Lutheran Liturgy

What is liturgy?

Liturgy includes the standard texts (e.g., the Kyrie, Creed, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, etc.) that have been handed down over the centuries. The liturgy provides a consistency to worship. One of the most important aspects of liturgical worship is repetition. Through weekly repetition of basic, Gospel-centered texts from Holy Scripture, we learn the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith. The liturgy and hymns serve as building blocks for a lifetime of receiving God's gifts through Word and Sacrament.

Our worship...
  • Is to receive God's gifts - His Word and holy Sacraments;
  • Is Christ centered;
  • Is a reflection of Lutheran theology;
  • Is characterized by reverence and dignity; and
  • Seeks to edify Christ's holy people.
     

The Lutheran Liturgy - Its Biblical Roots
 

The outline below follows the Lutheran Service Book, Divine Service Two.
 
    Pre-Service
  • Parts of the Service

    Explanation

    Prelude

     
    Music helps draw us into an attitude of prayer and praise.

    The Ringing of the Bells

     
    This is a call to God’s people “to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.”*
    *(Psalms 100:4)

    A Hymn of Invocation

     
    We are a “singing church,” so we follow the advice of the Apostle Paul to teach and admonish “one another…as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” * This hymn may be one of praise, prayer, or reflection on the season of the church year.
    *(Colossians 3:16)

     

    Service of Confession and Absolution
  • Parts of the Service

    Explanation

    The Invocation

     
    We call upon God to be present with us.  We worship the Triune God, remembering our Baptism in His name.* Amen means “So be it, it is true!”
    *(Matthew 28:19; Matthew 18:20; Ephesians 2:18)

    The Confession of Sins

     
    We examine ourselves and publicly confess our sins.  Such a confession at the beginning of the service provides a climate of acceptance.  In spite of our sins, we are accepted by God and, in turn, we can accept each other.
    *(1 John 1:8-10; Romans 7:14-8:4)


    The Absolution or Declaration of Grace


    Christ said to His disciples, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.”* The pastor speaks for God and announces God’s cleansing forgiveness to those who make confession.
    *(John 20:23)

     

    Service of the Word
  • Service of the Word


    Since the apostles, an important part of the service has been the reading of the Scriptures including the Old Testament Lesson, the Epistle Lesson from the New Testament, and the Gospel Lesson.  The reason for including these readings is the scriptural principle that God’s Word is the only rule and guide for Christian faith and living.  The Service of the Word concludes with the sermon (which is the preached Word), the church’s confession of faith in response to God’s Word, and the prayers of God’s people.

     Parts of the Service

    Explanation

     
    The Introit of the Day

     
    Introit is a Latin word meaning “he enters into.”  The Introit is a part of a psalm or a hymn that announces the theme of the day and begins the Service of the Word.  Many years ago the faithful would meet outside and then proceed into the church.  The pastor and the people would chant psalms as they entered the sanctuary.  The Introit traditionally consists of an Antiphon, or refrain, a Psalm or a series of Psalm verses, the Gloria Patri,* and the Antiphon repeated.
    *(Ephesians 3:21; Revelation 1:6, 8; Philippians 4:20; Romans 16:27)

     
    The Kyrie

     
    Kyrie is a Greek word meaning “O Lord.”  It is a cry to the Lord for help and strength.* In ancient times, the crowds would shout “Lord, have mercy” as the King entered their town.  The church has taken over this prayer to greet its King, Jesus Christ, in the church service.  As the people so long ago expected help from their King, so we Christians expect help from our Savior.
    *(Mark 10:47; Matthew 9:27; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30-31; Luke 17:13)

     
    The Hymn of Praise

     
    Two hymns of praise, “Glory to God in the Highest”* and “This is the Feast”** give the congregation the opportunity to praise God and express joy because Jesus is our victorious Savior.  During Advent and Lent, the hymn of praise is omitted.
    *(Luke 2:14; John 1:29)
    **(Revelation 5:12-13; 19:5-9)

     
    The Salutation

     
    In the Salutation,* the pastor and the congregation greet each other in the Lord’s name.
    *(2 Timothy 4:22; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Ruth 2:4; Luke 1:28)

     
    The Collect of the Day

     
    The main thoughts of the day are collected or summarized in this short prayer.  The collects for the season of the church year have come to us from the rich treasury of the church’s heritage.

     
    The First Reading

     
    The first reading is from the Old Testament except during the Easter season when it is from the book of Acts.  This reading usually relates to the Gospel of the day.

     
    The Gradual

     
    The Gradual, a Latin expression meaning “step,” is a scriptural passage for each season of the church year.  It is a response to the first reading and a bridge to the second reading.  Sometimes a psalm is sung or spoken.

     
    The Second Reading

     
    The second reading is from one of the epistles (letters) in the New Testament.

     
    The Verse

     
    A verse from the Holy Scriptures is usually sung in preparation for the reading of the Gospel.  There are general verses* as well as specific verses for the seasons of the church year.
    *(John 6:68; Joel 2:13 during Lent)

     
    The Holy Gospel

     
    The Gospel Lesson is a selection from the accounts of the life of our Lord recorded by the four evangelists:  St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John.  Because Christ is with us in the Gospel reading, we stand to honor His presence.  We also sing versicles (short verses) before and after the reading of the Gospel.

