The Divine Service
"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." -Acts 2:42
Why do we call the worship service the Divine Service? Because the Divine serves us (Gottesdienst)! We gather together on Sunday morning to receive what only God gives us, namely, the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation! We come together on Sunday morning, not so much to give, but to receive from God. What can we give God? God doesn't need anything! Read Psalm 50 and see! Even more, our dear Lord, Jesus Christ, has said, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many..." (Mark 10:45). Christ gives the gifts that He won on the cross 2,000 years ago to us today! He deigns Himself to be with us and forgive all of our sins. It is for this reason that the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are the centers of our preaching. As St. Paul says, "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. . ." (1 Corinthians 2:2). Even more, the focus of the hymns and sermons are on Christ's Work of laying His life down for the world; for this reason, ". . . we preach Christ crucified." (1 Corinthians 1:23) Worship begins with God's Word, and we respond in faith, thanksgiving, and prayer. But, the chief purpose of worship is to receive the forgiveness of sins, and we do.
It's for this reason that we worship the way we do: God is truly present. Why? Because where His Word is, there He is also. So, worship is not about us, but God; it's not about our preference but about reverence. You will notice four very unique attributes in the Divine Service:
If you're a "Bible-believing Christian" then you need to come to this Service! No fluff. Just God's Word! The Words in the Divine Service are taken directly from Holy Scripture. We begin with the Invocation, that is, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28). The Kyrie (Psalm 123; Luke 17), the Gloria in Excelsis (Luke 2), the Creed, the Offertory (Psalm 51), the Sanctus (Isaiah 6), the Agnus Dei (John 1), the Verba Domini (Matthew, Mark, Luke, 1 Corinthians), the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6), the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2), and even the final words of the service, the Aaronic Benediction (Numbers 6), are all taken from Holy Scripture! We read from the Old Testament, the Psalm, the Epistle, and the Gospels every Sunday! The hymns are based on the Scripture readings for the day! The sermon is always drawn from Holy Scripture.
You cannot be a Christian without Christ! You will notice that who takes center stage in the service is Jesus Christ and His Work and Word for us! God the Father sends His only begotten Son to us, Christ dies and resurrects for our salvation, and the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel! He does the work of forgiveness, and comforting! Christ is not merely mentioned, but truly present! In the service, you won't only hear that Christ is your example, but you will hear that He is your Savior! He is not only with you but for you! He is present every service with His Word! That's why we go to church!
The Liturgy of the service is formal. That means that it is planned and deliberate. It is not spontaneous. See 1 Corinthians 14:33-40. We take God's Word seriously, and we truly believe that God is present. We do not seek to entertain or mimic the culture. We don't look to grow the church through gimmicks, stunts, and fads. We look to revere God and His Word, knowing that it is more precious than all the silver and gold in this world. We're not gathering to be in popular in the sight of our culture or society. Even more, the point is not pomp and circumstance. Rather, our reverence is driven directly by our conviction that God Himself is present in His risen Body and Blood for us, and that He truly listens to our prayers. It's not about our preference, but about reverence.
Every Sunday, you will hear God's Law (the commands He makes) and God's Gospel (the promises He makes). You will hear about your sin; but, you will also hear about your Savior. You will never hear one without the other. For this reason, the Divine Service is comforting: we are killed by the Law, but resurrected by the Gospel. Our hope in ourselves, and in the things of this world dies, and our hope and faith in Christ grow stronger. You will never come and leave St. John without hearing about the forgiveness of every one of your sins through Christ Jesus our Lord, given by grace through faith alone.
THE LORD'S SUPPER
Our church practices "Closed Communion" which is the practice not only of the Scriptures and confessed in the Lutheran Confessions, it is also taught and practiced by the majority of Christians in the world. Likewise, this has been the practice of the church for centuries, and rightly the doctrine of all congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The Lord is truly present in the Lord's Supper. The same body of Christ that was in the womb of the Virgin Mary, walked on the earth, hung on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven is the same body and blood of Christ we take into our mouths. Coming into the bodily presence of Jesus is a serious thing. Unrepentant and unprepared we come to the Lord's Supper to our detriment. The Bible teaches we are to examine ourselves before receiving this Sacrament. This means: it is our desire that all people would commune with us, but out of high regard for God's Word, we believe, teach, and confess that unity in confession comes before unity in communion. Only in repentance and faith do we rightly prepare ourselves. Therefore, we invite everyone to make their confession of faith before God and man. God requires that the pastor, the congregation, and you to all believe, teach, and confess the same thing: His Word! Being a member of a congregation is a public confession of that church's doctrine. If you attend another church from another denomination, your confession is different than ours. This does not mean that we don't regard you as a Christian but we do acknowledge that differences in doctrine are important and unity in doctrine is required before we can commune together. We simply ask that you give us the chance to instruct you on why we believe what we believe! Then, if you would like to make the same profession of faith with us at St. John, then we will gladly welcome you to be catechized and become member of this church! Know that all of this is done purely out of love for God, care for you, and for the sake of true unity in this church! We hope that you give us the opportunity to share with you this wonderful news!