We are happy to have you with us for our worship service at St. John’s Ev. LutheranChurch.We have prepared this webpage to assist you in understanding the Law / Gospel message of our liturgical service.It is also our goal to lead you to a greater appreciation of the rich spiritual blessings that flow from our liturgy.May the Holy Spirit bless your time of worship with us in God’s house.
An Explanation of our Liturgical Worship Service
SERVICE OF THE WORD
AS YOU PREPARE to worship realize that there are two sides to our worship service.The first is sometimes called Sacramental – God’s actions: God acts, God speaks, God forgives.The other is called Sacrificial.This is our response to God’s forgiving actions in Christ: we pray, we praise, we give thanks and we sing.
RINGING OF THE BELLS: Our service begins with the ringing of our bells.This serves as an announcement to our worshippers and our community that it is time for the worship our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES:With the lighting of the candles, we recognize God’s presence in our midst.“God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
ENTRANCE HYMN:The first hymn is sometimes called the Entrance Hymn.It draws our thoughts from the concerns of life and directs them to the majesty of our Triune God.Singing this hymn helps to bind us together for worship.The Apostle Paul speaks about Christians singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God in worship (Colossians ).Many of our hymns are prayers, while others are confessions of faith.
Often the Entrance Hymn is a seasonal hymn or a hymn of invitation to worship.The Entrance Hymn boldly announces, “Christ is here.” ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
INVOCATION: The words of the invocation, also known as the Apostolic Blessing, are a quote from the Apostle Paul’s final greeting to the Corinthian Christians (2 Corinthians 13:14). With these first words of the liturgy we acknowledge that the focus of our worship is the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These words serve as a blessing of grace to His people. The congregation repeats this blessing to the pastor by saying, “And also with you.”
CONFESSION OF SINS: As we approach the Lord in worship, we sense a wide gulf between the holiness of God and our sinful nature. Therefore, here at the beginning of the service, we want to lay our sinful nature and our sinful actions on Jesus. We desire the assurance that because of Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death and glorious resurrection, God does not condemn us for our wickedness, but forgives and cancels out the guilt of our sin.
ABSOLUTION: After the confession of sins, the pastor extends to the people of God the joyous word of God’s forgiveness. This announcement is called the “Absolution.” Our Lord Jesus Christ gave His Church the special right and privilege to bind the sins of impenitent people and to forgive those who repent. We call this right and privilege the “Ministry of the Keys.” Pronouncing the absolution is the privilege of every Christian according to Jesus’ command, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven” (John 20:23). In the public worship service our pastor is called upon to declare God’s grace and forgiveness in the absolution.
After the absolution is spoken by the pastor, the people of God speak one simple word, “Amen.” With this short word we say that we believe and take to heart the good news of God’s forgiveness in Christ.
SONG OF PRAISE: After receiving the announcement of God’s forgiveness, we hear the pastor remind the worshippers of the peace that forgiveness of sins instills in the hearts of believers. Such peace leads God’s people to join together in the Song of Praise, “O Taste and See.”
PRAYER OF THE DAY: Following the Song of Praise, the pastor invites the worshippers to pray with the introductory words, “Let us pray.” The Prayer of the Day is a shorter prayer, consistent in format, which crystallizes the theme of the worship service and introduces the subject matter of the day’s Scripture readings. The prayer ends with thewell-known formula: “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you [the Father] and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” Special attention is drawn to the words “who lives” because these words remind us of the resurrection of Jesus, the reason for our worship and our prayers. At the conclusion of the Prayer of the Day, the congregation joins in singing, “Amen.” “Amen” means “Yes, so shall it be!” We use this word “Amen” to express agreement with what has been said and as a declaration of our faith that God will certainly accomplish what He promises.
THE WORD: God tells us in the Bible that His Word is living, active and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). It gives life when it is read, preached and believed. God’s law, which points out our sin, leads us to repentance and greater faith. God’s Gospel, which reveals Jesus as our Savior from sin, fills us with joyful gladness as we are assured of our forgiveness in Christ.
THE PSALM OF THE DAY: The singing of Christian hymns has its roots in the Book of Psalms, which served as the hymnal for Old Testament believers. The various Psalms may either by sung or spoken as they help worshippers express their sorrow over sin and their joy in the light of God’s forgiveness.
EPISTLE LESSON: The Epistle (a word meaning “letter”) is from one of the 13 New Testament letters of the Apostle Paul or another apostle. These lessons often stress Christian teaching, Christian faith, and Christian living.
GOSPEL LESSON: As a show of honor to our Savior, we stand for the reading of the Gospel. This lesson is taken from one of the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Christ is the central message of the Gospel – His life; His words of Law and Gospel; His sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension; His blessing and commission to go and tell the good news; and His promise to return as Judge of the living and the dead. The purpose of the Gospel lesson is stated by John, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
HYMN OF THE DAY: The next hymn is called the “Hymn of the Day.” This hymn may be closely related to the theme of the worship service, Scripture readings, sermon text or season of the church year.