     
    The Hymn of the Day

     
    This hymn follows the theme of the readings and sets the stage for the sermon.

     
    The Sermon

     
    The pastor proclaims God’s Word and applies that Word to modern life and problems.  He stresses both what God demands of us (the Law) and what God does for us through Jesus Christ (the Gospel).

     
    The Creed

     
    After hearing the Word of God read and proclaimed, the worshiper responds with his confession of faith in the words of the Nicene Creed.*  It is customary for the Nicene Creed to be spoken when Holy Communion is celebrated and on major festivals.  The Apostles’ Creed is used at other times.
    *(1 Peter 3:18ff; 1 Corinthians 15:1ff; 1 Timothy 3:16)

     
    The Prayers

     
    This prayer in the service follows the directive of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, a young pastor:  “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”*
    *(1Timothy 2:1-4)

     
    The Offering

     
    The gifts of God’s people are a response to God’s blessings “as God has prospered them.”* Our offerings are for the support of the church.  They enable the church to provide the written and spoken Word of God, Christian education, pastoral care, food, clothing, shelter, and a helping hand to those in need.
    *(Corinthians 16:2)

     
    The Offertory

     
    As the offerings are brought to the Lord’s table, the worshipers sing the offertory* to express gratitude for all God’s blessings, dedicate themselves to God, and request His continued blessings.
    *(Psalms 116:12-13, 17-19)

     


    Service of the Sacrament
  • Service of the Sacrament


    The church has confessed its sins and has been forgiven, and its faith has been nurtured through hearing the Word.  The church now reaches a climax of the worship experience in the celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion.  The following parts of the liturgy help the worshipers partake of the holy meal thoughtfully, thankfully, and joyfully.

    Parts of the Service

     Explanation


    The Preface

     
    Preface* means introduction.
    *(2 Timothy 4:22: Colossians 3:1; Psalms 136)


    The appropriate (or Proper) Preface

     
    These words state why we should give thanks using words and ideas appropriate for the season of the church year.  As found in Psalms 69:30, 95:2, 100:4, 107:22, 116:17, and 147:7.


    The Sanctus

     
    Sanctus is a Latin word meaning “holy.”  The Sanctus contains words from Isaiah’s vision of God* and the crowd’s response on Palm Sunday when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem.**  We join them in spirit by singing their words as we anticipate Christ’s coming in the sacrament.
    *(Isaiah 6:3)
    **(Matthew 21:9)


    The Prayer of Thanksgiving

     
    Christians give thanks to God in all circumstances,* especially when they receive His spiritual gifts in Christ.**  This sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving is the Christian response to what God has first done and given to us.
    *(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
    **(Luke 17)
    See also Psalm 118 and Psalm 145


    The Lord’s Prayer

     
    We pray to God as our Father using the prayer of the family of God* because the Lord’s Supper is our family meal.
    *(Matthew 6:9ff; Luke 11:2ff)


    The Words of Institution

     
    The pastor speaks the words which Jesus spoke* when He instituted the Supper with His disciples in the upper room.  With these words the bread and wine are consecrated, that is, set apart for God’s use in the special meal.
    *(1 Corinthians 11:23-25; Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20)

     
    The Peace

     
    The greeting of peace* which Jesus spoke on that first Easter is shared before we approach the altar to receive Him.  In the Lord’s Supper, the body and blood of Christ are truly present in, with, and under the bread and wine.
    *(John 14:27; John 20:19)


    The Agnus Dei

     
    Agnus Dei is a Latin phrase meaning “Lamb of God.”  John the Baptist spoke these words* as he pointed to Jesus coming toward him.  As Christ comes to us in the Holy Supper, we recognize Him as the Lamb of God sacrificed for us to free us from the bondage of sin and death.
    *(John 1:29; Isaiah 53:7)

    The Administration of the Supper

     
    As we kneel at the Lord’s Table, the pastor invites us, “Take, eat; this is the true body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, given into death for your sins.  Take, drink, this the true blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, shed for the forgiveness of your sins.”
     
    After we receive the Sacrament, we hear the comforting words spoken by the pastor, “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.  Depart + in peace.”
     
    We respond “Amen,” for this is our sincere desire.  It is a good practice to offer a silent prayer of thanks when we return to our pews.  While the meal is being distributed, the congregation and/or the choir sing one or more hymns.


    The Post-Communion Canticle

     
    “Thank the Lord,” or the “Nunc Dimittis” (Lord, now let Your servant to in peace)* is sung.  The purpose is to offer our thanks and express our faith in what God has done for us and promised to do for us in the future.
    *(Luke 2:29-32)


    The Post-Communion Collect

     
    Once again we express our appreciation to our gracious God for giving us this Holy meal through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  (Psalms 107:1, 118:1)


    The Benediction

     
    The blessing spoken by the pastor is the Aaronic benediction* - the blessing God first gave to Aaron and the other priests to speak to the people of Israel.  Jesus Christ, our High Priest, has come to us in a special way though this Holy Meal.  The blessing is God’s promise that Christ will go with us as we leave the church and return to the world to serve Him.  We sing “Amen” to affirm the blessing; “So be it – it is true!”
    *(Numbers 6:24-26)

     

Listen in at Issuesetc.org

For more in-depth information on the parts of the Liturgy, you can listen in to Pastor Will Weedon's audio series.