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“Living the Liturgy: Introit”
Colossians 3:16


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service II—March 16, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

For our Lent services this year we are having a series of meditations on the various portions of the traditional Liturgy of Christian worship, which we generally follow in our Sunday services.  This Liturgy is used in some form not only in the Lutheran Church but by Christians of almost every denomination, around the world, and across the centuries, going back almost 2,000 years.  Last week we looked at the opening portions of the service, the Invocation and Confession of Sins and Absolution.  This evening we continue with the Introit, Kyrie, and Gloria in Excelsis.

I mentioned last week that word “liturgy” comes from the Greek word “leitourgia,” and we call our way of worship Liturgy because that is the word the Bible itself uses to describe Christian worship, in the Book of Acts.  And it’s not just the word Liturgy that comes right from the pages of the Bible.  I remember when I was about 12 years old I was reading in the book of Psalms and I came upon these verses in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy holy spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit.”  You may recognize those words as the Offertory that is sung after the sermon in one of our services.  When I read those words for the first time in the Bible, my first thought was: “They took that out of our hymnal!”

Of course, it’s really the other way around: Our hymnal took it right out of the Bible.  In our meditations over the coming weeks we will see how almost every part our traditional Liturgy consists of quotations right from the pages of the Bible. 

The Introit also is a quotation of Scripture, usually from the Psalms.  “Introit” is the Latin word for “entrance.”  Because the Confession of Sins and Absolution is the spiritual preparation for worship, that first part of the service at one time was conducted with the minister standing in the back of the church and the congregation turned around facing him.  My mother remembers it being done that way in our Kansas country church when she was a child.  Then, while the Introit would be spoken or sung as the pastor made his “entrance” into the sanctuary and approached the altar.  That is why it is called the “Introit,” the Latin word for “entrance.”

The Introit changes from week to week, depending on the season and Sunday of the Church Year.  The Psalms, of course, were the divinely inspired hymnal of the Old Testament, but they are also meant for us and our worship in the New Testament era. 

As St. Paul says in Ephesians, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” And in Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

Amen.

“Living the Liturgy: Kyrie
Matthew 20:30-31


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service II—March 16, 2011

After the “Introit” comes the “Kyrie,” from the Greek “Kyrie eleison,” which means “Lord, have mercy.”  The Kyrie one of the oldest recorded features of the Christian Liturgy.  A pilgrim to Jerusalem in about 350 A.D. reported that the congregation would cry out “Kyrie eleison,” “Lord, have mercy,” in response to the prayers spoken by the minister.

The Kyrie is not so much a plea for forgiveness, which has already just been received in the Confession of Sins and Absolution, but it is a prayer for divine blessing and for God’s help with the struggles of life.  The prayerful nature of the Kyrie has been emphasized in Lutheran Service Book with the inclusion of specific prayers: “For peace from above and for our salvation let us pray to the Lord. . .  For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the Church of God, and for the unity of all let us pray to the Lord. . .  For this holy house and for all who offer here their worship and praise let us pray to the Lord. . . Help, save, comfort and defend us, gracious Lord.”  While Lutheran Service Book itself is relatively new, it may surprise you to learn that those prayers included with the Kyrie are not new at all, but actually go back over 1500 years, taken from an ancient version of the Liturgy dating to about 400 A.D.

The words “Kyrie eleison,” “ Lord, have mercy,” come right from the pages of the Bible.  Over and over again, the Gospels report people in desperate need coming to Jesus and crying out to him for help: “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession’”;  “When [the blind man Bartimaeus] heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth [passing by], he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”;  “[The ten lepers] stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’”  Like almost every part our traditional Liturgy, the Kyrie is a quotation right from the Bible.

So, as you sing those words, “Lord, have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us,” you are using the very same prayer, the very same words as those needy souls who sought Jesus’ help and blessing during his life here on earth.  Those words connect you spiritually across 2,000 years with the Canaanite woman, the blind man Bartimaeus, and the ten lepers.  For in the Kyrie you too are falling at the feet of your Lord in faith, seeking his divine blessing, his help with the struggles of life.  As the Lord invites us in Hebrews: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Amen.

“Living the Liturgy: Gloria in Excelsis
Luke 2:13-14


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service II—March 16, 2011

The Liturgy continues with the Hymn of Praise.  The Hymn of Praise comes at this point in the service as a joyous response to the Lord’s forgiveness received in the Confession of Sins and Absolution, and to his promise to hear our prayers in the Kyrie and grant his blessing and mercy upon us.  The Hymn of Praise also consists of direct quotations right out of the Bible.

Lutheran Service Book hymnal includes a new, alternate hymn of praise, “This Is the Feast.”  It comes from the book of Revelation, and is the hymn which St. John reports sung by the faithful in heaven around the throne of God.  I quote from the book of Revelation, in the Revised Standard Version: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! . . .  Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.”  Sound familiar?

The older, original Hymn of Praise, which we just sang, is called the Gloria in Excelsis, after its first three words in Latin, which mean, “Glory in the highest.”  The Gloria in Excelsis also consists quotations directly from the Bible.  In fact, the Gloria in Excelsis begins with the first Christmas carol, the joyous song the angels sang to the shepherds the night of Jesus’ birth: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”  Combined with this are two other Scripture verses, from John: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”; and from 1 Timothy: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

So both the Gloria in Excelsis and “This Is the Feast” are joyful songs of praise for our redemption, drawn directly from the Bible.

Amen.

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