Our Sunday service is called the “Divine Service” because in it our God comes to us with His gifts and we come to Him with our prayers and gifts. The service is “divine” because in it we meet with and hear from and receive life from our great God and Savior. It is not so much that we have something to give Him as that He has so much to give us. That’s why we go to church – the Divine Service.
In the Divine Service God gives us His gifts. He speaks to us and is with us, just as Isaiah predicted that He would be Immanuel, “God with us,” when He was born for us at Bethlehem.
Preaching and how to listen to it:
The Bible is God’s Word. Our pastors teach you what the Bible says and encourage you in the life Christ gives you. In preaching God’s ministers unfold the meaning of God’s Word, not their opinions, God’s will, not their preferences. In the sermon you will hear God’s truth applied to your life so that you might have hope for now and forever in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord’s Supper and how to receive it:
In the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion our Lord Jesus Christ is physically present for us and with us just as He promises, “This is My Body…This is My Blood.” That’s why our church takes the Lord’s Supper so seriously – God Himself is present. That’s why:
- We kneel (if able) to receive the Lord’s Supper
- We are silent when Christ’s Words of Institution are chanted
- We say “Amen!” when we are served Christ’s Body and Christ’s Blood from the pastor
- We prepare ourselves through confessing our sins and receiving God’s forgiveness early in the Divine Service
- We ask guests and inquirers to talk to the pastor before approaching the rail to receive the Lord’s Supper
Sacrament and Sacrifice:
In the Divine Service God is with us, and we are with Him. Whenever the family gathers, the Father with His children, everyone has something to give, something in which the other delights. When God gives to us, that is called a “sacramental” act, and when we give something to God, as a child might give his poorly drawn picture to his father but the father is nonetheless delighted to have that drawing, that is called a “sacrificial” act.
The way to tell the difference between the two in the Service is to look at which way the pastor is facing. If he is facing toward the congregation, as when he forgives our sins in Christ’s Name, reads the Word of God to us, preaches God’s Word in the sermon or feeds us with Christ’s Body and Blood, those are the sacramental acts, where God is giving us Himself and all His gifts. When the pastor is facing toward the front of the church (called the “chancel,” at the center of which is the altar and the cross of Christ or “crucifix”), like when he is praying on our behalf or presenting the congregation’s offerings, that is a “sacrificial” act, a small sacrifice of our prayers or our gifts for the sake of our God and His work.
Why the Liturgy?
Redeemer’s worship follows the historic liturgy of the Church. We are known as a musical church that boldly sings the great liturgy and hymns that reflect the reverence, dignity, and joy of the Christian confession.
The order the Divine Service follows is called the “liturgy.” It’s a simple, clear, and ancient way that Christians have worshipped for centuries and centuries. We follow that way because it is one of the best ever found in the church’s history to receive God’s gifts. We could organize things in other ways, but the liturgy keeps us on track: God’s Word and God’s Body and Blood stay at the center – where they belong. Our preferences, interests, and hobbyhorses have little to no room in the liturgy, and that’s all to the good.
What the service means
The whole Divine Service is built on the Bible. If you look in the book we use for worship, our hymnal, you will find each part of the Service has one or more Bible passages that explain where that part comes from – why we are confessing our sins or why the pastor is singing or what Baptism is.
If you take all those parts, you can divide the Service into two major parts called, first, the Service of the Word, where the Bible is read and preached, and the Service of the Sacrament, where Holy Communion is celebrated and received.
Service of the Word:
The Service of the Word, the first part of the Divine Service, features:
- Confession and Absolution, where God hears and forgives our sins through the pastor whom He’s sent to us
- Hymns of praise and humility such as the Kyrie and Gloria in Excelsis
- Psalms fitting for that day’s readings, such as the Introit and Gradual
- The Old Testament lesson, which is connected especially to the Gospel for that day
- The Epistle, which is sometimes part of the day’s theme as at Christmas or Easter and sometimes is a continuous reading of a New Testament letter
- The Gospel, which always centers on the words and works of Christ Himself and interprets the other two readings
- The sermon, where the pastor explains and applies one or more of the Scripture lessons
- The Offering and Offertory, where we bring gifts to support the church’s work
- The Prayer of the Church, where we ask God for His blessings and mercies on all
Service of the Sacrament:
The Service of the Sacrament, the second part of the Divine Service, features:
- The Preface and Proper Preface where the pastor’s chanting and our song ask God’s blessing on the congregation and retell what God has done, especially in that season’s focus
- The Sanctus (“Holy” in Latin), where we sing the ancient song from the Jerusalem temple and the welcome that the crowds sang when Jesus came into Jerusalem to welcome Him as He comes in Holy Communion
- The Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus taught us Himself
- The Words of Institution, which Jesus used to establish the Lord’s Supper in His Church
- The Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God” in Latin), which John the Baptist used to describe Jesus as God’s Sacrifice for our sins
- The Distribution of Communion, where we receive Christ’s Body and Blood
- The Nunc Dimittis (“Now Depart” in Latin), the song that elderly Simeon sang after he saw the child Jesus – we sing it after we have received Jesus in Holy Communion
- Prayers after Communion that it would bless our lives
- The Benediction, where the pastor gives the same blessing to the congregation that the ancient Israelite priests gave thousands of years ago (Numbers 6)
The Church Year and its Symbols
Redeemer follows the Christian church year to order our life together and our focus in the Divine Service.