SERMON: The Sermon is not a lecture; it is a proclamation of the power and counsel of God. The purpose of the Sermon is to use the Word of God (the Law) to point out specific sin in the lives of God’s people with the desire of leading sinners to repentance. Even more importantly than the use of the Law in the Sermon is the use of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus. The Gospel reveals Jesus as the Son of God who came to be a Substitute for sinners. He lived a perfect life in their place. He died an innocent death in their place. He rose from the dead to assure them of their own resurrection from the dead. The message of God’s Word in the Sermon heals the deep wounds of sin, assures believers of their permanent home in heaven, and motivates thankful living on earth.
APOSTLES’ CREED: After hearing the lessons and the sermon we stand to confess our faith in the Triune God. The words of the Apostles’ Creed, spoken as a public confession, not a prayer, summarize what the apostles taught and believed about Jesus Christ. Christians have been joining together since the first century to confess God’s truth about Himself and His plan of salvation in Christ.
OFFERING: We have heard God’s Word and confessed our faith in Him, now as a congregation of believers we gather our thank offerings and place them on the Lord’s altar. These offerings are fruits of faith. The offering is a time to bring the best of our treasures to God in thanksgiving for what He has done for us in Christ. Our offerings are gathered during the worship service because they are a part of our worship life. They are to be used for the work of sharing the good news of Jesus with others.
OFFERTORY: As the offerings are being gathered the organist plays an offering of music to the praise and thanks of our God for His many blessings.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH AND LORD’S PRAYER: In the Prayer of the Church we pray for the needs of the Christian Church on earth, for God’s blessings on our local congregations, for the welfare of the nations of the world, for the success of the worthy institutions of society, and for the support of those with special needs. This prayer and others like it are sometimes spoken responsively. Also included in the prayer is a place for special intercessions (the sick, the hospitalized, missionaries, schools, anniversaries, etc.). Additionally, there is an opportunity for silent prayer, when we can bring our personal concerns to the throne of God. The Lord’s Prayer follows after the Prayer of the Church. This prayer, taught by Jesus, summaries so well the priorities God would have us remember in our prayers.
HYMN: After the prayers, a hymn is sung which often emphasizes the main message of the sermon, worship theme, or the season of the church year.
CLOSING PRAYER: The closing prayer acknowledges what God has accomplished in our hearts through the Gospel. It asks for God’s guidance through life to eternity. As the prayer ends, we join in singing “Amen” with boldness and joy.
BLESSING: Before leaving we are called brothers and sisters in Christ. That is the unique relationship that we cherish because of Christ. As brothers and sisters in Christ we will encourage each other, pray for each other, work with and support each other in the Gospel ministry. God’s blessings, grace and peace are then extended over the worshippers as they are dismissed. They sing “Amen, Amen, Amen” to affirm the blessing and their intentions.
CLOSING HYMN: The closing hymn is sometimes used as a concluding prayer thanking God for His grace and asking the Lord for His continued blessings.
Standing or Sitting: In a culture that prefers a passive spectator approach to worship, our practice of standing and sitting at various times throughout the service may seem odd to some. And yet, while not mandated by God, it means to communicate some important attitudes in worship. If we are physically able, we stand at the beginning of the service out of respect, much as we would stand to welcome a president or king, in this case, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the King of heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ. During the confession of sins and other prayers we stand to express reverence rather than relaxation. At the hearing of the Gospel we stand of out a heightened sense of reverence for the very words of Jesus.
Facing the altar / facing the people: The worship leader’s role is to lead the people of God in worshipping His holy name. When a portion of the liturgical service addresses or speaks to our holy God (for example: confession of sins, prayers and songs of praise) the worship leader will face the altar of God. When God, through the called pastor, speaks to His people (for example: absolution, Scripture readings, the blessing) the worship leader will face the people as he speaks.
How are the Scripture readings chosen? Usually a regular worship service has several readings. One reading is chosen from the New Testament Epistles; one reading is chosen from the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Every Sunday of the Church year has an assigned set of readings for that particular Sunday. This group of readings is called a pericope. The pericope usually centers around the events of the Christian Church year (for example: the pericope for the first Sunday in Lent centers on Jesus’ temptation) or the pericope centers on a theme (for example: the theme for the pericope for Pentecost 10 is prayer). See pages 163-166 in the hymnal for several of the various pericopes that may be used.
Liturgy: The word liturgy means “service” or “work of the people.” In a very real sense our whole life as Christians is to be our liturgy, our work, our service to God. When Christians gather for worship the larger liturgy of our whole Christian life comes into joyful focus as we join together in the worship and praise of our God. The work of the people is praising their God.
Paraments: The paraments of our church are the different colored pieces of fine cloth that adorn our altar, pulpit and lectern. The stoles of the pastor correspond to the color of the paraments. The color of the paraments changes from one season of the church year to the next. White symbolizes the color of the godhead and eternity; the color of the robe of the glorified Christ and of the angels and saints in heaven; the color of perfection, joy and purity. Red symbolizes the color of fire, fervor, blood, martyrdom, victorious truth of Christian teaching based on the blood of Christ. Green symbolizes the color of life and nourishment; the basic color of nature. Purple is the color of royal mourning and repentance. Gold is the color of royalty, riches and victory.