The Invocation Beginning In God’s Name


By Robert M. Zagore

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the HoIy Spirit.”

The first l5 words of the Divine Service – the lnvocation- embrace everything we need to know about the rest of the service. Magnificent promises and life-changing joy await the Christian who understands the Invocation.  

God’s invitation to you

At the beginning of the Divine Service, the Pastor says the Invocation while facing the congregation to show he’s acting as God’s representative. It’s as if God is saying through him’ “I called you here in fulfillment of My ancient promise and mandate. You have been baptized in My name and I adopted you as My children. You have learned of My commandments and My salvation, and I made you My disciples. You have been brought here under My authority and by My promise. in Baptism I made you heirs of the promises and gifts I long to give to you during the next hour. These gifts will be yours forever and will bear fruit every day of your life. You are My people. I am your God.” The people respond by saying, “Yes, that is why we are here, and that is who we are.” Of course, they’ll likely use the Hebrew synonym: “Amen.” The Invocation tells us the reason we’re in church. We do not gather in church to feel a force, to study, to learn morality or learn about ourselves. We gather to worship the Trinity whose name is “Father, Son and Holy Spirit-” When we do that, everything else follows.  

God’s names tell us who He is

In the Bible, names aren’t just words, they’re descriptions. Through His names’ God reveals what He’s really like. Because every revelation has a purpose, He connects a promise to every name. Genesis provides a vivid example of this name-promise connection. Abram and his wife Sarai seemed too old to have children. Nevertheless, God promised a child to Abram. He even implied the promised Savior would be Abram’s physical descendant. With time, Abram lost hope. But the Lord let Abram know He intended to keep that promise. God said, “I am El-Shaddai [God Almighty], I will confirm My testament to you and I will greatly increase your numbers” (Gen. l7: l-2). By calling Himself El-Shaddai, God promised Abram that He was able to do what seemed impossible to men. in His name, God promised that He is almighty and that He would use this Power to bless Abram and his children forever. Unlike our promises, God’s name promises are eternal; they always endure the test of time. But how do we get them? The Bible says God “puts His name on” His people. When Moses was leading Israel through the desert, the Lord commanded him, “Tell [the priests] this is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them, ‘The Lord bless you and keep You; the Lord make His Face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.’ So they will put my name on the Israelites’ and I will bless them” (Num’ 6: 22-27). The Lord gives a three-fold benediction that places His name and blessing on His people. God has several names in Scripture; names in which He reveals Himself to us. He is “The Lord our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23);”The Lord my banner of salvation” (Elc. 17:5); “The Lord who heals you” (Ex- 15:26); “The Lord our Peace” (Judges 6:2). He is “Jesus,” which means’ Yahweh saves, “because He will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).

These names tell about God; the narrate the story of our salvation.

When we read the Bible, we see that God lays out those promise-filled names like tiles in a great mosaic. If we stand back we can see the self-portrait of our God.

The great name of our Salvation

In Matthew 28, Jesus gives the name that epitomizes all the names that came before. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore’ go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” In His name, the church goes out baptizing and teaching. The Lord graciously comes and says, “I am your God. You are My people. My name is your guarantee of My love and salvation.” With the name comes all the benefits of the risen Savior’s work He applies His waterborne name and He numbers us among those “who have the [Son’s] name and the Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Rev. 14:I). Thereby we are lifted up and share His fellowship, “for [He] lifted [His] name and [His] word above all things” (Ps. 138: 2). This, and more, God gives to us in the first 15 words of the worship service. We learn more of what it means as we hear and study His Word. We continue to learn after the service concludes and we go to our homes and our work. He is present there also, because His name clings to His baptized, forgiven disciples. He is found where His name is found. “surely I am with You always, to the very end o[ the age.”

O, Come, Let Us Worship Him” is condensed from a 15-part series in The Lutheran Witness \Sept 1999-{d 2000). Copyright 200l by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod- This work may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use. Commercial reproduction or reproduction for sale, of any portion of this work or of the work as a whole without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited



“Oh, Come, Let Us Worship Him”


Receiving God’s Forgiveness:  Confession And Absolution


Why go to church, if not to hear Christ’s word of forgiveness?

By Richard J Sawyer.

