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The Divine Service

An Explanation of The Divine Service

I rejoice with those who said to me, "Let us go to the House of the Lord." . . .Psalm 122:1


The Lutheran Church is a "liturgical" church.

We follow a very orderly, and well-thought out form of worship. You may or may not be familiar with this, so we thought it would be helpful to give you a very brief summary of the Lutheran Liturgical Service.

(There may at times be variations to this form.)


·         Processional Hymn

·         The Confession of sins

·         The Absolution (God's statement of forgiveness)



Kyrie (Lord have mercy), Gloria in Excelsis


Our thankful response in Confession of Faith, prayer and offerings


Preface and Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy)


The Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Lords Benediction (blessing)

Recessional Hymn


Following the tradition of the early Christians we conduct God's Service on Sunday morning. Our service is held at 10:30 a.m.

The Church regards Sunday as the 8th day, the day of a new creation, of new birth. On the 6th day God finished His first creation, the 7th day He rested, as did man as He rested in God’s grace and worshiped His creator. Life begins afresh on the 8th day.  Compare that to Christ. On Good Friday He died to redeem His creation. On Saturday He rested in the grave. On Sunday, the 8th day, He rose from the dead and restored life to fallen mankind. Thus Sunday becomes the day for New Testament Christians to worship, not just because Jesus rose, but also because it is the day of a "new creation". We enter this "day" through Holy Baptism (Note: 8 were saved in the flood) and continue this "day" through preaching and the Sacrament (Holy Communion).

We also follow a "church year".



·         Advent - Season of repentance and fasting in preparation for Christ's coming

·         12 Days of Christmas - Christ's nativity, his circumcision, His epiphany by a star to the Magi and his baptism.

·         The Sundays of Epiphany - Focus on Jesus as the "God who became flesh".


·         Pre-lent and Lent - Season of repentance and fasting in preparation for Holy Week

·         Holy Week - Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

·         50 Days of Easter - Christ's Resurrection, Christ's Ascension, Pentecost

·         The "green" Sundays after Pentecost - Celebrate the life-giving words and works of Christ.


The Liturgical colors we use express the spirit of the season, in which they are used:

·         White: Joy, victory, purity

·         Purple: Sorrow, repentance

·         Red: Fire (Holy Spirit) and Blood (the struggle of discipleship)

·         Green: Life of Christ

·         Black: Christ's Death 

Special Services At St. John's . . .

·         The Sacrament of Holy Communion is celebrated at all Sunday services. Unless noted otherwise, Sunday Services start at 10:30 a.m.; Evening services start at 7 p.m.

·         The Christmas Season

o    Christmas Eve Candlelight Service (7:00 p.m.)

o    Christmas Day Service (9:30 AM)

·         The Lenten Season

o    Ash Wednesday Service (7:00 p.m.) with the imposition of ashes

o    Lenten Services - Wednesday evenings, starting with Ash Wednesday and continuing through the six weeks of lent.  (7:00 p.m.)

·         Holy Week - Triduum

o    Maundy Thursday Service (7:00 p.m.)

o    Good Friday Services:

      • Tre-Ore Service of prayer and meditation (12 noon ‘til 3:00 p.m.)
      • Evening Service (7:00 p.m.)

o    The Great Vigil / Festival of Easter (9:00 a.m.)

·         Thanksgiving Eve Service (7:00 p.m.)

We invite and encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to meet your Lord and to receive His gracious blessings of forgiveness, life and salvation!


“God’s Service” is what we Lutherans have traditionally called what happens on Sunday morning, and it describes it well – God serves us with His gifts, and we respond in faith, praise and prayer. The term “worship: that is often used to describe the service does not give the whole picture. Worship is a secondary purpose of the service. Worship is what we offer God. The most important aspect to God’s Service, however, is that God gives us His gifts, and through these gifts the Holy Spirit imparts faith to us and instills the Living Christ that Christ might dwell within us. The highest worship is faith, which responds in prayer and praise. The service, then, is indeed God’s work. He gives and enables us to receive. Dr. Martin Luther reminds us that forgiveness was won on the cross but we do not receive it there. Rather God dispenses His gifts through his Word preached and the Sacraments administered.

