“In faith in You, and in fervent love toward one another”

We conclude our series on The Narrative Commentary to the Divine Service by John Pless with what he says about the conclusion of the service:


Having received the Lord’s Body and Blood for our salvation, like Simeon who held in his arms the Savior of the world, we go in peace and joy singing Simeon’s Song from St. Luke, Chapter 2. Another song of thanksgiving based on 1 Chronicles 16:8-10 may be used instead. Before we leave the Lord’s Table, we give thanks, asking that the salutary gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood would have its way in our lives, strengthening us in faith toward God and fervent love toward one another. The Sacrament draws us outside of ourselves to live in Christ by faith and for the neighbor by love.


The Name of the Lord is the beginning and the end of the Divine Service. We are now marked with the Lord’s Name in the Benediction-that word of God’s Blessing from Numbers 6 in which He favors us with His grace and peace. With the Lord’s Name given us in Holy Baptism we were drawn together. Now with that same Name, He sends us back into the world, to the places of our various callings to live by the mercy we have received as living sacrifices to the praise of His glory and the good of our neighbor. To this benediction you add your Amen, declaring blessing received.

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – April 2010.

Notice how many allusions there are to the doctrine of vocation.  I have heard Prof. Pless explain elsewhere that the closing prayer about “faith in You and in fervent love towards one another,” which was Luther’s phrasing, is a direct reference to vocation.  At the close of the liturgy, in which we find forgiveness for our sins and grow in our faith, we are sent back out into our various callings to live out that faith “in love and service to our neighbors.”

Chef, cook, butler, host, and food

As we continue our survey of the Divine Service from John Pless’s Narrative Commentary, we come to Holy Communion:


Drawn toward the gifts of Jesus’ body and blood, our hearts are lifted up in thanksgiving and praise as we anticipate the reception of the gifts that carry with them our redemption. The Sanctus brings together the song of heaven’s angels in adoration of the Holy Three-in-One and the acclamations of Palm Sunday; “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.” In the prayer, we give thanks to the Lord for the redemption which He has secured for us by His cross; we ask Him to prepare us to receive that redemption in living and joyful faith. The Our Father, the prayer which Jesus taught His disciples to pray, is the “table prayer’ with which we come to the Lord’s Table.

The pastor speaks the Lord’s own words; these words give and bestow what they declare, the Body and Blood of Christ. The Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood is the vehicle for peace. Showing them His wounds, the Risen Lord declared His peace is given us with the Lord’s Body and Blood. By sharing this “peace of the Lord” with each other, we lay aside all that stands in contradiction of the Lord’s testament. With the words of John the Baptist, the Agnus Dei confesses the mercy and peace that we receive from the Lamb of God in His Supper. We come to the Lord’s Table hungry and thirsty and He feeds us with His Body and refreshes us with His Blood. It is the Lord’s Supper. As Luther reminds us “Our Lord is at one and the same time chef, cook, butler, host, and food.”

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – March 2010.

What the offering and the prayer mean

Next in our ongoing series from The Narrative Commentary on the Divine Service by John Pless:


Having received from the generosity of the Father who is the Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift, we now return of the gifts that we have been given. The offering is accompanied with an offertory from Psalm 51 which teaches us that the highest offering is simply to receive, in faith, the gifts God gives for body and soul.


God’s Word is always primary in worship. We speak only as we are spoken to. Gathered in Jesus’ Name, we bring the petitions and thanksgivings before Him that grow out of His Word. This prayer is called the Prayer of the Church for in this prayer, the Royal Priesthood of All Believers does its priestly work of making “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – March 2010.

Again, it’s called the “Divine Service”–the translation of the German Gottesdienst–because in it God serves US!

Confessing and Preaching

More from the Narrative Commentary on the Divine Service by John Pless, which some pastors are using to teach what the elements in worship mean:


Having heard the Word of God, we confess our faith in His Name. The Creed is our saying back to God what He has first said to us. To same/say about God what He has revealed about Himself. In the Nicene Creed, we acclaim the truth of the Triune God and His work of salvation accomplished for us in His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.

