The Liturgy Explained

Four High Things

There are many reasons to do the liturgy, but above all the liturgy faces the fact that the Lord, in amazing grace, comes down to serve us. The most important parts of the liturgy are those times when the Lord descends with saving grace. His descending makes four high things: the absolution, the reading of the Scriptures, the sermon, and the Holy Communion. Everything else is either preparation for the Lord, or responding to Him.

What follows is the text of an actual liturgy used at Our Savior Lutheran Church. Along with the text we've included explanatory notes throughout. The text in bold is spoken or sung by the congregation and the italicized text is spoken or sung by the pastor or liturgist.

The Liturgy


The Invocation

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Note: In the invocation we call on the Holy Triune God. How can we dare to do this? Because this is the name in which we were baptized, and all the congregation says "Amen" which means "so be it!"

The Confessions of Sins

Beloved in the Lord, let us draw near with sincere hearts to confess our sins to God, our Father, and to plead in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ for His forgiveness. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Who made Heaven and earth.
I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.
And You forgave the guilt of my sin.

All-Powerful God, merciful Father, I, a poor, pitiful sinner, confess to You all my sins and unrighteousness. By them I have continually offended You and fairly deserved Your punishment, both now and eternally. But from my heart I am sorry for them, and I sincerely repent of them, and I pray You, in Your limitless mercy for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.

Note: We confess our sins because in the presence of the Lord our sins are obvious and because God wants our sins out of His way.

The Absolution (the first high thing)

(The pastor speaks the words of absolution)

Note: Jesus Himself is here, using the pastor's mouth. Here is a wave of our Baptism rolling down from the altar, and we are crucified with Christ and baptized in His righteousness. We are declared innocent!

The Introit

The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
Worship the LORD in the beauty of His holiness.
Let His priests be clothed with righteousness,
And His servants in robes of salvation.
Offer to Him sacrifices holy and acceptable;
Make His praise glorious!

Note: During the Introit we respond to the absolution by "entering" the altar of God, cleansed and welcome, singing verses from His Psalms

The Gloria Patri

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.

The Kyrie

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Note: "Lord have mercy" is a translation of the ancient greek Kyrie eleison (pronounced KEE-ree-yay e-LAY-son) which is an ancient prayer sung, along with the Gloria Patri before it and the Gloria in Excelsis after, in response to the Absolution. The Kyrie is not asking forgiveness, rather with these words we surrender to the conqueror Jesus who has overcome sin, death and the devil.

The Gloria In Excelsis

Glory to God on high!
And on earth peace, good will toward men.
We praise You, we bless You, we worship You!
We glorify You, we give thanks to You for Your great glory!
O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty!
O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ!
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father!
You take away the sins of the world! Have mercy on us!
You take away the sins of the world! Receive our prayer!
You sit at the right hand of God the Father! Have mercy on us!
For You only are holy! You only are the Lord!
You only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost,
Are most high in the glory of God the Father!

Note:This song praises the wonders of God and His works for our salvation from Christmas through Good Friday to the Ascension of Jesus as Lord of All.

The Salutation

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.

Note: the Salutation is preparation for the second high thing--the reading of God's Word. Here we catch our breath and receive God's blessing through each other! All are priests, the liturgists actually blesses us, and we actually bless him.

The Collect

All-Holy Father, You are all Love, and we are unworthy to stand in Your presence, much less to open our mouths before You. But You have loved us and washed us in pure Water, You have fed us and marked us with Your Son’s body and blood, and You have anointed us with Your Spirit, that we may praise Your glorious grace. Then let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and may our sacrifice of prayer and praise be acceptable through the liturgy of Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, who lives and rules with You and the Holy Spirit, one eternal God, now, and in the endless World to come. Amen.

The Reading of God's Word (the second high thing)

From the Old Testament: 1 Chronicles 16:23-29
This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

from the Letters: 1 Peter 2:9-11
This is the word of the Lord.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Glory be to You, O Lord!

from the Gospels: John 4:19-26
Praise be to You, O Christ!