The Order of Service that we use at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church consists of three parts, which correspond to the ways God in Christ comes to us in Baptism, in the Word and in the Sacrament. These parts are labeled the PREPARATION, the SERVICE OF THE WORD, and the SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION. The order is printed below in bold print, while the explanation follows in italics.



PROCESSIONAL HYMN                                                                          (
Colossians 3:16)

Hearts made alive by the Holy Spirit sing. Music is not only the domain of the expert but is the language of the Church. The Processional Hymn will be chosen either to fit the theme of the day, or it may be a general hymn or one invoking the work of the Holy Spirit. The Congregation sings this hymn to honor Christ, who now humbles Himself to speak to us and act on our behalf through the mouth and hands of His ordained minister.


P: In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.    (Matthew 28:19)

C: Amen.

In Baptism God adopted us into His family. In Baptism God put His Name- Father, Son and Holy Spirit- on us. In Baptism our sinful nature was drowned and a new man came forth, clothed in Christ. The font is indeed our “tomb and womb”. We appropriately begin the service by going back to our Baptism. The pastor, as at our Baptism, makes the sign of the holy cross over us. In Baptism we are buried with Christ into his death – we receive the benefit of that death: the forgiveness of sins, and we are also united with Him in His resurrection. We receive a new life. Thus it is a laudable custom to cross yourself at this point in the service, and whenever the sign + is found. Signing oneself with the cross preceded the use of a cross in the ancient church. The church responds with her: “Amen” – a Hebrew word meaning “truth”. God gives, we respond.

CONFESSION                                                                                              (1 John 1:8-9)

P: Beloved in the Lord; let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins to God our Father, asking Him in the name of our Lord *Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.

C: Holy and merciful Father, I confess that I am by nature sinful and that I have disobeyed you in my thoughts, words, and actions.  I have done what is evil and failed to do what is good. For this I deserve Your punishment both now and in eternity. But I am truly sorry for my sins, and trusting in my Savior *Jesus Christ, I pray: Lord have mercy on me a sinner.

To confess is to acknowledge what you know to be true. From the Holy Scriptures we acknowledge that we have sinned in thought, word and deed, because we’ve been sinful from the moment we were conceived. And yet we also acknowledge that God is gracious and merciful and will forgive us for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ.

Then in the name and in the stead of Christ, our pastor forgives our sins. The Lutheran Confessions teach that this Absolution is the “voice of God” and that the “voice of one absolving must be believed not otherwise than we would believe a voice from heaven.” Unconditional forgiveness is ours!

 Historically, the Confession of sins was not a part of the service but was done privately and individually. Unlike in the Church of Rome private confession is not mandatory, nor is it required that we enumerate our sins. Rather we offer this “third Sacrament” for the sake of the Absolution, because of its individual application of forgiveness. The Lutheran Confessions teach that it would be “wicked to remove private absolution from the church.” Thus the members of St. Johnl’s are encouraged to practice it. Rest assured, that your confession will be held in absolute confidence. The Pastor will never reveal it to anyone, since this is a confession to Christ, not to him.

LORD, HAVE MERCY    The Kyrie                                                          (Mark 10:47)

C: Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

The “Kyrie”, as it is called (Lord, have mercy) is the prayer of the church for the blessings of her God, in whose presence She has now come.

ABSOLUTION                                                                                             (John 20:21-23)

P: God, our heavenly Father, has been merciful to us and has given His only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Therefore, as a called and ordained servant of Christ and by his authority and in His stead, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

C: Amen.


P:        In the peace of His forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

GLORY BE TO GOD   Gloria in Excelsis                                                   (Luke 2:14)

C: Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. We praise you, we bless you, we worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your 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, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. You take away the sin of the world; receive our prayer. You sit at the right hand of God the Father; have mercy on us. For you only are holy; you only are the Lord. You only, O Christ, with the Holy Spirit, are most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

The Gloria in Excelsis” (Glory be to God on high) – the great hymn of praise. For in the absolution we heard the voice of God and with grateful hearts we sing with angels the song first heard in the skies over Bethlehem. Dr. Luther reminds us that “the Gloria in Excelsis” did not grow, nor was it made on earth, but it came down from heaven.” Faith expresses itself in praise, praise in the strictest sense, praise which extols God. It is not an expression of my emotions but a proclamation of who God is and what he has done.


