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“Living the Liturgy: Salutation and Collect of the Day”
Ruth 2:4


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service III—March 23, 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.  So far we have looked at the Invocation, Confession of Sins and Absolution, Introit, Kyrie, and Gloria in Excelsis.  This evening we continue with the Salutation and Collect of the Day and the Scripture Readings.

“The Lord be with you.”  “And with your spirit.”  You wouldn’t think that the Salutation, which precedes the Collect of the Day, has a very deep or significant meaning.  It seems to be no more than a simple greeting, the kind of thing we take so much for granted: “Hi, how you doing?”  “Oh, fine, how are you?”  But, the Salutation really has a much deeper meaning than that.

It may surprise you to learn that, like most of the rest of the Liturgy, even the Salutation is actually a quotation directly from the Bible.  In the book of Judges: “An angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, ‘The Lord be with you.’”  When the angel Gabriel visits the Virgin Mary: “Rejoice, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’”  St. Paul in 2nd Thessalonians, “The Lord be with you all,” and in 2nd Timothy, “The Lord be with your spirit.”

The book of Ruth illustrates what the Salutation by the minister and Response by the congregation really is—more than just a greeting but a blessing, a benediction: “Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, ‘The Lord be with you!’ And they answered him, ‘The Lord bless you!’”

In the same way, the Salutation by the Minister and Response by the congregation together form a reciprocal prayer for the Lord’s blessing, of the pastor for his people, and of the people for their pastor.  Wilhelm Löhe, a famous missionary pastor who helped found the Missouri Synod, says that in the Salutation and Response, “The bonds of love and unity between pastor and people are tied anew.” 

This reciprocal prayer is also a reminder and reaffirmation of the relationship between the Christian shepherd and his flock.  Jesus said, “The man who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  But the man who enters by the door is the shepherd of his sheep.”  In the pastor’s Salutation and the congregation’s Response, the congregation is reaffirming that this man is not a “thief and a robber,” but the rightful shepherd whom the Lord has called to serve in their midst, to preach from this pulpit.

The Salutation is followed by a short prayer called the Collect of the Day.  “Collect” is an old English word for a prayer.  You can think of it as “collecting” the congregation’s thoughts together into one prayer.

It is called the Collect of the Day because it changes from week to week depending on the season and Sunday of the Church Year.  It is a short summary, in prayer form, of the theme for that day. 

The Collects of the Day date back to between 400 and 1600 years old!  At the time of the Protestant Reformation the Lutherans held onto ancient traditions of Christian worship such as these, as the Apology of the Augsburg Confession says: “We gladly keep the old traditions set up the church . . .  Nothing should be changed in the accustomed rites without good reason . . .”

The book of Acts says of the early Christians, “They raised their voices together in prayer to God.”  That’s what we are doing when we pray the Collect of the Day.  Raising our voices together in prayer, not only within our congregation, not only with our brothers and sisters in our church-body who on any given Sunday are praying the very same Collect of the Day, but also with Christians all around the world, of many different denominations, who on that Sunday are probably also using the very same Collect of the Day.

Amen.

“Living the Liturgy: Scripture Readings, Gradual,
Alleluia, and Gospel Acclamations”

Acts 1:14 and Colossians 4:16


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service III—March 23, 2011

Jesus of Nazareth was not only a carpenter; he was also a rabbi.  In the Gospel of Luke is the only example recorded of Rabbi Jesus conducting a worship service, in his hometown Synagogue at Nazareth.  The Synagogues in those days already had what is called a “lectionary,” an established cycle of appointed Scripture Readings.  Luke reports that Jesus read the appointed reading for the day, from Isaiah, and then preached a sermon based upon that reading.

Two thousand years later, that’s still the way it’s done by most of the world’s Christians.  There are some minor variations, but on most Sundays the very same Scripture selections read in our worship in this church are also being read in churches of every denomination, down the block and around the world.

The system of appointed Scripture Readings developed gradually in the early Church, and was pretty much established by the year 800 A.D..  It really didn’t change much until in the 1970’s, when the various Christian denominations agreed to a new three-year cycle of readings.  In Year A the Gospel Readings are from Matthew, in Year B from Mark, in Year C from Luke, with John interspersed in all three years.  Right now we are in Year A, which means that most of the Sunday Gospel Readings come from Matthew.

A little explanation about how the readings were selected.  First the Gospel Reading was chosen to reflect the traditional theme for that day.  For example on Christmas Day the Gospel Reading would be the story of Christ’s birth.  Then the First Reading, usually from the Old Testament or sometimes from the Book of Acts, was selected to harmonize with the Gospel Reading.  Lastly the Epistle Reading that comes between them was selected.  Sometimes the Epistle Reading also harmonizes with the Gospel Reading, but usually the Epistle Reading is just a running series of selections from a particular book, not intended to necessarily coordinate with the other two readings.

Since ancient times the reading of Scripture in Christian worship has been accompanied by actions expressing veneration for the Word of God, such as rising in reverence for the reading of the Sunday Gospel, and the traditional words of praise before and after the Gospel Reading: “Glory to you, O Lord,” “Praise to you, O Christ.”  Between the First Reading and the Epistle Reading is the Gradual, a brief selection from the Psalms or other Scripture that reflects the theme for the day.  And between the Epistle and Gospel Readings is the joyous Alleluia is sung.

The idea behind the appointed Scripture Readings is that over a period of three years our congregation will read major together portions of the Bible.  St. Paul expressly commands in Colossians: “After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans,” and in 1st Thessalonians, “I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.”  And he tells Timothy that this is an important part of a pastor’s duties: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture.”

Amen.

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