AN EXPLANATION OFRITE AND CEREMONY INTHE DIVINE SERVICE OFTHE EVANGELICALLUTHERAN CHURCHPrepared and Compiled byThe Reverend David L. AdlerBethlehem Ev. Lutheran ChurchPalestine, Texas
Other Booklets in the Series:“Vestments in the Evangelical Lutheran Church”“Chanting in the Evangelical Lutheran Church”“Ceremony, Ritual and Reverence in the Evangelical Lutheran Church” 2019 Bethlehem Press, Palestine, Texas. All rights Reserved.4TH Ed.Scripture quotations marked ESV are from the English Standard Version 2001 by Crossway Bibles, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.
Table of ContentsAbbreviations . 3Chapter 1INTRODUCTION . 5Rite and Ceremony . 6The Lutheran Position . 8Guiding Principles . 12Important Distinctions . 12Chapter 2THE SERVICE OF PREPARATION . 15The Rite . 15The Ceremony . 18Chapter 3THE SERVICE OF THE WORD: Part 1 . 21The Rite . 21The Ceremony . 24Chapter 4THE SERVICE OF THE WORD: Part 2 . 27The Rite . 27The Ceremony . 28Chapter 5THE SERVICE OF THE WORD: Part 3 . 31The Rite . 31The Ceremony . 33Chapter 6THE SERVICE OF THE SACRAMENT: Part 1 . 37The Rite . 37The Ceremony . 40Chapter 7THE SERVICE OF THE SACRAMENT: Part 2 . 45The Rite . 45The Ceremony . 46Chapter 8A FEW OTHER MATTERS . 47Chapter 9CONCLUSION . 49ADDENDUM ALutheran Worship (LC-MS) in America . 511
ADDENDUM BExamples of German Worship in the Sixteenth & Eighteenth Centuries . 59ADDENDUM CWhy is the Lutheran Church a Liturgical Church . 63Works Cited. 672
AbbreviationsACAugsburg ConfessionAELuther, Martin. Luther’s Works. American Edition. Volumes 1-30:Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan. Concordia Publishing House, 1955-76.Volumes 31-55: Edited by Helmut Lehmann. Fortress Press, 1957-86ApApology of the Augsburg ConfessionELCA Evangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaICETInternational Consultation on English TextsLCLarge CatechismLC-MS Lutheran Church-Missouri SynodLBWLutheran Book of Worship. Augsburg Publishing House, 1978.LSBLutheran Service Book. Concordia Publishing House, 2006.LWLutheran Worship. Concordia Publishing House, 1982.SELK Selbstständige Evanglisch-Lutherische KirckeTLHThe Lutheran Hymnal. Concordia Publishing House, 1941.3
Chapter 1INTRODUCTIONOur divine liturgy is a celebration of the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.Here the saving action of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christis proclaimed.The divine services are celebrations of Jesus’ opening the gates of heaven forus through his life, death, and resurrection. They do not commemorate the“late departed” Jesus of Nazareth, but witness to the resurrection of Christ byproclamation, preaching, praise, thanksgiving, and the Sacrament. Throughthe Word of God preached and the sacraments celebrated and administered,Jesus Christ is present in our midst according to his promise. He is indeedwith us to the end of the age (Guide to Introducing Lutheran Worship 24).The word “liturgy” comes from a Greek word that originally referred to apublic work or duty performed by individual citizens for the benefit of the state.It is literally a “public service.” In the church it came to refer to those public actsof recognizing God’s grace and mercy on the part of all the people of God whenassembled as the church. For this reason, people of the church should understandwhat they are involved in as they use the liturgy. Unfortunately, we know this isnot the case. I am astounded at the number of congregants, even those who havegrown up in the Lutheran Church, who are ignorant concerning essence andmeaning of the Divine Liturgy. Therefore, I am compelled to compile thisexplanation.At the outset, I need to point out that in the Divine Service, the Lord comesto us in Word and Sacrament to bless and enliven us with His gifts. God is not theaudience and we the performers. The Divine Service is not something we do forGod, but is His Service to us which is received by faith. The “liturgy” is reallyGod’s work. He gives. We receive. He speaks. We listen.In worship a continuing dialog takes place on various levels, and liturgy is anaid in this dialog. God is addressing the worshipers with judgment and grace, with promiseand blessing, with Word and Sacrament.The worshiper is addressing God with confession of sins and confessionof faith, with prayer and praise.The worshipers address each other, mutually recognizing their sin andconfessing their faith, sharing rededication to Christ and renewedcommitment to God.In this way the entire service is talking back and forth among God and Hispeople . truly a “public service.” The Lutheran Confessions explain it as follows:But let us talk about the term “liturgy.” It does not really mean a sacrifice buta public service. Thus it squares with our position that a minister whoconsecrates shows forth the body and blood of the Lord to the people, just asa minister who preaches shows forth the gospel to the people, as Paul says (1Cor. 4:1), “This is how one should regard us, as ministers of Christ and5
dispensers of the sacraments of God,” that is, of the Word and sacraments;and 2 Cor. 5:20, “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appealthrough us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Thusthe term “liturgy” squares well with the ministry [FC XXIV.79-81] (Tappert264).In the Large Catechism Luther boldly says that the Lord’s day has it’s ownparticular holy work: “Here a work must be performed by which the doer himselfis made holy; this, as we have heard, takes place only through God’s Word. Places,times, persons and the entire appointed order of worship are therefore institutedand appointed in order that God’s Word may exert its power publicly” (LC I.94).Then he sternly says: “You must be concerned not only about hearing the Wordbut also about learning and retaining it. Do not regard it as an optional orunimportant matter. It is the commandment of God and he will require of you anaccounting of how you have heard and learned and honored his Word” (LC I.98).While the Divine Service is God’s work, in the liturgy, we also have “work” todo.So, it is also true that the liturgy, as with anything that we consider important,is only as full as we ourselves fill it. It can only give as we give ourselves to it. Itcan only give meaning as we seek to work at drawing meaning from it. It can onlyaffect us, as we allow it to do its work of grace! A young lad said to his father,“Dad, worship is boring!’ To which the father replied, “Son, as much as you putinto it, I’m not surprised you feel that way!”When I look out upon the assembled congregation and see men and womencompletely uninvolved in the liturgy (as I have witnessed in past and presentcontexts) standing or sitting as knots on logs or looking about, I am struck with anumber of thoughts. I pity the individual that is so unaffected by God’s mercy andgrace as to appear so thankless. I also remember Luther’s comments in hiscommentary on Psalm 69, of the “lukewarm and nominal Christians let loose onthe church” and that “if this kind of homage would be offered to a man it wouldbe despised” (352). And then I think with sadness of the negative witness andexample they give to their fellow worshipers – especially children – with theirpassive-aggressive posture. Luther would often refer to such individuals as“sluggards” and “clods.”Rite and CeremonyIn this work I will explain both “rite” and “ceremony” of the Divine Service.“Rite” (or ritual) is the substance of the service. The Rites this booklet will beexplaining are Settings of the Divine Service in Lutheran Service Book.“Ceremony” refers to the actions of the Liturgy that accompany the texts of theliturgy. Ceremony includes: folding hands, making the sign of the cross, standing,kneeling, bowing, genuflecting, etc. Ceremony also includes: “the outwardobservance of the church year symbols, and material objects employed in thechurch’s worship, for example, the church building, the altar, crucifixes, candles,and vestments. Ceremonies are solemn religious things and actions” (Lang,6
“Ceremony” 6). Ceremonies are always optional and not every ceremony existsin all places.While ceremonies can help us confess our faith through bodily action orphysical things, it is important to remember that such things are not the mainthings in worship or absolutely necessary for worship. God gives His giftswith or without these ceremonies. (“Introduction to the Liturgy”)Nevertheless, ceremonies do help us confess our faith through bodily action.Ceremony can and does teach and communicate. Our use of ceremony is intendedto teach and communicate God’s presence among us in Word and Sacrament.Therefore, all the actions and gestures of ceremony are deliberate, intentional, andplanned.What, then, is the purpose of ceremonies in the liturgy of the EvangelicalLutheran Church? Ceremonies necessarily exist to teach the faith. As thetrue worship of the triune God is always anchored in the Christian’s fear,love, and trust in this one God above all things, so proper ceremonies have adidactic function in the Christian congregation. This is the intention of ArticleXXIV of the Apology: “The purpose of observing ceremonies is that menmay learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Wordmay receive faith and fear and so may also pray.”Although the function of ceremonies is never less than pedagogical,ceremonies are more than visual aids to faith. Since worship in the name ofJesus is never without form or structure, ceremonies serve to maintain goodorder in the worshiping congregation. (Pless 224-225, emphasis mine)In the Divine Liturgy our worship does not view the Triune God as ourgolfing buddy, but as the Holy and Almighty Creator of heaven and earth intoWhose presence the hosts of heaven bow and cover themselves a most holypresence, which demands our reverence, and into which we come as beggars.You’ve heard that actions speak louder than words. God is holy. We should,therefore, come into His presence with reverence and humility. The purposeof liturgical ceremonies is to give form and order to our reverence and remindus of Whose presence we are in. (“Introduction to the Liturgy”)God is not a God of chaos and confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), therefore His divineservice to the congregation is both ordered and orderly. Evangelical ceremoniesreflect this order as they point to the gracious gifts of forgiveness, life, andsalvation which our Lord bestows through Word and Sacrament. Even as theseceremonies point to the giver and donor, they also assist us to receive these giftsin faith and reverence.This proper use of ceremony is evident in Luther’s instructions regardingprayer in the Small Catechism. Here Luther directs the head of the family to teachthose in his household to use such customs as the sign of the holy cross, kneeling,standing, and the folding of hands.Since there is no such thing as an “informal” service, that is, a service withoutform, the question of ceremonies can be ignored only to the detriment of the pure7
preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the blessed sacraments.Thus, many of the ceremonies of the ancient church were not discarded, butpurified of superstition and then retained in the Lutheran Church. 1Prosper of Acquitaine (d. 455, disciple of Saint Augustine) is credited withthe maxim “Lex orandi, lex credendi” (“the law of praying (worship) [is] the lawof believing (doctrine)”). Or to put it simply “what we do in worship serves toteach what we believe.” In other words, you cannot separate form from substance.Although ceremonies are not part of the Divine
LC-MS Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod LBW Lutheran Book of Worship. Augsburg Publishing House, 1978. LSB Lutheran Service Book. Concordia Publishing House, 2006. LW Lutheran Worship. Concordia Publishing House, 1982. SELK Selbstständige Evanglisch-Lutherische Kircke TLH The Lutheran Hymnal. Concordia Publishing House, 1941.