† The Lord’s Service To Us †
In Christian worship our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Saying back to him what he has said to us in His Word, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and sure is his name, which he put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are his. This we acknowledge at the beginning of the Divine Service: “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Where his name is, there he is. Before him we acknowledge that we are sinners, and we plead for forgiveness. His forgiveness is given us, and we, freed and forgiven, acclaim him as our great and gracious God. The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition. Lutheran Worship, p.6
The Lord’s Service To Us In His Blessing
Numbers 6:22-27 22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 ‘The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace’. 27 So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
Romans 12:1-2 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27). 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 in Numbers 6 in which He favors us with His grace and peace. With the Lord’s name given us in Holy Baptism we are drawn together to worship Him in spirit and truth, receiving His gifts in absolution, the Holy Scriptures, His proclaimed Word, and the precious meal of His body and blood. Now with that same name, He sends us back into the world, to the places of our various callings to live by the mercies we have received as living sacrifices to the praise of His glory and the good of the people whom God has placed in our lives. The blessings of our Triune God do not end as the final Amen is uttered and the last hymn sung. These blessings of our gracious God have their way with us, moving us from the nave to the neighbor. As temples dedicated by the Lord’s name we are made living sacrifices, channels for God’s service to the neighbor. This is “the liturgy after the liturgy”, to use the words of Carter Lindberg.
The Divine Service ends with the Benediction, but the worship of God does not. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). We pray in the Post-Communion Collect that the Lord’s gifts would have free course in our lives as we give thanks to God for the refreshment of the salutary gift of the Sacrament and implore Him that He would strengthen us through that same gift in faith toward Him and in fervent love toward one another.
The life that we have received from the High Priest and Liturgist of our salvation, Jesus Christ, may be summarized in those two words “faith” and “love.” Writing in his essay On the Freedom of a Christian, Luther states “We conclude therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself but in Christ and in his neighbor…He lives in Christ through faith and in his neighbor through love” (AE 31:371). God serves us in His Word and Sacraments. In faith we embrace His gifts with hymns of praise and acclamations of thanksgiving, putting our Amen to His sure and certain promises.
Confident of the Father’s promise to bless and keep us, sure of His gracious presence in the face of His Son, and favored by the Holy Spirit’s gift of peace, we move back into the situations where God has called us to live in faith and love. St. Paul puts it like this: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:16-17). Amen.
by the Rev. John Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Divine Service Commentary
Preface, Sanctus, Prayer, Our Father
Lamentations 3:41, St. Luke 01:28, Isaiah 6:3, St. Mark 11:9-10
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.
Consecration, Pax domini, Agnus Dei, Distribution
1 Corinthians 11:23-26, St. John 20:21, St. John 1:29
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 of peace. Showing them His wounds, the Risen Lord declared His peace to His disciples on Easter Evening. That same peace is given us with the Lord’s body and Blood. With the words of John the Baptist, the Agnus Dei confessed 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.”
Post-Communion Canticle, Prayer
St. Luke 2:29-32, 1 Chronicles 16:8-10
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. 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 draw us outside of ourselves to live in Christ by faith and in the neighbor by love, to paraphrase Luther.
Numbers 6:22-27, Romans 12:1-2
The Name of the Lord is the beginning and the and 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 neighbour.