An Explanation of the Divine Liturgy

It has been mentioned several times that Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL has in its pew racks a laminated 9″x14″ (7″ wide folded) pamphlet that describes the Divine Service. This is useful for visitors or those unfamiliar with the liturgical service. It’s been seen by many at BJS conferences held at the church over the past several years.

The Brothers of John the Steadfast has worked with Bethany to make this available to other churches. We’ve spent some time working on this document to make it as clear as possible for people unfamiliar with our services.

The first version available for public distribution is found below.

We would appreciate everyone at least reviewing it, and leaving any comments that would help readers understand it be posted below.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

An Explanation of the Divine Liturgy — 36 Comments

  1. FYI: under Confession, the word ‘receiving’ is misspelled ‘reeiving’. Those darn sticky ‘c”s!

  2. Could another copy be made to follow the order of LSB Divine Service 3? This one is based on LSB DS 1 and 2. It might be a little confusing to a visitor if they find things in a different order and not matching up with what they see on the Worship Bulletin or in the hymnal. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the comments; I’ve updated the version above taking account the changes. Are there enough differences in DS3 to make a completely different version needed? I’ve added the following to the heading:

    “We may use a different setting of this basic service, but it will always include these elements, though perhaps in a slightly different order.”

  4. A most excellent document, concise enough to put in a pew, with plenty of food for the non-Lutheran (and, yes, even the Lutheran!) to chew on for many weeks to come. My 2¢ worth on it:
    *) The picture on page 1 — is it not a line-drawing picture of the front of Bethany/Naperville? Don’t get me wrong – Bethany/Naperville is a very beautiful house of worship .. however, it is a bit different than the average house of worship. This might “throw off” the guest at other churches who use this resource. My suggestion — use a generic lectern/altar/pulpit line art pic, or pics of the Means of Grace … just a suggestion.
    *) The Verse between the Epistle and Gospel — John 6:68 is not quoted in DS3, 4, or 5. That’s just one example that caught my eye — maybe there are others?
    You can take my suggestions for what they’re worth.

  5. May I print this off? Do I need permissions? I downloaded it and it would not let me print it off. Is there any other way I can access this? I want to use it for my 7th grade confirmation class when we study the 3rd commandment. Thanks for any help

  6. Off-hand, the only thing I would like to see in addition to what’s been mentioned, is a Scriptural basis for the overall structure of the service, e.g. why it is structured this way and not another way. Isn’t it based on the structure of the Old Testament services?

  7. When the final formatting is completed I’d like to get copies for my congregation. Please advise how one might do this. Thanks.

  8. The copy I am looking at right this minute does not iinclude the Post Communion Canticle/Nunc Dimittis.

  9. @Norm Fisher #17
    I love this. I know my pastor frequently visits this site but I have printed it off (with no problem) and will show it to him as soon as possible. Not only is it good for visitors but it is excellent instruction for those who have been Lutherans for many years and do not always remember why we do what we do.

  10. This is an outstanding explanation/summary of the divine service. I grew up un-churched and initially “dabbled” in seeker-sensitive “gospel-lite” churches. The Holy Spirit eventually opened my eyes to the true meaning of the Lord’s Supper and I knew my “home” was in confessional Lutheranism.

    After visiting several LCMS and WELS churches, I came to appreciate the orderly nature of the service but never understood the “why” behind much of it and nobody ever brought it up. My conclusion was that they do it this way because they always have.

    Although I learned the why’s later (mostly thanks to this website and Issues, etc.), this resource is a blessing to visitors, the un-churched or those unfamiliar with orthodox Christian worship. An adaptation of this could also be very helpful in my WELS church.

  11. I can see this service is well thought through.

    For one outside the Lutheran tradition (ie Reformed), it appears overall rather lengthy with so many elements. How long would the service take without rushing through and what amount of time would be given to the sermon?

    Where is the reading of the law in either its first or third use?

    Cheers

    David

  12. @David Palmer #20
    “Where is the reading of the law in either its first or third use?
    Cheers
    David”

    Would you explain “reading of the law”?
    Three lessons are read, which usually have both law and gospel.
    A Lutheran sermon is always supposed to have both law and gospel.

  13. @helen #21
    Good morning Helen,

    What I had in mind is the reading of the law which can be included either in its first use, i.e. exposing sin, driving us to Christ immediately before the prayer of confession or in its third use as our response of gratitude for God’s pardon and therefore follow the assurance of pardon (absolution).