– Creed –


The praise continues in the Hymn of the Day. As the Word of God dwells in us it calls forth songs of faith and love. This hymn refl ects the particular theme of the Scripture Readings which we have heard. Then, in continuity with the Prophets, Apostles, and Evangelists, our Pastor stands in our midst to deliver the Lord’s Law and Gospel in the sermon. He is God’s mouth for the congregation as through him the Good Shepherd’s voice sounds forth to call, gather, and enlighten His flock.

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – March 2010.

The Collect & Bible readings

More from Narrative Commentary on the Divine Service by John Pless.  Notice how we hear from a prophet, an apostle, and an evangelist every Sunday:


The pastor stands in the congregation as Christ’s servant. The vestment he wears indicates that he is not speaking on his own, but as one sent and authorized to represent Christ Jesus. As the authorized representative of the Lord, he says “The Lord be with you.” The congregation responds “And with your Spirit” or “And also with you.” Pastor and the congregation are bound together in this salutation or greeting as the pastor prays the Collect of the Day on behalf of the gathered congregation. The Collect is a short sentence that “collects” in one short request all it is that we are asking God to do for us on the basis of the Word which we are about to hear, both read and preached.


In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul tells us that the Ascended Christ gave gifts to His Church: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastor-Teachers. These gifts are made manifest in the Divine Service as we hear God’s Word read and proclaimed. First, we hear from a Prophet in the words of the Old Testament Reading. After the Scripture is read, The Pastor or Assisting Elder proclaims “This is the Word of the Lord.” The Lord’s Word is embraced by the congregation’s response of thanksgiving: “Thanks be to God.” In this way, the church confesses Holy Scripture for what it is-–the Word of God. The Gradual, selected verses of Scripture, is sung by the choir or congregation. The Gradual is a “bridge of praise” that links the Old Testament with the New Testament. On many occasions an Anthem refl ecting on the common theme of the readings is sung by the choir. This is offered so that those who hear might anticipate the Word of God that will follow. Second, we hear from an Apostle in the words of a New Testament Epistle. From the Apostle we are given the truth that is found only in Jesus for faith and life. The “Alleluia Verse” is then chanted by the Choir or Cantor. This Verse is our anticipation of the Lord who comes to us in His words. These words are spirit and life. Third, we hear from an Evangelist in the words of the Holy Gospel. In the words of the Evangelist we are given the Word of Life, Jesus Christ. The congregation acknowledges the Lord’s presence in His Gospel by standing and extolling His glory and praising Him.

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – February 2010 2009.

Introit, Kyrie, Gloria

More from the Narrative Commentary on the Divine Service by Prof. John Pless of Concordia Theological Seminary (Ft. Wayne, IN).  Again, our pastor had these brief introductions read before each part of the service as a way to teach the liturgy.  Notice that the entire liturgy consists essentially of passages of Scripture.  When someone objects to the liturgy, I ask, “What words from the Bible do you think we shouldn’t say?”

INTROIT (p.186)

Having received the Lord’s forgiveness, we are glad to enter into His courts with praise and thanksgiving. This entrance is made in the Introit with the Lord’s own words, most often drawn from the Psalms. Most often the Introit is chanted by the Choir or Cantor.

– Introit –


Kyrie Eleison is a Greek phrase meaning “Lord, have mercy.” In the Kyrie we come before the King of Mercy with the prayer that was on the lips of Blind Bartemaeus, whom Jesus healed. We approach our Merciful Savior and King as citizens of heaven, seeking His mercy for our salvation, the peace of the whole world, the well-being of His Church, our Worship, and our everlasting defense.


The Gloria in Excelsis (Glory to God in the Highest) (p. 187ff)

The Lord to whom we cry for mercy is the Savior who has come to us in the fl esh. The Gloria in Excelsis (Glory to God in the Highest) echoes the hymn that the high angels of God sang to the shepherds at Bethlehem. In this hymn we acclaim and extol the Son of God who humbled Himself to be our Brother and now reigns over us as Savior from the right hand of His Father. In Divine Service I, an alternate to this hymn is “This is the Feast of Victory” taken from the Book of Revelation. This hymn proclaims the victory of the Lamb who was crucifi ed for us. It is appropriately used at Easter and Ascension.

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – February 2010 2009.