P: The Lord be with you.

C: And with your spirit.

The pastor does not simply wish the Lord to be with you, but through his ministrations the Lord is with you. The congregation responds with what is sometimes referred to as “the little ordination” – the assurance that the pastor has the authority to act in the stead of Christ, for God is with him by virtue of his ordination.

P: Let us pray:  The Pastor prays the Prayer of the Day (Collect)

C: Amen.


The Old Testament Reading 

    P: The Word of the Lord.

    P: Thanks be to God.

The Psalmody

The Epistle Reading

    P: The Word of the Lord.

    P: Thanks be to God.

With confession and prayer, together we are now prepared to hear God in his Word. Throughout the year portions of Scripture are read to cover the theme for each Sunday. More often than not, the 1st Readings are taken from the Old Testament (though in the Easter Season they may come from the Acts of the Apostles) and have a direct connection with the Gospel.


P: The continuation of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ according to St. (Mathew/Mark/Luke/John).

C: Glory be to you, O Lord.


 P: The Gospel of our Lord.

C: Praise be to you, O Christ.

In the reading and preaching of the Gospel of the day we come to the first “high point” of the Service. It begins with the Verse. That Christ will come and speak now to his people leads the church to respond with her “alleluia” – the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew “hallelujah!” meaning, “Praise the Lord!”

Christ is coming we were told in the Old Testament Reading. Indeed, He comes and we hear His voice in the living Gospel. To show the “Word made flesh” dwells with us in His Gospel, the Pastor may read it in the midst of the congregation, and, after introducing it, we stand and sing, “Glory be to you, O Lord” – a fitting greeting for the Incarnate One, whom we shall not simply hear about, but actually hear. The Gospel is read and we in joy sing, “Praise be to you, O Christ.”


We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord *Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven, * was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. On the third day He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated on the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who in unity with the Father and the Son is * worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the + life of the world to come. Amen.

Having heard the Word of God, the church repeats what She heard, as She confesses with the whole Church the one, true Faith. This is what we believe. The creed is not a prayer, but a confession of our Faith before God and the world. The sign of the cross may be made at the end indicating the cross or persecution that the Christian must bear because of his confession, the cross of which Jesus spoke when he told his disciples to “take up the cross and follow me.” This is the creed for which some have given up their lives. Also in the creed we have an instrument to check the orthodoxy of what the pastor preaches. This is the reason why it is placed before the sermon.


This is the only hymn, which is not sung to cover up movement in the service, but rather its purpose is to proclaim the Gospel that was read and preached.


Also known as “preaching of the Gospel”, since its function is to deliver the Gospel to those who are present. Clearly this is not entertainment or even education (although we do learn), but it is a time of proclamation and application. Here the Law of God is proclaimed, which law accuses, convicts, condemns and kills. Here the Gospel is proclaimed, which Gospel absolves, forgives, redeems and makes alive. Thus the sermon prepares for the Sacrament; it forms a bridge between the Gospel in the Word and the Gospel in the Sacrament.


The offering is not simply a collection so that we can pay the bills. We give “from”, not “to”. We give from a heart of love and dedication and from what God has given us in proportion to our faith and our blessings. The offering is an act of worship. Money is not a dirty subject in the church, but a tangible means of showing our faith and love; it is an acknowledgement that all we have comes from God and it is the means by which we support the Gospel ministry. Historically, during this time both the monetary gifts, as well as gifts of food for the poor and the gifts of bread and wine to be used in the Lord’s Supper, were brought up to the chancel and laid on the Altar.


At this time the bread and wine are uncovered / placed on the Altar to be consecrated for use in the Sacrament.

THE PRAYER OF THE CHURCH                                              (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Prayer is repeating back to God in faith what he has said to us. He has through the mouth of his ordained minister said that we are his forgiven children in Christ; that as such he loves and will care for us and so will cause all things to work for our good. Therefore we now respond by asking him for his care and blessings. The Prayer of the Church, is based on St. Paul’s admonition to Timothy, “I urge you, 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” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).



P: The Lord be with you.

C: And also with you.

