When you come to St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, you will find that our church celebrates the historic liturgy which has been handed down to us. This means that you can expect the service to follow a regular pattern of readings, hymns, and order of service from week to week, as found in our hymnals. You will find that our services are filled with the singing of hymns and the reading of the Holy Scriptures.
We refer to our services as “Divine Services” rather than “worship services” for a few reasons. First, our services are “Divine Services” because we believe that coming to church is primarily about receiving what our Lord does for us, rather than what we do for the Lord.
Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”The Gospel of St. Mark 10:45
Second, we also refer to our services as “Divine Services” because our services are focused upon hearing God’s Word and receiving the Lord’s Supper. Because these things come from God himself, our services are properly described as divine.
Third, we do not refer to our services as “worship services” because we have nothing to offer God apart from his grace. In fact, we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. All that we have comes from God. Therefore, while God is certainly worthy of our praise, we keep our services focused on what God does for us because he loves us.
While the outward form of the service may differ slightly from week to week, you can expect that our services follow two parts: (1) Service of the Word, and (2) Service of the Sacrament.
Service of the Word
The first part of the service of mainly consists of the reading of God’s Word from the Holy Scriptures and the sermon which is normally based off of one of the readings. However, our church also celebrates the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ commanded that forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name:
Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”The Gospel of St. Luke 24:44–47
Our Lord Jesus Christ also promised the disciples that when they proclaim forgiveness of sins, then the forgiveness of sins is actually given out as if God himself had proclaimed it:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”The Gospel of St. John 20:19–23
For that reason, you will find that the beginning of our service begins with Confession & Absolution. We first confess our sins to God our Father and then the pastor proclaims forgiveness of sins (or, absolves sins) to the congregation. We retain this historic practice out of reverence for our Lord’s command and promise.
After Confession and Absolution, we then read from the Holy Scriptures. There are normally three readings: (1) an Old Testament reading, (2) an Epistle reading, and (3) a reading from one of the Gospels. Our readings follow a regular schedule that is sometimes referred to as the Historic One-Year Lectionary. We retain the use of this historic lectionary because (1) every year we hear the same readings, which is beneficial for children and adults alike, (2) the readings often are chosen to follow specifics themes for different parts of the church year, and (3) our children also hear and learn these readings in Sunday School, enabling parents to talk about the readings at home with their children.
Afterwards, our pastor will proclaim a sermon based upon one, or all of the assigned readings. Following the sermon, our church then prays together for the needs of the world and the people of our congregation.
Service of the Sacrament
The second part of the service is centered around the reception of our Lord Jesus Christ’s gift of the Lord’s Supper, in which he gives us his body and blood to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Our Church receives the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, as well as every high feast day, such as Christmas and Easter. We regularly receive the Lord’s Supper because of our Lord’s wonderful command and promise which he handed over to the disciples on the night in which he was betrayed:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you. This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”The Gospel of Matthew 26:26–28, The Gospel of Mark 14:22–24, The Gospel of Luke 22:19–20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–25
At our church, the body and blood of Christ is distributed directly into the mouths or into the hands of parishioners at our communion rail. Currently, our church uses individual wafers for the bread, as well as a chalice and individual cups for the wine. If you should you have special needs or if you are unable to come to the communion rail, our pastor can bring the body and blood of our Lord directly to you in the pew if you inform one of our ushers prior to the service.
Our church also celebrates the historic practice of closed communion. For that reason, those who wish to receive the Lord’s Supper are asked to speak with our pastor prior the service. For more information on what we believe, please see the page entitled “Our Beliefs.” In addition, our pastor would gladly talk to you about our services, beliefs, and practices. For more information on how to reach our pastor, please see the “Contact Us” page.