The Divine Service
At First St. Paul’s, Wellesley, we use liturgical services as found in our hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book. This page provides an explanation of the parts of the liturgy and references to the Holy Scriptures from which the liturgy is drawn.
The divine service is not meant to conform to the popular culture of this world, rather it is meant to be ‘out of this world.’ God’s word is holy. Holy means to be ‘set apart.’ The Divine Service, drawn from Holy Scripture is meant to be ‘set apart’ from this world. It is intended to be a place where you can leave your concerns, worries and fears in God’s loving hands, come into God’s presence where He greets you in His Holy Word and Sacraments.
We thank Prof. Dr. Roger Humann of Concordia Theological Lutheran Seminary in St. Catharines for this summary, and Rev. David Milette of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in New Brunswick for compiling it into web format.
The Service of Preparation
Parts of the Service
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 the Lord's gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise."
A Hymn of Invocation
We are a "singing church," so we follow the advice of the apostle Paul to teach and admonish "one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16). This hymn may be one of praise, prayer, or reflection on the season of the church year.
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!"
* Matt. 28:19; Matt. 18:20; Eph. 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.*
* I John 1:8-10 [Rom. 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 made confession.
* John 20:23.
The Service of the Word
From the time of the apostles down through today, 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 principal 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.
The Introit of the Day
* Rom. 16:27; Eph. 3:21; Phil. 4:20; Rev. 1:6, 8.
* Matt. 9:27; Matt. 15:22; Matt. 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 of victory", give the congregation the opportunity to praise God and express joy because Jesus is our victorious Saviour. During Advent and Lent, the hymn of praise is omitted.
* "Glory to God in the highest," Luke 2:14; "This is the feast of victory," Rev. 5:12
In the Salutation, the pastor and the congregation great each other in the Lord's name.
* Ruth 2:4; Luke 1:28; II Thess. 3:16; II Tim. 4:22
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 Lesson
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.
* I Tim. 4:13
Gradual, a Latin expression meaning "step", is a Scripture passage for each season of the church year. It is a response to the First Lesson and a bridge to the Second Lesson. Sometimes a psalm is sung or spoken.
The Second Lesson
The second reading is from one of the epistles (letters) in the New Testament.
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 (through 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 honour his presence. We also sing versicles (short verses) before and after the reading of the Gospel. On certain festival days the minister may read the Gospel while standing among the people. He may be flanked by acolytes carrying candles who proclaim Jesus and His Word as the "light of the world".
The Hymn of the Day
This hymn follows the theme of the readings and set the stage for the sermon. Suggested hymns of the day are listed on pages 976-978 of Lutheran Worship.
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).
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.
* I Cor. 15:1; I Pet. 3:18; I Tim. 3:16
This prayer in the service follows the directive of the Apostle Paul to young Timothy, a 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 in peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness".* For this reason, the hymnal says "prayers are included for the whole church, the nations, those in need, the parish, and special concerns. The congregation may be invited to offer petitions and thanksgivings. The minister gives thanks for the faithful departed, especially for those who have died." (LW pages 168-69)
* I Tim. 2:1-2
The Service of the Sacrament
The church has confessed its sins and 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.
The gifts of God's people are a response to God's blessings "as God has prospered them" (1 Corinthians 16:2). Our offerings are for the support of the church. They enable the church to provide the written and spoken word of God, Christian education, and pastoral care, food, clothing, shelter, and a helping hand to those in need.
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.
* "What shall I render to the Lord," Ps. 116:12, 17, 13-14, 19; "Create in me a clean heart", Ps. 51:10-12.
Preface means "introduction". The pastor and people get ready to celebrate the Holy Meal be greeting each other and with an exhortation as how to celebrate the meal.
* Cf. "Salutation"; Lam. 3:41; Ps. 36:4.
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.
* Pss. 69:30; 95:2; 100:4; 107:22; 116:17; 147:7
Sanctus is a Latin word meaning "Holy". The Sanctus contains words from Isaiah's vision of God (Isaiah 6:3) and the crowd's response on Palm Sunday when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9). We join them in spirit by singing their words as we anticipate Christ’s coming in the sacrament.
* Is. 6:3; Matt. 21:9 (Mk 11:9); Ps. 118:25-26
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Prayer of thanksgiving for our Lord’s gift of His eternal body and blood for forgiveness of sins and new life.
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 11:23-26; Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20
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.
* Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2
The greetings of peace which Jesus spoke on the 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 20:19-21
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 (John 1:29). 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; Is. 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 Saviour Jesus Christ, given into death for your sins. Take, drink, this is the true blood of our Lord and Saviour 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 strengthen and preserve you in the true faith to life everlasting". We respond, "Amen", for this is our sincere desire. Its 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", "Lord, now let Your servant go in peace", or an appropriate hymn 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.
* "Lord, now you let Your servant go in peace," Luke 2:29
The Prayer of Thanks
Once again we express our appreciation to our gracious God for giving us this Holy Meal through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
* Pss. 107:1; 118:1
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 through 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 6:23-27