Note: We stand during the Gospel lesson not because the Gospels are more important than other Scriptures, but because here in the Gospels we see God Himself in the flesh among us.

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. And I believe one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Note: the Creed is our response to God's speaking to us. Martyrs and saints have been confessing this creed since 325 A.D. The word "creed" comes from the Latin "credo" which means, "I believe!" By reciting the creed we say, "I believe the Words you have spoken to me!"


The Sermon (the third high thing)

Note: Christ uses the pastor's mouth again during the sermon. Not that the pastor is inspired in any way, but that Scripture is inspired, and if the pastor preaches the Scriptures, it is Jesus Himself speaking.

The Offertory

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me out of Your presence,
nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
and sustain me with a free spirit.

Note: the Offertory is, again, our response to Jesus coming to us, this time through preaching. This song is straight from scripture (Psalm 51:10-12) and it means "Do it, Lord! Everything you said -- do it all in me!"

The Offering of Tithes and Gifts

I will offer the thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
O Lord, my Strength, I love You.

Note: The offering is not a 'collection' or a 'contribution' because it is priests who offer it. It is our response to Jesus. We give our real lives to Him.

The General Prayer

Lord, be gracious to us.
Help us, good Lord.

Pastoral Prayer

The Preface

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Lift up your hearts!
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is good and right that we do.
It is truly good, right, and good for us to give thanks always and everywhere to You, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God, who with Your Only-begotten Son and the Holy Ghost are one God, one Lord, and in the confession of the only True God we worship the Trinity in Person and the Unity in Being, of majesty co-equal. Therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, forever praising You and saying:

Note: the preface, and the rest of the liturgy before the Holy Communion is preparation for receiving Jesus Christ in the Flesh

The Sanctus

Holy! Holy! Holy LORD God of Sabaoth!
Heaven and Earth are full of Your glory!
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He! Blessed is He!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!

The Lords Prayer

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Words of Institution

(Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
Spoken by the pastor)

Note: it is not the pastor who makes this miracle, nor is it our faith; it is the mighty words of Christ, Himself, speaking with the Pastor's mouth: "This is my body", and "This is my blood". These words, the words spoken by Christ are what make this His true body and blood.

The Pax Domini

The peace of the Lord be with you always.

The Agnus Dei

O Christ, Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world!
Have mercy on us!
O Christ, Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world!
Have mercy on us!
O Christ, Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world!
Grant us Your peace! Amen.

The Holy Communion (the fourth high thing)

(All who receive Communion at Our Savior Lutheran Church must first be instructed. Our pastor will be very glad to instruct you. Please speak with him before you participate.)

Song: The Sweet Vintage of Our Lord

The Nunc Dimittis

Now, Lord, You dismiss Your servant in peace,
as You have promised.
For my eyes have seen the Salvation You prepared before
the face of all people,
A Light to enlighten the Gentiles
and the Glory of Your people Israel!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen.

Note: the Nunc Dimittis was first sung by St. Simeon when he held the baby Jesus in his arms. Here it also becomes our response to seeing the Lord. It is as if we are saying "O Lord, I can leave now; I can die now. I have everything I need.

The Thanksgiving

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
And His mercy endures forever!

The Thanksgiving Collect

Father and Fountain of all Goodness, who in loving-kindness sent Your only Son into flesh and blood, we thank You that for His sake You have given us pardon and peace in this Sacrament, and we pray: Never leave Your children, but rule our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit, that our whole lives may be a holy liturgy to You through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with You and the Holy Spirit, one eternal God, now and in the endless world to come. Amen.

The Salutation

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.

The Benedicamus

Bless we the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

The Benediction

The LORD bless you and keep you.
The LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Note: In the Benediction the Triune Lord who baptized us and fed us has the last word, and it is all blessing ("benediction" means "blessing"). Here as we leave to continue our journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land, God uses the liturgist's mouth to say words He said first through Aaron in the wilderness more than 3,000 years ago.