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“Living the Liturgy: Offertory”
Psalm 51:10-12


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service V—April 6, 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.  We just sang the familiar words of the Offertory.  Like almost all of the Liturgy, these words are a quotation directly from Bible, from Psalm 51. 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right Spirit within me.”  We sing those words before the offering because those words are really our prayer to the Lord to make our offering acceptable and pleasing in his sight.

Isaiah says that, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”  Because we are sinners, all our works, all our offerings are also stained with sin, making them not only unacceptable but repugnant to the Lord. 

But Isaiah also says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  Through Christ, the Lord makes us spiritually “white as snow,” cleanses us of every sin in his sight.  Revelation says of the faithful worshipping God in heaven, “These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  That is also true of the faithful worshipping God here on earth.  All your sins are washed away by the blood of Christ; trust in him as your Savior.

The alternate Offertory in Lutheran Service Book also a quotation from the Psalms, Psalm 116: “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?”  That is the motivation for our works, for our offerings.  Not to earn favor or forgiveness with the Lord, but in humble response to all his gifts toward us, especially his gift of forgiveness, salvation, eternal life through Jesus Christ.  “I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call on the name of the Lord.”

And because our souls have been washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, our works and our offerings are also cleansed by the blood of Christ and made acceptable and pleasing to the Lord.  It is only through faith in Christ that our offerings become acceptable and pleasing to the Lord.  So, that is why we precede the offering with a plea for the Lord to work faith in our hearts, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”

Amen.

“Living the Liturgy: Preface and Proper Preface”
Lamentations 3:41


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service V—April 6, 2011

At this point in the Liturgy the Holy Communion commences with the Preface.  The Preface is one of the oldest recorded features of the Liturgy.  For almost 2,000 years Christians have begun Holy Communion with these responsive words.

“The Lord be with you.”  “And with thy spirit.”  It seems a little redundant that this Salutation is repeated here, since it came once before at the beginning of the service.  The reason for this repetition is that in ancient times only members in good standing were allowed to remain inside the Sanctuary during Holy Communion.  Visitors, inquirers, and those in the process of becoming members would be present only for the first part of the service, for the Scripture Readings and Sermon.  Then, before Holy Communion, a deacon would call out “The things of God for the people of God.”  All the non-members would exit into the lobby, or “Narthex” as it is customarily called in a church, what we call our Gathering Room.  That is actually what the Narthex of a church was invented for, to give non-members a place to wait during the celebration of Holy Communion.  The deacon would call out, “The doors, the doors,” the doors between the Sanctuary and the lobby would be shut, and then the Holy Communion would begin. 

Since there was now, in a sense, a new congregation assembled, the Holy Communion begins with the minister and congregation again greeting each other in the Lord: “The Lord be with you.”  “And with thy spirit.”  By the way, after Communion the non-members would be re-admitted for the closing part of the service, and that is why after Communion the Salutation is repeated a third time.  It was the minister’s way of acknowledging the return into the Sanctuary of the non-members who had been waiting in the lobby during Communion.

“Lift up your hearts.”  “We lift them up unto the Lord.”  These are direct quotations from Lamentations and Psalms.  To the sinful, doubting human heart, Holy Communion may seem to be nothing more than a human ritual, only an earthly eating and drinking of mere bread and wine.  “Lift up your hearts” is a call to faith, a call not to look only upon the earthly elements and judge them to be mere bread and wine, but in faith to “lift up your hearts” from the earthly elements and trust in the Lord’s heavenly promise: “This is my body; This is my blood.”  Paul puts it this way in 2nd Corinthians: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”  “Lift up your hearts.”  Fix your eyes not on what is seen, the earthly elements, but on what is unseen, the heavenly blessing of Christ body and blood, in, with, and under the bread and wine.  As Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.”  “We lift them up unto the Lord,” is the congregation saying, “Yes, we believe; we trust the Lord’s promise.”

“Let us thanks unto the Lord, our God.”  “It is meet and right so to do.”  The Gospels report of the first Holy Communion, “And when he had given thanks he gave it to them . . .”  Just as Christ gave thanks before the first Holy Communion, we give thanks as we eat and drink in remembrance of him.

Amen.

“Living the Liturgy: Sanctus”
Lamentations 3:41


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service V—April 6, 2011

Like the Gloria in Excelsis at the beginning of the service, the Sanctus is a joyful hymn of praise to the Lord composed of quotations directly from the Bible.  It begins with a quotation from Isaiah’s vision of the angels around God’s throne in heaven: “They cried unto another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’”  With the angels we are praising God the Father for sending his Son to be our Savior. 

“Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  That quotation from the Gospels was the cry of the crowds as Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  It is our cry of faith as Christ enters now into our hearts through the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  Blessed is he who comes to us in his very body and blood.  Hosanna in the highest!”

Amen.

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