Divine Service: Sacramental Catechesis

Word and SacramentLutheran Service Book, Divine Service III: Service of the Sacrament

Beginning with the Preface (2 Tim. 4:22), the greeting The Lord be with you” is perhaps an abrupt start to an already happening Divine Service (LSB 194). This welcoming, which is ironically St. Pauls closing remark in his second letter to Timothy, conveys the initiation of something different which is about to take place. This service, as an early historical remark, would have been quarantined from outsiders, non-believers and those undergoing catechesis, from participating in, even liturgically. Doctrine and practice were not to be, even in the slightest, removed from the other. To participate in the Services practice is to participate in the doctrinal confession of what is received. While this exclusionary demarcation is not the current approach in which Lutherans conduct the Divine Service, it is hoped that hearers will recognize something new is taking place. More than that, it is hoped that those present will see and hear and know that this Service of the Sacrament is for those who have faith in these words of Christ, Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.[1] This is, of course, an ongoing contention in our modern culture which pervasively attacks any exclusionscharacterizing it as unloving and unbecoming of the Church.

The trisagion of the Sanctus (Isaiah 6:3Matthew 21:9in the Divine Service is the first Trinitarian expression in the Service of the Sacrament,” and a liturgical clue to what Jesus is about to do (LSB 195). As the crowds went before Jesus shouting, hosanna,” so now Gods people go before him with a pleading cry for mercy. In the Holy Supper is Christs Body and Blood, given and shed for sinners. No more is the sacrifice of animals or the mercy seat smeared with blood. The requirements of Old have been fulfilled in One whose triumph is over death and hell. Indeed, on the Throne of Grace, the altar, is seated the Body and Blood of Christ in chalice and paten, for men and women to partake and live! Gods people flock like malnourished sheep to the gate of their Shepherds pasture, wearied by their sin and the world around them. By concord they gather before God and with one-another confessing a like-hearted faith. In mercy Christ opens the narrow gate, permitting them to graze on his grace.

In confessing the Lords Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), hearts are being prepared to receive Christs forgiveness of sins (LSB 196). To pray the Our Father is to ask God for trespasses, sins, to be forgiven and likewise to forgive any who have trespassed against yourself. This reconciliation awaits the Kingdom of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and while not limited to the Lords Supper it is certainly anticipated as that gift which leads an exodus from temptations into the deliverance from evil. In this way, The Words of our Lord [2] become the pinnacle of this Service of the Sacrament,” revealing that which is to be received. However, it should be said that when this blessed gift is actually partaken, there Christs word and promise find fulfillment. Not that participation in the sacrament marks the efficacy of it being a sacrament but that in eating and drinking Christs Body and Blood worthily is the benefit of forgiveness received.

The Pax Domini (John 20:19) is an early expression of peace, and here it is better understood as forgiveness (LSB 197). This forgiveness is had in the bodily eating and drinking of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In the Agnus Dei (John 1:29) the Holy Supper is supported by song and sound teaching (LSB 198). Christs atonement is the peace granted to all who faithfully partake of the Holy Supper. Jesus is the slain sacrificial lamb, the final sacrifice for the sins of the world. In Him, through Him, and by Him is all of creation redeemed. Sanctification of souls comes from the gift of the Holy Spirit, in water and the Word, and is continually nourished in the body and blood of the Lamb. As the Lord promised Moses saying I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion (Exodus 33:19Romans 9:15),” the faithful take heart knowing this has come true in Christ. He has had mercy and compassion, and says of it, take eat, take drink (Cf. Matthew 26:26-28).

At the Holy Suppers end the Song of Simeon, in the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32), recounts the life of a man waiting in the Lord (LSB 199-200). Simeon was promised to not see death until he saw the coming Messiah. Although the promise fulfilled is his death sentence, he rejoices the same. It is not gold or silver or youth he seeks, but only the Christ! The Holy Supper is the foretaste of the feast to come, when what is temporal ends and the eternal begins (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Christ will come again in his own time but that does not mean he has forsaken his faithful remnant. Precious is Jesus’ Body and Blood for it gives in this time Gods love through the forgiveness of sins. The patient partake of the precious, while in faith waiting on the Lord. It is then in the Thanksgiving (Psalm 107:1) where concluding remarks are made pertaining to the Lords Supper (LSB 200). Christ is thanked as good, and none are good but God alone (Cf. Mark 10:18). Jesus is in fact that one good God and graciously sustains his people with his enduring mercy both in his Sacrament and forevermore.

In light of the Post Communion Collect, St Pauls admonishment, Do not be conformed to this world…” rings true. He continues, …but, be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). The Fall corrupted all that was good, acceptable and perfect, but in partaking the gifts of mercy at the altar all things discerned in Christ are good, acceptable and perfect. This is what the Lords Supper is: a refreshing salutary gift that lavishes mercy and strengthens faith and love toward one another. [3] In the context of the Divine Service, with all its gifts is to beunderstood as Gods service to us as His gathered guests and our faith-full response to Him in Christ.” Even so, it is also an opportunity to grow and develop as a community and for the community to be empowered to go out into the world.” [4] The Holy Supper is both a holy communion with God and a common confession among those communing.

The closing Salutation and Benedicamus (2 Timothy 4:22) revisit the welcoming Preface as though to say, we conclude for now but not forever.” In part it is also a welcoming to return once more to the Divine Service and partake again of Gods blessing had in the Service of the Sacrament.” In Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26), the hearer is given the blessing and promise of Gods provision, mercy, and grace. In this way the Lord, who comes in Word and Sacrament has and continues to lift up his countenance and gives peace, that is, his forgiveness now and until he comes again (LSB 202).


[1] SC on The Sacrament of the Altar, see question, Who receives this sacrament worthily?

[2] LSB 197, found in Matthew 26:26-28Mark 14:22-24Luke 22:19-201 Corinthians 11:23-25.

[3] LSB 201, Post Communion Collect #402.

[4] Timothy H. Maschke, Gathered Guests: a Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2003), 20.

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