    By law I mean not just the decalogue or Jesus’ summary but any Scripture that lays the imperative of godly living upon the people of God, so for example Col 3:5f would serve as a good example of law (with vv1-5 serving as gospel).

    I would be interested in an answer to my question.

  14. Interesting question David.

    As Helen said, Scripture is read in Lutheran services in the three appointed readings for the day. We do not read Scripture for any particular cause. We use the three or one year series because they take us through the entire counsel of God according to the church year.

    Some Lutherans have a reading from the catechism which accomplishes some of what you are suggesting but this is the exception, not the rule.

  15. Yes, I understand about the lectionary. Thank you.

    What about my question re time taken with the liturgy and time given to the sermon?

    My interest is piqued because many in the Reformed tradition have services comprising hymns/songs/prayers/sermon, whereas the earlier tradition, eg Calvin’s order of worship (La Forme 1545) was richer though minus a number of the elements in your Divine Liturgy carried over from the Catholic tradition.

    Am I right in thinking Lutherans do not have a threefold understanding of the use of the Law?

    Cheers

    David

  16. @David Palmer #24

    David Palmer :
    Am I right in thinking Lutherans do not have a threefold understanding of the use of the Law?

    No.
    But the Lutheran understanding of the three uses of the Law is different than the Reformed.
    Just briefly, and anything but exhaustively:
    Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions describe these uses of the Law 1) to curb evil in society, 2) to reveal to sinners that they are exactly that, and thus in need of salvation, in order that they may embrace God’s promise of salvation in Christ, and 3) to show believers what works and attitudes belong in a God-pleasing life.
    Unlike in Calvinist teaching, the second use of the Law is the most important one, as God wants for all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; John 1:29; 1 John 2:2, etc.)
    And, also unlike in Calvinist thinking, the three uses of the Law is a description of what God Himself does through the Law, rather than what the preacher or the church should attempt to accomplish. It is God’s different uses of the Law, rather than the preacher’s or the church’s.
    As such, a “reading of the law in either its first or third use”, as you referred to in your original question, would not really be all that relevant in a Lutheran context. Rather, the Law will be read and preached as it is in itself , and it will be left to God to work whatever is His good will for the individual hearer through the proclamation of the Law (God’s commands to all sinners) and the Gospel (God’s work and promise of salvation for all sinners).
    O, and at our place a worship service with Communion usually takes just a little more than an hour, of which about 10-15 minutes are the sermon (I think!).

  17. What a great idea. I do have a couple of suggestions. First, it might be nice if it was created in something of a booklet or pamphlet form. This way, it could resemble a bulletin and fit into a pew rack less obtrusively than the standard 8.5″ X 11″ portrait print style. Second, I might suggest adding the times each element was introduced — 2nd century, 3rd century, etc. I’ve always found that the historical information is appreciated and helps people to see how the liturgy developed over time (and is therefore appropriate for all times).

  18. Dear Jais,

    Thank you for the reply.

    Just a couple of comments.

    We alter the order (with your wording): 1) to reveal to sinners that they are exactly that, and thus in need of salvation, in order that they may embrace God’s promise of salvation in Christ, 2) to curb evil in society, and 3) to show believers what
    Regarding priority, we would say 1) precedes 3), but both are equally of grace. Thus Calvin says, “Christ was given to us by God’s generosity, to be grasped and possessed by us in faith. By partaking of him, we principally receive a double grace: namely, that being reconciled to God through Christ’s blamelessness, we may have in heaven instead of a Judge a gracious Father; and secondly, that sanctified by Christ’s spirit we may cultivate blamelessness and purity of life.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 11, Section 1)

    As I suspect you know, in the Heidelberg Catechism the exposition of the Law falls within the third part, “Man’s Gratitude (LD 32 f). i.e. the third use of the Law sets before us a life pleasing to God, not that we can ever perfectly fulfil the law – only Christ has done that, and on our behalf so that his righteousness makes up for our blemishes. Indeed it is His righteousness that makes our poor efforts “good works”.

    Saying this only reminds me that we need the Law in both senses equally. I am also reminded that in Mark 1:15 both “believe” and “repent” are present tense imperatives, so every day is a fresh start beginning with repentance and fresh affirmation of faith, and to be sure, the believer needs to hear the Gospel repeatedly while the unbeliever the Law most assuredly!

