is the first prayer of the gathered congregation.  The Kyrie is not so much a confession of sins as it is a cry for mercy that our Lord and King will hear us and help us in our necessities and troubles.  It is a cry for help in the midst of this world of sin.

This prayer echoes the prayer from the lips of blind Bartimaeus, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" (Mark 10:47-48).  This was the prayer of the Ten Lepers, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us" (Luke 17:13), and the Canaanite woman, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppreseed by a demon" (Matthew 15:22).  Following the example of Bartimaeus, the Ten Lepers, the Canaanite woman, and the early church, we approach our merciful Savior and King as citizens of heaven, seeking His mercy for our salvation, the peace of the whole world, the well-being of His Church, our worship, and our everlasting defense against sin, death, and the devil.  Kyrie Elesion! Lord have mercy!


 The Salutation ("The Lord be with you."  "And also with you.") is a greeting found throughout Scripture.

  Boaz came from Bethlehem.  And he said to the reapers, "The Lord be with you!  And they answered, "The Lord bless you." (Ruth 2:4)

   Gabriel came to Mary and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"  (Luke 1:28)

   "Now may the Lord of Peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way.  The Lord be with you."  (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

The Salutation is more than a simple greeting.  It signifies the special relationship between the congregation and its represenative before God-the called pastor.  The pastor stands before the congregation as Christ's servant.  The vestments he wears indicate that he is not speaking on his own, but as one sent and authorized to repesent Christ Jesus.  As the Lord's servant, he speaks God's peace to the congregation.  As the congregation responds with "and also with you" they affirm his call and vocation with respect and Christian love.  Pastor and congregation are bound together in this Salutation as the pastor prays the Collect of the Day on behalf of the gathered congregation.

The Collect of the Day

The Collect "collects" in a concise and beautiful manner the theme for the day and the prayers of all the people based on that theme.  Most collects have been in continuous use in the Church for over 1500 years.  Though surprisingly brief, the Collects have a spiritual beauty and depth of content.  The complete Collect is truly a worship art form constructed according to a precise pattern consisting of five parts.

1) Address: names of the person of the Trinity to whom the prayer is particularly addressed

2) Rationale:  basis for the petition, notes the particular attribute or work of God upon which the prayer is based

3) Petition:  states the prayer, the blessing being asked

4)  Benefit:  gives the goal toward which the petition is directed; the desired outcome, usually beginning with the word "that"

5)  Termination: a conclusion of praise to God.

Let's apply this to the Collect for the seventh Sunday after Pentecost.

(Address)Almighty God, (Rationale)You have built Your Church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ Himself as the cornerstone. (Petition)Continue to send Your messengers to preserve Your people in true peace(Benefit)that, by the preaching of Your Word, Your Church may be kept from all harm and danger; (Termination)through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.

The Collect always begins with the words "Let us pray."  This is not only an invitation, it is also an admonition.  God invites us and admonishes us to pray.  These words, then should never be replaced by, "We pray" or God's people pray."  We are at all times to remember that this is God's Service to us.

Old Testament Reading, Gradual, Epistle

The actual bestowal of the grace of God, annoiunced in the Introit and prayed for in the Collect, is now about to take place in the reading and preaching of the divine Word.  With the reading of the Old Testament lesson, the climax of the Service of the Word draws near.  The Old Testament is the foundation for the New Testament.  We read and meditate on it just as Christ did-"And as was His custom, [Jesus] went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah wad given to Him." (Luke 4:16-17).  The reading is concluded with the proclamation, "This is the Word of the Lord."  The Word of the Lord is embraced by the congregational response of thanksgiving, "Thanks be to God."

The Old Testament reading is followed by selected verses of Scripture, formally known as, the Gradual.  The Gradual is a "step" or "bridge of praise" that links the Old Testament with the New Testament.

The early church was devoted to the teachings of the Apostles' (Acts 2:42).  The church today continues this devotion by regular public readings of their epistles(letters).  Taken from the divinely inspired letters of the Apostles', the Epistle Readings have been carefully selected with the time of the Church Year in mind.

Through this marvelous arrangement of Scripture readings, known as the lectionary, we are taught the full counsel of God.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God enters our hearts and minds quickening our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

The congregation is seated for the Old Testament and Epistle readings because these are understood as instruction, in contrast to the Gospel, which is an account of the life and words of Jesus.


Alleluia and Gospel Reading

As we are about to hear the very words and deeds of Christ, the congregation acknowledges the Lord's presence in their midst through His Gospel by standing and singing "Alleluia", which, from the Hebrew means "praise the Lord."  The tradition of praising the Lord with Alleluia is rooted in Scripture.  for example, the opening verse of Psalm 106: "Hallelujah! Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!" Another beautiful example is found in the book drscription of the marriage feast with the Lamb:  "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and exalt and give Him the glory." "Revelation 19:6).

