The Lutheran Liturgy

Growing up Lutheran (LCA), I was raised using what is fondly called the Red Hymnal (The Service Book & Hymnal, published in 1958).  That hymnal contained two liturgies, the First Setting and the Second Setting, each having its own options at certain points.  Our church used the First Setting most of the time, but used the Second for communion Sundays and throughout Lent. The Second Setting was by far my favorite, and I always looked forward to those Sundays when it was in use.

Occasionally I will use one of the liturgies as a basis for prayer and mediation (not often… I don’t want to give the wrong impression I am too spiritual); I can read music enough to hear some of the melodies in my head as I read.  Recently I obtained a very poor, but usable, recording of the Second Setting, which helped to recall it as I heard it 35 years ago.

What I find interesting is that this has apparently recalled my own memories of the liturgy (I have only listened to the recording 3 or 4 times), and I have found that it is often going through my head.  It’s there when I wake up, and often throughout the day I will realize that even as I think about something else, the liturgy is playing in the background (or perhaps playing in my soul… I don’t pretend to understand the mind-brain-soul relationship).  And, it’s not just music; in fact, the music is not predominant.  It is the words that carry the tune (where there is a tune).

So, I thought I would reprint some of what’s been going through my head of late:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart, and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to grant us forgiveness.

Our help is in the Name of the Lord. Who made heaven and earth.
I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord. And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.

Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto thee, that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against thee by thought, word and deed. Wherefore we flee for refuge to thine infinite mercy, seeking and imploring thy grace, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

O most merciful God, who has given thine only-begotten Son to die for us, have mercy upon us and for his sake grant us remission of all our sins: and by thy Holy Spirit increase in us true knowledge of thee and of thy will, and true obedience to they Word, that by thy grace we may come to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, hath had mercy upon us, and hath given his only Son to die for us, and for his sake forgiveth us all our sins. To them that believe on his Name, he giveth power to become the sons of God, and bestoweth upon them his Holy Spirit. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved. Grant this, O Lord, unto us all.

Amen.

Now the organ kicks in (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

At this point, we’re just ramping up.  In the first 5 minutes of the service, we’ve heard and recited the Gospel, confessed our sins and heard the message of forgiveness.  Many contemporary churches never get to this point.  The basis for church for Lutherans is that church is a gathering of sinners, commonly united by the Gospel message of forgiveness; and this is the only basis for church.

Next, the Kyrie and the Gloria in Excelsis.

6 thoughts on “The Lutheran Liturgy”

  1. I grew up with the “red Book”, and our congregation, to 1988, never went to the “Green Book.” The music in the “new” book was anglicized and dumbed down, and could not match the Scandinavian setting for beauty or tradition. I left the church during the ELCA merger, and generally it’s been down hill every since, though my church eventually went into the LCMC, not the best choice, in my humble opinion. How I wish I could find a non-ELCA church using this liturgy! It’s too much to ask… (sigh)

  2. What great words!

    That you have these words rolling around in your head is a great blessing.

    It is interesting how that happens.

    Once in awhile something similar happens to me. A hymn or part of the liturgy keeps coming up in my head for days or weeks.

    My pastor says that is one of the great things about the liturgy… that great words are being put into our mouths, and hopefully, by God’s grace, into our hearts and minds.

    Once awhile he (my pastor) brings up the story of a guy in the pews who fell asleep mouthing the words, “Create in me a clean heart O Lord and renew a right Spirit within me.”

    And when he woke up, it actually happened!

    All meant to point to the power of the Word.

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