    I’m not sure I understand your contrast between the preacher and the Law. Ultimately we believe preaching is Word focussed, Spirit applying, so this contrast of yours does not make sense to me.

    On the other hand, as a preacher in the Reformed tradition, I’m more than willing, indeed gladly willing to affirm “the Law will be read and preached as it is in itself , and it will be left to God to work whatever is His good will for the individual hearer through the proclamation of the Law (God’s commands to all sinners) and the Gospel (God’s work and promise of salvation for all sinners).” Amen. Excellent, well expressed.

    There, we Reformed and you Lutherans are closer than first thought!

    An hour seems a little rushed for all those elements, though 10-15 mins for preaching might assist – we are more like 20 mins ranging up to 45 mins for preaching, 25-30 mins for me, and for us it is expository preaching thro’ books of the Bible. It would be interesting to know the reason, content wise, for the difference in time spent. Maybe you eschew any application of the Word to the common life of the people at all?

  19. @David Palmer #27
    It would be interesting to know the reason, content wise, for the difference in time spent. Maybe you eschew any application of the Word to the common life of the people at all?

    No, there is application in a good sermon. And preachers vary in the length of their sermons.
    Although, someone who consistently preaches 45 minutes becomes notorious rather than celebrated, if that is a good distinction! :)

    A Pastor/Professor I had at college said that it took an hour to write an hour long sermon; to write a 10 minute sermon took 10 hours (both measured after text study).

    A small church Pastor has more time for his sermon because the time needed for distribution of the Sacrament will be shorter.
    [And the meaning of the Sacraments is where we really part company, I’m afraid.]

  20. Hello Helen,

    Yes I agree a 45 min sermon requires an outstanding preacher, 20-35 mins would be more normal – our people would feel robbed with a 10-15 min exposition of the Word.

    “And the meaning of the Sacraments is where we really part company, I’m afraid”

    This indeed is a point of departure though in the case of the Lord’s Supper, not for a lack of trying by Calvin and Melanchthon. Ubiquity is the sticking point, but you know all this. Nevertheless, again we are not necessarily all that far apart for in partaking of the bread and the wine, the sacrament is always a sacrament of grace a participation in the body and blood of our ascended Lord Jesus – it is not some sort of remembrance thing in which we conjure up Christ in our minds to meditate upon his sin atoning death – though of course in the Holy Supper we are reminded of these things as well. Supremely the Lord’s Supper sets forth our union in Christ, the fount of every blessing in this life and the next.

    Thank you for being a conversation partner. I have great respect for Lutheran friends.

  21. @David Palmer #27

    David Palmer :
    I’m not sure I understand your contrast between the preacher and the Law. Ultimately we believe preaching is Word focussed, Spirit applying, so this contrast of yours does not make sense to me.

    I may have been led astray by your reference to “the reading of the law in either its first or third use”; to me it suggested that the “use” of the Law in the Liturgy would be determined by church ordinance rather than by the workings of the Holy Spirit upon the individual hearers through reading and preaching.
    I guess the idea of the preacher determining the use of the Law might not be a Reformed phenomenon. I have heard Lutheran pastors state that they refused on principle to preach the Law in its third use (failing to realise that the preacher is not in charge of which use God will make of the Law), because they were afraid of making believers afraid because of their sin and thus uncertain about their salvation (failing to realise that would not be the third use of the Law at all).

  22. Yes, I agree with your comment Jais regarding the 3rd use of the Law. Preachers do need to be careful. Gospel must always follow hard on the heels of the Law, whether first or third use is in view. (OK substitute second for first)

  23. @David Palmer #29
    20-35 mins would be more normal – our people would feel robbed with a 10-15 min exposition of the Word.

    Having grown up in the country, where 20-30 minutes sermons were the norm, (the service running well over an hour), I occasionally feel a sermon has been too short. Those who do the text study and spend the “10 hours” can pack a lot into their sermons however.

    You are welcome. :)

  24. @quasicelsus #35
    It is a very rare form of “Johannes” in old Jute dialect – probably more or less a mispronunciation of “Jens”, which was originally a Danish popular form, and yet another mispronunciation, of “Johannes” …

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