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.

“Amen” as the great word of worship

From Narrative Commentary to the Divine Service by John Pless:

It is only through the forgiveness of sins that we enter into the life of heaven. To confess your sins is to speak the truth about your life. This truth you learn from the Word of God and He, through the Holy Spirit, teaches you to say what He says (same/say). God seeks that truth in the heart and on the lips. To confess your sin is to same/say “Amen” to God’s just verdict that you have sinned against Him and so deserve only death and hell.

The truth of your sinfulness is answered by the truth of God’s forgiveness for the sake of the suffering and death of His Son. From the lips of a man “called and ordained” as a servant of the Word, your ears hear God Himself speaking absolution, that is, the forgiveness of sins. To that forgiveness, faith says “Amen,” to this verdict of God, “Amen” is the great word of worship; it indicates that the gift has been received.

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – November 2009.

Teaching worship

Last Sunday our Pastor, Rev. James Douthwaite, did something he does once a year or so: He teaches us the significance and why-we-do-what-we-do in the liturgy. He uses an adaptation of The Narrative Commentary on the Divine Service by Prof. John Pless, who gave permission to post it on the church website and to thus make it available to others. (You can find the version we used here as a .pdf file. You can also find it online here.)

The way it worked was that an elder read the commentary before each part, and then we did it. One would expect this to be intrusive, but it really wasn’t. I learned a lot. I would recommend that Lutheran pastors make use of this resource so that their parishioners know what they are doing and develop an appreciation for the richness of liturgical worship. Non-Lutherans too would benefit from knowing this stuff. It would disabuse them of the notion that liturgical worship is “just Catholic” and would show them just how Biblical and evangelical the historic worship of the church really is.

For our edification and discussion, I’m going to post portions of it over the next few days. Here, for example, is the opening, setting forth succinctly the Lutheran theology of worship:

The high and holy worship of God is faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Such faith is created and sustained by God’s Service to us. In the Divine Service, the Lord comes to us in His Word and Sacrament to bless and enliven us with His gifts. This Service is not something we do for God, but His service to us to be received in faith. The “liturgy” is God’s work. He gives, we receive.

Here is the significance of the Invocation (“In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”):

From God’s Word, we know that wherever God puts His Name, there He is to bless. In the Old Testament, the Temple was the place where God graciously caused His Name to be present.

God has put His Name-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on you in Holy Baptism. The Divine Service begins “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Every Divine Service is for the hallowing of the Lord’s Name, which the Small Catechism reminds us is done “When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity and we as the children of God, also lead a holy life according to it.”