  “Pastor, if I need forgiveness, I don’t have to come to you do I? Can’t I just confess my sins to Jesus?” What an intriguing question! If the idea of coming to the pastor for forgiveness seems such a burden, then what brings people to God’s House on Sunday mornings in the first place? All the pastor does is baptize, preach the Gospel, administer the Supper, and…Pronounce the absolution. If folks aren’t coming for Christ’s forgiveness, why are they coming? Our Lutheran liturgy does a fantastic job of proclaiming why it is we gather every week: “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess to you all my sins and iniquities-…”  To which the pastor says: “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

We have what it takes

We gather because we have what it takes to be a Christian. We have sins!  Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, after all, but sinners.  So to begin our Service with confession is to say that we are the ones that Jesus died to save.  As St. John puts it: “lf we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9, Lutheran Worship, p. l58, and our Lutheran Service Book page151 and 167). We come, then, confessing what is true of us: we have sins.  Jesus comes declaring what is true of Him: “I forgive those sins.”  That is what He first said at our baptism, and He has been saying it ever since.  He has been saying it because He put His living voice into the mouths of His disciples, telling them, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:23).

Luther’s contribution

For Martin Luther, the most important part of confession was not what comes out of the mouths of sinners, but what goes into their ears: the absolution.  And for the sake of that absolution, that living voice of Christ’s forgiveness spoken through His servants, Luther urged that Christians cherish and “make use of the healing medicine,” explaining, “When I urge you to go to confession, I am simply urging you to be a Christian” (large Catechism, ‘A Brief Exhortation to Confession”). Luther knew confession and absolution primarily in the individual or private sense. In his time, Christians made a general confession of their sins in worship, but the absolution we are so familiar with was heard only in private.  Because of this, where the catechism speaks about confession, it is speaking of private or individual confession’

Because we need to hear it

So why should Christians today hear the absolution?  Because it is Christ’s joy to speak and the Christian’s joy to hear!  And because, quite honestly, we need to-not because we suddenly are not forgiven if we don’t, but because it’s just so easy to forget what Jesus says we are! In Holy Absolution, Jesus tells us we are His and He is ours, that neither Satan, death nor sin can have us.  He did that in Holy Baptism. He does that in His preaching every week.  He does that in the Supper.  And if that were not enough, He goes on speaking His forgiveness in His Holy Absolution.  He will even speak it to us privately and maybe lay a hand upon our heads-a hand that’s real, a voice that sets the words of Jesus ringing in our ears. Just so we can be sure.

ln our ears and on our lips

Our Lutheran Confessions tell us: “It is taught among us that private absolution should be retained and not allowed to fall into disuse” (Augsburg Confession XI.1, BOC, p.34). It is a great treasure that we hear Christ’s absolution in the Service every week. But such a treasure should not spoil us on the blessing Jesus has for us in private absolution. It would be a tragedy to believe that Christ’s forgiveness spoken generally and publicly is not for hearing privately as well.  There is a place for hearing a general Gospel: “God so loved the world.” But what a joy that Jesus didn’t speak that kind of Gospel from His cross, but told the thief beside Him: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise!” (Luke 23:43 NIV emphasis added). As we learn to hear Christ’s voice from someone like our pastor, we learn that Jesus puts His Words into our ears that they might be upon our lips as well. We too have words to speak to another – “I forgive you”-because they have been spoken first to us.  We have gathered to hear what Jesus loves to say.  And having heard, we now have something to say to one another. So, what about the Christian who asks, “Can’t I just confess my sins to Jesus?” Sure we can, and that is what we do each time we make confession during each day, at the altar or in the prayer our Savior taught us. But why would we not want to hear the words that Jesus loves to say? “I forgive you all your sins.”

O, Come, Let Us Worship Him” is condensed from a 15-part series in The Lutheran Witness \Sept 1999-{d 2000). Copyright 200l by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod- This work may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use.   Commercial reproduction or reproduction for sale, of any portion of this work or of the work as a whole without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited  




“Oh, Come, Let Us Worship Him”


‘O Lord, How Shall I Meet You?’


An Entrance Hymn, Introit, or psalm near the beginning of the service provides an age-old vehicle for meeting God in worship.