P: Lift up your hearts.

C: We lift them up unto the Lord.

P: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.

C: It is good and right so to do.

This is called the “preface”. With these brief but majestic phrases we have a solemn introduction, which leads us to the heart of the service. This is the oldest and least changed part of the liturgy, used universally by the church since AD 220.

The “little ordination” is repeated, as again the pastor is about to act in the stead of Christ. We are then asked to “lift up our hearts”, for we have no reason to fear the God whom we are about to approach in this Sacrament, since he comes to bless us. The use of the plural is purposeful; we are gathering as one body to receive the Body of Christ. Solemnly we acknowledge the appropriateness of thanks for the blessings we are about to receive.

P: It is truly good, right and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to you, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God (seasonal response). Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify your glorious name, evermore praising you and saying:

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY  Sanctus                                           Isaiah 6:3; Matthew 21:9

C: Holy, holy, holy Lord God of heavenly hosts: heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he, blessed is he, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest!

We are asked to give thanks for this great gift we are about to receive. The name “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word for “thanks”. In one of the most sublime and comforting portions of the liturgy we join with all Christians in heaven and on earth to sing this song the angels sing in heaven, called the “Sanctus”. This song also incorporates the song with which Jesus was greeted when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. “Hosanna!” – “Lord, save us!” For the Son of David is coming to be with us and to give himself to us in the Sacrament!


Acknowledging to God both what Jesus did on the cross for us and what he does in and through the Sacrament, we pray that he will send the Holy Spirit with the gift of faith to embrace Christ’s real, physical presence under the consecrated bread and wine.

P: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, from Your tender mercy You gave Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption. By the one oblation of Himself, once offered, He made there a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. And in His Holy Gospel, He instituted and commanded us to celebrate a perpetual remembrance of His precious death until He comes again.

The Pastor then says:

For our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” The Pastor genuflects, then elevates the Host, after which he genuflects a second time.

In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” The Pastor genuflects, then elevates the Cup, after which he genuflects a second time.

The Lutheran Confessions in speaking about the consecration quote Luther: When in the Supper we say, according to (Christ’s) institution and command: ‘This is my Body,’ it is his Body, not on account of our speaking or word uttered (because these words, when uttered have this efficacy), but because of His command – that He has commanded us thus to speak and do, and has united His command and act with our speaking.” Here the true Body and true Blood of Christ are present, distributed and received for the forgiveness of sins. In early Lutheranism, when the liturgy was sung in its entirety, the Verba (words of institution) were sung in the same key as the Gospel to show that the Sacrament is pure Gospel. The Eucharistic Prayer now continues:

Therefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, according to the institution of Your dearly beloved Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, we Your humble servants celebrate and make here, before Your divine majesty, with these Your holy gifts, the commemoration Your Son has willed us to make. Remembering His blessed Passion, mighty Resurrection and glorious Ascension, we give You most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits which He has procured for us.

And of Your almighty goodness we most humbly beseech You, O merciful Father, to hear us. And send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon Your gifts of bread and wine, and bless them and hallow them; and show that this bread is the precious Body of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ; and this cup is the precious Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, which was shed for the life of the world.

Earnestly desiring Your fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving: we most humbly beseech You to grant that, by the merits and death of Your Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His Blood, we and Your whole Church may obtain remission of our sins and all other benefits of His Passion.

And here we offer and present to You, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto You. We humbly beseech You that all who partake of this Holy Communion may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of Your Son Jesus Christ, and be filled with Your grace and heavenly benediction, and being made one body with Him, may dwell in Him, even as He dwells in them.

And although we are unworthy, because of our many sins, to offer You any sacrifice; yet we beseech You to accept this our bounden duty and service. And command that our prayers and supplications, by the ministry of Your holy angels, may be brought to Your holy tabernacle before the sight of Your divine majesty, not weighing our merits but pardoning our offenses through Christ our Lord. Amen.


P: Remembering, holy Father, his life-giving Passion and Death, his Resurrection from the dead, and his glorious Ascension into heaven, we celebrate the sacrifice of your Son, our Lord, by means of his holy Supper. Join our prayers with those of your servants of every time and place, and unite them in the ceaseless petitions of our great High Priest, until he comes again in power and great glory as victorious Lord of all.

