The service begins with the pastor (or another worship leader) saying the words: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
This Invocation orients us around the reality that worship does not begin with us, but with God. Indeed, our whole life in Christ begins with God, for the same name that marks the beginning of worship also marked us in our baptisms. This is why we baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Further, this name reminds us that we are bound together in Christ, for we call upon “one Lord” and share together “one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:5-6).
If you are comfortable doing so, you may make the sign of the cross during the invocation. This is traditionally done with an open palm (thumb up) on your right hand. Touch your fingers to your forehead when the leader says “Father”, the center of your chest (near your heart) when he or she says “Son”, the front of your left shoulder at “Holy” and the front of your right shoulder at “Spirit”. This part is optional, and usually not all of the congregation chooses to participate.
Confession of Sin
Part of the reason worship must begin with God is because we would be hopelessly lost if worship began with us, for we are sinners, completely unworthy to somehow storm the gates of God’s presence. Confession reminds us of this. It calls us to believe that, in light of the sin which we admit to in Confession, if we are to be in God’s presence in worship, God must come to us! We cannot go to God.
We are all, by nature, sinful. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9). During the confession of sin, we prayerfully acknowledge our sins and ask for God’s grace and forgiveness.
We are reminded by the worship leader that God has given his only Son to die for us, and that for his sake our sins have been forgiven. Absolution provides us with the assurance that God has indeed come to us in the person and work of Christ and still dwells with us according to His promise: “Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Service of the Word
This section of the service begins with a hymn, ending the time of preparation and beginning the service. Luther famously says of music: "I am not satisfied with him who despised music, as all fanatics do; for music is an endowment and a gift of God, not a gift of men. It also drives away the devil and makes people cheerful; one forgets all anger, unchasteness, pride, and other vices. I place music next to theology and give it the highest praise." Throughout a worship service, we sing. We sing because we believe music is a gift from God. We sing because many fine hymns and songs have been written which confess the gospel of God and express our praise and thanksgiving. In these ways, God gives to us through music.
The Greek words “Kyrie Eleison” mean “Lord, have mercy”. The Kyrie is the first prayer of the whole congregation in the service. It is a cry for mercy, asking God to hear us and help us.
Gloria in Excelsis
The Latin words “Gloria in Excelsis” mean “Glory in the highest”. The Gloria is the traditional hymn of praise. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14).
The salutation is a special greeting between the congregation and its pastor (or other worship leader). It announces that God’s word is coming in the readings that will follow. “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.” (II Timothy 4:22)
Prayer of the Day
This prayer changes from week to week, and is often influenced by the scripture readings that will follow it.
Each Sunday, we will hear a lesson from the:
These readings teach us about God’s work with his chosen people, from creation to the prophesies of the Messiah to come.
Most of the psalms involve the praise of God—for his power and beneficence, for his creation of the world, and for his past acts of deliverance for Israel. The psalms envision a world in which everyone and everything will praise God, and God in turn will hear their prayers and respond. We often read the Psalms responsively, with the worship leader reading one line and the congregation reading the next.
Acts, Epistles or Revelation
Acts recounts the early history of Christianity. After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Twelve Apostles began to preach and minister in a variety of locations. Acts relates some of their stories and depicts the growth of the Christian religion. The second half of Acts focuses on Paul, an anti-Christian who later converts and becomes a missionary. Epistles are books of the New Testament that take the form of a letter from an apostle. The thirteen epistles traditionally attributed to Paul are addressed to various communities and deal with philosophical and social issues facing new Christians. The seven general epistles are attributed to various authors and are addressed to a general Christian audience, rather than the specific communities addressed in Paul’s Epistles. The last book of the bible is Revelation. In it, John describes his visions of the end of the world, including symbolic depictions of the last judgement and the heavenly Jerusalem.
The first four books of the New Testament are the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each Gospel tells the life story of Jesus. The first three Gospels -- Matthew, Mark and Luke -- are similar in content and structure. Because of this, they are grouped and labeled the “Synoptic Gospels.” Compared to the Synoptics, the book of John has markedly different subject material and organization.
The Gospel reading is the most important part of the service of the word, and we recognize this by surrounding it with songs of praise, and by standing during the reading.
Having heard the Word of God, we confess our faith by reading one of the church’s historic creeds—typically the Nicene or Apostles’ creed. By saying these words the express the unity in our faith, the same faith the church as confessed throughout the world and across the ages.
In the sermon, the pastor or other worship leader speaks of God’s judgement and God’s grace. Sermons are usually based on the scripture readings for that day, and are rarely longer than fifteen minutes.