By David P Held

  The opening line of an Advent hymn asks, “O Lord, How Shall I I Meet You . . . ?” This question brings to mind the reason God’s People-gathered for worship-sing an Entrance Hymn, an Introit or a Psalm early in the Divine Service. God speaks to us through His Word, of course, and we speak to Him in prayer. But another of the ways we speak to God and to one another in worship is by singing together.  Hymns and psalms provide us with an age-old vehicle for meeting God. After being prepared through the lnvocation (perhaps preceded by an optional “hymn of invocation’) and by the Confession and Absolution, the community of believers is ready to enter that part of the liturgy known as the “Service of the Word.” At this point, Lutheran Worship and Hymnal Supplement 98 provide an opportunity to sing an Entrance Hymn, the appointed Psalm of the Day or an Introit.  

Some history

Singing a hymn or a psalm at this place in the service goes back at least some 1,500 years, to the fifth century. The pope at that time, Ceiestine I, stated that as the clergy moved from the sacristy to the altar, a choir should sing an entire psalm. Later, only selected psalm verses, instead of an entire psalm, were sung. These selected psalm verses are known as the “Introit,” from a Latin word that means “entrance.” Psalm texts were used in other parts of the Mass, too: in the Gradual, which comes between the Epistle and Gospel readings; and in the Alleluia or (during certain times of the year when the Alleluia is omitted) in Scripture verses known as “tracts” that are sung after the Gradual. Martin Luther kept the Introit in his Latin revision of the Roman Mass. In his German revision, he suggested that a German hymn be sung instead. Singing a psalm or hymn adds solemnity to the entrance of the clergy as the pastor and assistants move to their appropriate places in the chancel. Singing by the entire congregation has always been a powerful and uplifting part of Lutheran worship. Luther spoke highly of music and provided a strong impetus for including hymns in worship. Not only did he himself write hymns, he also encouraged other poets and musicians to contribute to the development of a hymnody to be sung by the people.  

Hymns and psalms

Generally, the Entrance Hymn, appointed Psalm or Introit reflects the theme of the Sunday or festival. If an Entrance Hymn is the choice, there may have been preparation for it already in the Prelude, with a composition based on this hymn’s tune. By singing hymns from various time periods and ethnic backgrounds, congregations are reminded that they are part of a church from all ages and for all people, rather than just a congregation of the 20th century.  

Singing the psalms

Singing hymns is nothing new for Lutherans, but to chant a psalm may be a new experience for some worshipers even though it has been a practice of the church for centuries. Already in the Old Testament, it was customary for the psalms to be sung (Ps 68:25). In the New Testament, Paul makes reference to the singing of psalms (Eph. 5: l9; Col. 3:16). Since many early Christians were Jewish, it was only natural that they continued this practice. (During the Middle Ages, Gregorian chant-it recently has had a resurgence of popularity-was the preferred musical vehicle for psalm singing). The use of chant adds the element of music to the text and slows down the presentation of the thoughts of the text. Chant also enables singers to handle the varied length of the psalm verses (different from a hymn, in which each stanza is the same length.) One form of chant uses “psalm tones,” such as those found in Lutheran Worship and Hymnal Supplement 98. These tones enable a congregation to sing the psalms with little difficulty. In addition to such methods for singing psalms, composers have written many musical settings of the psalms, involving congregations, cantors and choirs. Choral settings of the psalms abound. So do hymn paraphrases. Psalms used in worship also frequently include a refrain known as an “antiphon.” This refrain, usually drawn from a verse of the psalm, focuses on the theme of the day. The following antiphons for various days show how the Old Testament psalms can help focus our worship of Jesus Christ:   Christmas Day “The Lord has made His salvation known and revealed His righteousness to the nations” (Ps. 98:2). Epiphany-“All kings will bow down to Him and All nations will serve Him” (Ps. 72:11).  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 5 1: 17). Ash Wednesday “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51: 17). Ascension “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets” (Ps. 47:5). Meeting God in worship is awe-filled yet comforting. The final thoughts of “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You’ remind us of our encounter with God in worship:

O glorious Sun, now come,

Send forth your beams so cheering,

And guide us safely home.


O, Come, Let Us Worship Him” is condensed from a 15-part series in The Lutheran Witness \Sept 1999-{d 2000). Copyright 200l by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod- This work may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use.   Commercial reproduction or reproduction for sale, of any portion of this work or of the work as a whole without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited OCN-OI