In Part Two we begin on page 186 in the Lutheran Service Book which is where the Service of the Word begins. Again, we will be following Divine Service Setting 3 and the words of the liturgy will be in bold. Up until this point, the pastor has conducted the liturgy from the very edge of the sanctuary, just before the chancel. The chancel, for us, is consider everything behind our communion railings and kneelers. The Introit, meaning “entrance,” is the “first time” that the pastor moves from the sanctuary and into the chancel. When he enters the chancel and approaches the altar, he brings with him all the members of the congregation who are washed, cleansed, and sanctified in the blood of Jesus.
All approach the throne of God’s grace with boldness and confidence in Christ. As the Introit finishes, the congregation joins the pastor in singing the Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father). This short hymn praises and honors the Triune God whom we come to find in the Word and in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The liturgy is blanketed with the name of the Lord for, as we confess, “our help is in the Name of the Lord.”
What follows is the Kyrie, which is an abbreviation for Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy). The Scriptures testify that the faithful call out to God for his mercy. In Mark 10, we read about blind Bartimaeus, who sat by the side of the road. When he heard that Jesus was journeying near him he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many from the crowd rebuked him, but he was not discouraged. He cried out even louder. God showed his grace to blind Bartimaeus. Jesus heard his cries for mercy, stopped, and called him to come over. Then, Jesus answered Bartimaeus’ prayer by restoring his sight. Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” When we cry out like Bartimaeus for the Lord’s mercy, we are asking for him to save us from our sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. He does! Faith in Jesus Christ saves us. To remember the story of Bartimaeus is to remember that God deals with us differently than the world. The world is cold and harsh, but God does not wish to silence your prayers for mercy. He says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you” (Psalm 50:15). So we pray “Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.”
The prayer of the Kyrie is answered by the confession of praise in the Gloria in Excelsis (Glory to God in the Highest). God has answered the prayers of His people who were fast bound in Satan’s chains. Saint Paul writes in Galatians 4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” We join with the multitude of the heavenly host praising God at the birth of Jesus, God in the flesh. The angels gathered about the shepherds that night in the fields and sang such sweet words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Those words inspire the beginning of the Gloria in Excelsis, “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
With almost every word in the liturgy, the sinner is met with the word of God’s absolution. We praise God at Jesus’ birth because God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world would be saved through Him (John 3:17). This is also referenced in the Gloria in Excelsis through the words of John the Baptist. John said upon seeing Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This Jesus, who was born, is the Christ, our Christ. He is the unblemished lamb who takes our sins away. He is the world’s savior that gives mercy. “O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.”
Who then is better to sit at the right hand of God to rule over all things, than He who descended to bring you salvation? We sing, “Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.” Jesus is the one mediator between God and man, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. This is a most comforting word for those who find themselves in Christ. He has shown the world mercy through His perfect life and innocent suffering and death on the world’s behalf.
The Salutation, Collect of the Day, creed, hymns, readings, and sermon all work together to comfort the conscience of the Christian and bring forward the right confession of the faith. No person can find comfort or rightly confess Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit and God-given faith. The last ordinary for the Service of the Word is the Offertory. As one of my members said to me, “The Offertory should be in every service.” I agree.
The Offertory is derived from the Psalm of David after he was rebuked by Nathan the Prophet for the evil he had done surrounding the adultery with Bathsheba. A devout saint of God was tempted and fell. He fell hard and he was rebuked, but the Lord said through the prophet Nathan, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12). This was a merciful and gracious word to David for great was his sin. Psalm 51 was sung from a broken and contrite heart that feared the Lord. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within.” God sanctifies us by His Word and makes us His holy people. In short, “He forgives.” Having just heard the sermon, the hearts of the believers confess that it is God who changes our hearts to live according to His will and desire those things which are good for our soul. The Father constantly calls us back to Himself as He did with King David, because He does not wish us to fall away, but wishes that we be restored into the joy of salvation! “Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit. Amen.” Sin robs us of joy in Christ because transgressions are a denial of God’s authority over us, and sin is what brings us death. We need the joy of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
There is no better gift of this joy than what follows in the Sacrament of the Altar. God’s blessings as you study the liturgy and the wisdom of the Church.