Notice that the offering comes after God has first given us something: his forgiveness through the sermon. St. John rights, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This is always how it is: God gives first, we respond. Our offerings and gifts come in the same order, they are a response to God’s message of forgiveness. We acknowledge that everything we have in this life comes from him. While we have worked to earn our paycheck, the abilities to work and think come from him, as do the blessings that we receive even though we have not worked for them (family, talents, etc.). And so we do not view our offerings as obligations, or a form of appeasement, or “priming the pump” (in order to get more in return). We offer them in thanksgiving for his forgiveness.
Prayer of the Church
In the Prayer of the Church, we pray for the needs of the world, the Church, the congregation, and other concerns. Because so much of the world needs God’s grace, this prayer is usually the longest in the service. All are invited to participate in the prayer by responding with “Hear our prayer”.
If there is no Holy Communion, the service concludes with the Lord’s Prayer, a Hymn, and the Benediction (see below).
Service of the Sacrament/Holy Communion
Holy Communion begins with an exhortation, which explains what we must do to prepare for and to receive the sacrament: Believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the bread and wine. Trust that Jesus forgives our sins. Take. Eat. Drink. Do this in remembrance of Jesus.
When we repent, believe these words and do as Christ commands, then we have rightly examined ourselves and may worthily come to the Lord’s table for the forgiveness of all of our sins. In response to receiving the sacrament, we should give thanks to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for this great gift, love one another, and with the whole Christian church take comfort and joy in Christ our Lord.
Preface and Proper Preface
The preface follows the exhortation. The first part does not change, but the second part, the Proper Preface, does change depending on the season or festival day of the church year. At the end of the preface, the worship leader says “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven…”. This reminds us that every time we worship, we join the angelic choirs and saints of every age in their ongoing heavenly worship of Jesus.
The Sanctus is the angelic hymn described in Isaiah 6: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” In this scripture passage, the seraphim are gathered around the throne of God, proclaiming his holiness. By singing the Sanctus, the congregation participates in the heavenly chorus.
The Lord’s Prayer is the primary prayer of the Christian Church, given by Jesus in both the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew and in the Gospel of Luke (in response to one of his disciples saying to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’).
Words of Institution
The pastor or other worship leader speaks the words Jesus spoke when he instituted Holy Communion. These words consecrate or set apart the bread and wine for God’s special use.
Agnus Dei is Latin for “Lamb of God”. By singing this great communion hymn, we, acknowledge Jesus as the lamb of God, just as John the Baptist did in John 1:29: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Distribution of the Bread and Wine
In our church, all adults who have been baptized and believe in our Lord Jesus Christ may partake of the elements during communion. If you wish to participate and are able to come forward, please walk down the center aisle and join us at the communion rail (when directed to do so by the usher). Hold out your hands to receive the bread. If you have limited mobility, remain in your per and raise your hand. The elements will be brought to you before people start assembling at the rail. Children and youth that have been confirmed may also partake of the elements. If you do not wish to participate, you may either remain in your pew or come forward and cross your arms in front of you at the rail. The pastor will give you a blessing. Children that have not yet been confirmed may join their families at the rail and will receive a blessing. Following the distribution of the bread and wine, the pastor or other worship leader will dismiss each group with a blessing. Please return to your pew using the aisles closest to the windows.
Nunc Dimittis is Latin for “now let [your servant] depart.” This canticle comes from the song of Simeon in the Gospel of Luke: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’” (Luke 2:25-32)
A prayer follows the distribution of the elements and the singing of the Nunc Dimittis. We give thanks for the gift we have just received, and ask that God strengthen us in faith toward him through that gift.
Benedicamus means “we bless” or “we praise” in Latin.
Just as the service begins with the name of God, the service ends with the blessing of God. After all, after being forgiven for our sins, hearing God’s Word in Scripture and sermon, approaching God through prayer, thanking God for what He has given us, and receiving Christ’s body and blood in Communion, how could we not be blessed? The Benediction, then, is an affirmation of everything that has taken place in the worship service. We have been blessed by the Lord, and as we go forth from weekend worship, we will continue to be blessed by the Lord. The words we use for the benediction are ancient. Leviticus 9:22 and Deuteronomy 10:8 and 21:5 mention Aaron or the other priests blessing the Israelites. The text to be used for the blessing is specified in Numbers 6:24–26: " The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." This is the oldest known Biblical text that has been found; amulets with these verses written on them have been found in graves at Ketef Hinnom, dating from the First Temple Period.