We are now ready to hear the Words of the Holy Gospel.  In these words we are given the Word of Life, Jesus Christ.  Origen(185-254 A.D.)refers to the Gospels writren by the evangelists-Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John-as the "crown of all the Holy Scriptures."  We follow the ancient custom of standing in reverence to hear the words of our Lord.  We affirm our recognition of His very presence among us in our worship by singing, "Glory be to Your, O Lord."  After hearing the Savior's Word, delivered by His called messenger, we respond, "Praise to you, O Christ."  Also, in the Gospel Reading, the theme of the day, introduced in the Introit and Collect, is now brought to full light.

"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."  (Psalm 119:105).


Common understanding:  An intermission in the Service for napping,using the restroom, and pondering the outcome of the Patriots game.

Lutheran understanding:  As the prophets, apostles, and even Jesus Himself did, the pastor speaks on behalf of God, bringing His Word to shepherd His people.

The preacher "says what the Word says" to those whom the God has gathered.  The gathered saints are called to hear it with open ears and receive it with faithful hearts.  The skillful preacher will apply Law(from the sermon text)to the hearers that they may be brought to repentance.  The speaker will also speak the clear and pure Word of the Gospel to forgive, enliven faith, and give the works of righteousness.  It should come as no surprise that this approach is rooted in Scripture.  Jesus spoke these Words of preparation to His disciples just before His ascension into heaven:  "Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed(preached)in His name to all nations." (Luke 24:46).

The Apostle Paul beautifully sums up the task of preaching with these words: "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23).  "Christ crucified," this message calls us to repentance as we behold what was necessary for our deliverance and restoration.  "Christ crucified," also demonstrates for us the love of God as we behold our sin borne willing by our Savior.  We never outgrow the need for this preaching.


Jesus said, "Everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).

The word Creed comes from the Latin Credo, which means I believe.  The three Christian Creeds-Apostle's, Nicene, and Athanasians-are brief but comprehensive statements of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity.  The Creed is the only place in the Divine Service where the personal pronoun "I" is used.  As personal as the Creed is (each person must believe for him or herself), when it is spoken by the congregation, it unites us in our confession of faith that, in turn, makes us one with Christians of every age.  Our confession shows that we are members of one body, of which Christ is the head(Colossians 1:18).

We speak the Creed following the sermon.  The Creed is a solemn confession and response of faith to the Word, which has just been proclaimed and heard.  Having heard the Word of God, we confess our faith is His name-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Repetition of the Creed also prepares us for public witness by grounding our confession in the fundamentals of our faith.

"Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses"(1 Timothy 6:12).


Psalm 116

12 What shall I render to the Lord

      for all his benefits to me?

13  I will lift up the cup of salvation

      and call on the name of the Lord,

14  I will pay my vows to the Lord

      in the presence of all his people.


17  I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

      and call on the name of the Lord.

18  I will pay my vows to the Lord

      in the presence of all his people,

19  in the courts of the house of the Lord,

      in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord!


In the Offering, we recognize that all we have is a gift from our Heavenly Father.  Luther simply states this reality in his explanation to the first article of the Apostles' Creed:  "I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.  He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have.  He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life."


Our Lord provides not only for our bodily life.  We recognize that our eternal salvation is also a gift from God.  Luther illustrates this point in his explanation to the second article of the Apostles' Creed, "Jesus has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death."


In light of the reality that we are on the receiving end of God's merciful goodness in relation to both body and soul, we cannot help but give Him thanks for all that He has given us.  So, in the Offering, we return to God our first fruits, that is, we give Him a thank-offering, a choice portion in recognition that all we have is given us by our Father in eaven.  The Offering of thanksgiving unites the faithful in an act of common fellowship and the shared response of God's bride (the church) to her Bridegroom (Jesus).  The gifts that are shared represent the gifts of creation and are offered as a "sacrifice of thanksgiving" to the Lord so that by means of them He might accomplish His purpose to bless His people.  In other words, in returning to God a portion of what He has given to us we acknowledge our standing before Him and are blessed.



Prayer of the Church


Prayer is one of the marks of the congregation gathered in worship.  In the book of Acts, St. Luke records the activity of the Church.  "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers"(Acts 2:42).


In response to hearing the Word and receiving faith, the Church prays that what we have heard from God may be done for us.  Gathered in Jesus' name, we bring petitions and thanksgivings that grow out of His Word.  As baptized children of God, we have a responsibility to pray not only for ourselves, but also for the world.  So, instructed by the Word, we pray that earthly rulers would keep the peace that we might worship God in quietutde.  Finally, we pray in all boldness and confidence that our heavely Father hears and answers all of our prayers offered through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we many receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need"(Hebrews 4:16).


And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him." (1 John 5:14-15).


"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."  1 Timothy 2:1-6.




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