Semesters of Christ and the Church:
The Christian year has two parts, divided roughly in half into semesters or half-years:
- The Semester of Christ from Advent through Easter (winter and spring)
- The Semester of the Church from Pentecost through the Last Sunday of the Church Year (summer and fall)
In those semesters or half-years there are smaller seasons:
- The Semester of Christ has Advent when we focus on Christ’s coming, Christmas when we celebrate His birth, Epiphany when we hear of His revealing to the whole world, Lent when we prepare for His suffering and death, and Easter when we rejoice in His resurrection from the dead.
- The Semester of the Church has Pentecost when we hear of the Holy Spirit’s coming to the church for the world’s sake and Trinity when we learn how to grow in the life of Christ.
Each season has its own color that goes with its focus:
- Advent is purple for repentance in preparation for the great hope of Christ’s coming;
- Christmas is white for Christ’s purity and beauty;
- Epiphany is green for our growth in knowledge of His revelation;
- Lent is purple for repentance and sadness over sin;
- Easter is white for Christ’s victory over death;
- Pentecost is red for the fire of God’s Spirit;
- Trinity is green for continued growth in the life of God.
There are special days throughout the year with their own colors such as Ascension and Reformation and others, the color of the day always linking it to some other day with similar colors, similar readings, similar themes.
Vestments and Paraments:
The church and her ministers are dressed along with those seasons. The different pieces of furniture and the pastor will be covered in the colors of the day or the season, so that the whole focus for that day is on Christ and His Word, not on how nice the minister’s suit looks or whether his jeans are too tight.
The church’s coverings (called “paraments”) and the ministers’ clothing (called “vestments”) also have symbols on them that go with that season or day. You will find images of Christ’s birth on the banners on the back wall of the church (the “chancel wall”) at Christmas and symbols of resurrection such as a butterfly at Easter.
At every service our church is overlooked and blessed with the image of Christ crucified on our chancel wall. This reminds us of our sin and still more of Christ’s love that He would die for us, taking away the sin of the world. The crucifix puts in front of our eyes what Paul said he put in front of his churches’ eyes, “I resolved to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified.” All the church’s art helps us to hear the gospel more clearly and to know the Bible better.
Music in the Christian Church:
Music is central to the life of Redeemer Lutheran Church, taking to heart Martin Luther’s view, “In summary, next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits… Our dear fathers and prophets did not desire without reason that music is always used in the churches. Hence, we have so many songs and psalms. This precious gift has been given to man alone that he might thereby remind himself that God has created man for the express purpose of praising and extolling God.
Martin Luther on music, “Music is a fair and lovely gift of God which has often wakened and moved me to the joy of preaching. I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the devil and makes people happy; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology I give to music the highest place and the greatest honour. I would not exchange what little I know of music for something great. Experience proves that next to the Word of God, only music deserves to be extolled as the mistress and governess of the feelings of the human heart. We know that to the devil music is distasteful and sufferable. My heart bubbles up and overflows in response to music, which has so often refreshed me and delivered me from dire plagues.” Roland Herbert Bainton (1894-1984), Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther …
The Lutheran Service Book:
Redeemer uses the music of Lutheran Service Book (LSB) (the burgundy book located in the pew rack), the hymnal of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
Within this hymnal one will find the historic liturgy as it has been handed down through the ages by Christians in the West. As the liturgy is sung at the various church services Christians will recognize and share in various portions of the Scriptures and various prayers of the biblical saints.
- With the blind and worried parents we pray according to ancient song the Kyrie, “Lord have mercy.”
- With John the Baptist we anticipate and sing of Christ’s arrival bringing with Him the forgiveness of sins in the words of the Agnus Dei.
- With Mary, the Mother of God, we praise the Father in heaven in His Spirit who knocks down the proud and raises up the lowly.
Every Sunday has the songs of the angels as they gave glory to God for the birth of Christ (the Gloria) and a bit of Palm Sunday as with the children waving branches we pray for God to intervene in this world with His salvation singing their ancient song “Hosanna in the highest.”
Through the course of a year most nearly every service sings some of the hymnbook of the Bible, the Psalms, spanning the various thanksgivings, emotions and needs of Christians. These are songs that Jesus himself sang, knew by heart, and sung with His disciples and family. They are first to be understood as coming forth from God’s lips so we can sing them to one another’s ears and back all the more again to the Father in heaven’s ears who loves us and delights in hearing His people’s prayers.
Come, let us sing a psalm, and drive away the devil – Martin Luther
Luther called their hymns the people’s psalms. He is a special person in the history of Christianity for many reasons, but he especially gave a voice to be heard to the ordinary people including the children when he put music and hymnody into their language. The Lutheran Service book contains a large portion of Luther’s hymns, more ancient hymns still than these, and contemporary hymns written by a variety of authors and people you could even meet today.
Hymns to know and learn:
- Our Paschal Lamb That Sets Us Free (LSB 473): Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we have forgiveness, life, and salvation, and we will celebrate the feast gallantly, with leaping alleluias. The music for the refrain of alleluias that keeps coming back literally makes them leap for joy, as if they cannot be contained. This hymn is based primarily on 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 and was written by Martin Franzmann.
- A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (LSB 656): Known as the Battle Hymn of the Reformation, this Lutheran favorite comes from Psalm 46, which Christians have longed prayed in the face of disaster. Written by Martin Luther.
- Holy, Holy, Holy (LSB 507): Originally composed for Trinity Sunday, this beautiful hymn is easy to memorize, and celebrates the Triune God in all his glory using the words of the cherubim themselves. Written by Reginald Heber and based primarily on Isaiah 6:2-3 and Revelations 4:1-11.
- We Praise You and Acknowledge You, O God (LSB 941): Also referred to as The Great Te Deum, this hymn is a versification of the Te Deum laudamus set in the LSB composed by Stephen Starke.