The Service of the Word (the written and spoken Word)
- The Scripture Readings: The Word of God in Holy Scripture has always been a major element of Christian worship. We use a three-year lectionary. Three Scripture lessons are usually read at each service. Typically the first reading is from the Old Testament.
The second reading is an Epistle (letter to the church). It is followed by the Verse or an Alleluia--"Alleluia, Lord to whom shall we go..." The climax of the readings is the Gospel. We stand to hear the Gospel, for our Lord's own words are spoken.
- Sermon, Hymn, Creed: The Church's response to and interpretation of the Word of God follows the Scripture readings. The Hymn of the Day, which may be sung before or after the Sermon, fits the theme of the lessons and sermon.
The Sermon, usually based on one or more of the lessons, is a living witness of the Gospel, expounding the Word and applying it to our own times and conditions. The Creed embodies the Church's ancient and universal confession of faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed may be used, depending upon the season of the church year. (We use Nicene on communion Sundays.)
- The Prayers: Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession for the needs of the Church, of society, and a wide variety of individuals form a fitting conclusion to the Ministry of the Word. These prayers vary from service to service according to circumstances of time and place. The people enter into the petitions through the frequent response: "Hear our prayer," or "Lord, have mercy."
Next month, in "How Lutherans Worship, Part III," we'll hear about "The Service of Holy Communion", the part of the service in which we receive God's grace in the sacraments.