We call our worship services ‘The Divine Service.’ It is a divine service because the primary focus of the service is sacramental – how God serves us – by giving to us the forgiveness of all of our sins through His Word and the Holy Sacraments (Holy Baptism and Holy Communion). This is most clearly heard through the words of Absolution and the Sermon spoken by the pastor, but is scattered throughout the whole service. It is most clearly seen when someone is baptized and when the congregation gathers at the altar to receive the Lord’s Supper.
The secondary focus of the service is sacrificial – how we serve God. We do this by making confessions: confessing our sins, as God tells us is proper, and confessing the faith which He has given to us. This is most clearly heard during the Confession, the singing of hymns, and the recitation of the either the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed, but again is scattered through out the whole service.
Christians have been blessed by the Divine Service for 2,000 years. One of the blessings of the Divine Service is that it brings us God’s forgiveness every week, whether the pastor’s sermon “spoke to us” that Sunday or not. People who are unfamiliar to the Divine Service might initially find it difficult. But the wonderful thing about it is that it keeps the same pattern every Sunday, so it easily becomes familiar after a few services. This is helpful for people of all ages, since the words bring God’s comfort in every situation in life, especially outside of the church’s walls.
We preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). This means that the main focus of every sermon is not what we have or have not done, nor is it what we do or should do, but what Christ has done for us already on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago and what He still does for us today.
But this does not mean that we overlook what we have and have not done or what we do and should do. We do spend time examining our life in the light of what God tells us about it in His Word, the Bible. He shows us that we have sinned against Him and that we deserve His punishment, both here on earth and in hell for all eternity. And though He tells us how we could please Him, we are completely unable to do it no matter how hard we try – though we do continue to try through faith in our Savior.
- The Gospel
But there is good news! It does not matter how bad we are, but how good God is and what He has done and is doing for us. This especially revolves around the fact that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life in our place, and died on the cross to pay for our sins, and, because of what Jesus has done for us, God the Father now declares us “not guilty” of all our sins. We also consider His grace and mercy upon us that He now brings the forgiveness of our sins to us by the Holy Spirit through His Word, as well as through the Holy Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (the focal points of the Divine Service)
In the Divine Service, we are reminded of the value that God has placed on our baptism. As the pastor absolves us, he quotes Jesus’ words from Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized, will be saved.” Our baptism saves us, not because it was something that we did, or some decision we made (that would be sacrificial), but because it was something that God did to and for us (this is sacramental) through His servant, usually a pastor.
The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is also often called ‘Holy Communion’ or the ‘Sacrament of the Altar.’ Any of these titles implies that this meal is not simply a human rite or ritual which we observe for the sake of tradition. Instead, it has been given to us by our Lord, Jesus Christ, for the “remission (forgiveness) of sins” (Matthew 26:28). This meal is not ours, but His. It is not our flesh and blood, but His. Therefore, we participate in the Lord’s Supper at His invitation. Simply stated, this invitation is extended to those who believe in Jesus as their one and only Savior from sin.