C: Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.

The “Prayer of Remembrance”, also called the “Anamnesis” – from the Greek meaning “remembrance”, together with the “Acclamation” is to honor the command of our Lord, who said, “Do this in remembrance of me – that is, with faith in all that I have done for you. ”’

P: Taught by our Lord and trusting his promise, we are bold to pray:

THE LORD’S PRAYER                                                                 Matthew 6:9-13

C: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily Bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from + evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

We are about to kneel at the Lord’s Table to receive his Body and Blood, and so we pray our “Table Prayer” – the one perfect prayer for the one perfect meal, since the Lord himself gave it to us.


P: Deliver us, O Lord, we beseech you, from every evil past, present and to come; and graciously grant peace in our days by Your compassionate aid, we may ever be free from all sin and sheltered from all turmoil, through Jesus Christ, you Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.

C: Amen.

P: The peace of the Lord *Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, be with you always.

C: Amen.

When our resurrected Lord came to his disciples who were huddled behind locked doors for fear of the Jews, he drove away their fear with his word of peace. This peace comes from the forgiveness of sins, which appeases God’s wrath and restores us into a loving relationship with him again. And since this forgiveness, won on Calvary, is given in the Sacrament, so is this peace.

O CHRIST, LAMB OF GOD      Agnus Dei                                               (John 1:29)

C: O Christ, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. O Christ, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. O Christ, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; grant us your peace. Amen.

When St. John the Baptizer saw Jesus at the Jordan he identified him as “the Lamb of God” – the fulfillment of the Passover lambs – “who takes away the sin of the world.” The Lamb of God is now present on the Altar to do this very thing and in so doing to have mercy on us and grant us his peace.

We have now come to the second “high point” of the service. In the preaching of the Gospel Christ is put into our ears. In the Sacrament he is put into our mouths.


Dr. Luther, in answer to the complaint that one doesn’t need the Sacrament because one has all ready been forgiven in the Absolution, said, “So what! To receive God’s Word in many ways is so much better.” We look at ourselves in the light of God’s Law and we look at what is being offered in this precious meal, and we have our answer as to whether we should approach the Lord’s Table or not.

The properly instructed, prepared and penitent approach the Lord’s Table; the pastor places the Body of Christ on outstretched tongues and gives them to drink of the Blood of Christ. The sign of the holy cross may be made at the dismissal as a physical reminder that I have received Christ and the benefits of his redemptive work.

SONG OF SIMEON  Nunc Dimittis                                                              (Luke 2:29-32)

C: Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word. For my eyes have seen our Salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people, a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel!

Promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ, the prophet Simeon sang this song, as he held the Christ-child in his arms. Now he could depart- that is die- in peace. We, too, have seen and touched and even tasted Christ by means of this Sacrament. Thus we may depart in peace, even if that means death itself.

P: O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

C: And his mercy endures forever.

It is fitting that we give a prayer of thanks to the Lord, who has refreshed our bodies and souls by means of this holy Sacrament. Dr. Luther said that as Christ has offered himself, his very Body, to us, so the Christian offers himself, his very body, to his neighbor. “As we have eaten and drunk the Body and Blood of Christ, we in turn say the same words to our neighbor – take, eat and drink – and this by no means in jest, but in all seriousness, meaning to offer yourself with all your life, even as Christ did with all that he had. If it is necessary for me to die for you, I will even do that.”


THE BENEDICTION                                                                      (Numbers 6:24-26)

P: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with his favor and give you peace.

The blessing of Aaron is more than a pious wish. It is God’s own promise to his people, a pronouncement of his protection and love.

C: Amen. Amen. Amen.

At the beginning of the service we were reminded that the Lord put his name on us at our Baptism. He redeemed us and we became his possession, no longer the possession of Satan. At the end of the service God again puts his name on us and we respond with a triple “Amen” for the bountiful blessings of the Triune God. The Father has blessed us in Christ through the Holy Spirit in Baptism, in the preaching of his Word, and in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Renewed, refreshed and strengthened in the forgiveness of sins, we go back out into the world to resume our various callings.


The congregation stands to thank and honor the Christ who served his people through the mouth and hands of his ordained minister.