About our Service

What does this Liturgical Divine Service consist of? And what does that mean?

Divine Service

Our worship before God is based on what He has taught us through His Word, the Bible. Since it is God Who graciously gives us life and salvation, we first gladly receive from Him and then respond in prayer and praise. This is called “Divine Service” because in it God serves us His Word and Sacraments. He serves us Hid gifts, and we thankfully receive. Our Worship stems from our faith, and speaks the words of faith given us by God.

The Table of the Lord prepared for the Sacrament of Holy  Communion at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church LCMS in Horseshoe Bend Arkansas
The Preaching of the Word by Pastor Bradley Heinecke at Shepherd of teh Hills Lutheran Church LCMS in Horseshoe Bend Arkansas
Pastor and Elder giving and Congregation receiving the Lord's Supper at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church LCMS in Horseshoe Bend Arkansas.


Liturgy describes the order and structure of a church service. Our Church follows the basic liturgical orders used by the church for the last 2000 years. It has it’s roots in Old Testament worship practices and, as illustrated by the numerous scripture passages below, is based on the teaching of the Bible. The particular liturgy outlined below is the Order of Service for Holy Communion, the chief service of the church. We may use a different setting of this basic service, but it will include these elements, though perhaps in a slightly different order.

The Liturgy brings us the service of God’s Forgiveness in the language we speak everyday, but with a reverence that distinguishes itself from the irreverent and capricious character of today’s pop culture

(The Scriptures listed first below are directly quoted in the Liturgy. The Scriptures in parenthesis present supporting texts.)

The Order of Service
With Explanation:
Part of ServiceRelevant ScriptureWhat does this mean?Application for Life
Pre-service music(1 Samuel 16:23)A good time to disconnect from the world and re-focus on God. (Sample pre-service prayers are on the inside front cover of the Hymnal)Consider setting aside moments daily to refocus on God and glorify Him in everything. Se
InvocationMatt 28:19
(Col 3:17; Matt 18:20)
We invoke the name the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The name of Holy Trinity, that is exclusively Christian. Remembering as we gather in His name, that He is present with us and that we are also Baptized in His name. It is good to remember daily that we are Baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Confession1 John 1:8-9 (Rom 3:9-12,23;7:8-25, Psalm 51)We confess that we indeed are sinful and unclean. Confession prepares us for worship, hearing God’s Word, and receiving the Lord’s Supper. Each day we ought to confess our sins to God and ask Him for His forgiveness.
Holy AbsolutionMatt 16:19
(John 20:21-23)
Here we are set free from the burden of our sin. It is for Christ’s sake that we are forgiven. Absolution assures us that we are prepared to receive His gifts throughout the service, and that we can respond in thanksgiving for those gifts. Confessing our sins each day comforts us so we we can rejoice in the forgiveness and cleansing of our Lord.
Introit, Psalm, or Entrance Hymn(Psalm 100,
1 Cor 15:3-4,
Psalm 40:3, Psalm 150)
Reminding us that salvation comes to us through Christ crucified, we recite a Psalm or sing a Hymn that reflects the theme of the day. Psalms and Hymns help us to keep us focused on the cross of Christ.
KyrieMark 10:47-48Kyrie elesion means Lord have mercy.
We have received God’s mercy through Confession and Absolution. We now ask for His continued mercy and that He bless us with the things we need to live a God pleasing life.
When life leads to temptation or frustration Lord Have mercy is a better choice than using the Lords name in vain.
Gloria or Hymn of PraiseLuke 2:14 John 1:29
(Gloria) Rev 5:11-14;19:5-9 (This is the feast)
We have been forgiven and blessed.
We now praise Him as the one who delivers those blessings, because He is the one true creator God. Jesus continues to be worthy of our praise, just as the angels praised Him upon His birth.
Glorify the Lord in all you do as you go out to love and serve the world.
Salutation2 Tim 4:22
Ruth 2:4
Judges 6:12
Luke 1:28
The Pastor Stands before the congregation, as a called and ordained servant. He offers God’s peace and the congregation responds with and “also with you” or “and with thy spirit” they affirming his call and vocation.Peace be with you is always a great greeting for your brothers and sisters in Christ either in church or in the community.
Collect(Jude 25)A short 5 part prayer that usually relates to the theme of the day. A good pattern for use in daily prayer, whether it be private or public.
Old Testament Reading(Luke 4:17-21)The Old Testament is the foundation for the New Testament. Christ Himself referenced the Old Testament. Read the Old Testament with the understanding of what has been revealed about God in the New Testament.
Psalm or Gradual(Eph 5:19
Psalm 89:1)
We respond to hearing God’s Word by singing God’s Word. Psalms usually reflect the Old Testament reading and anticipate the Gospel reading for the day. Many Psalms were written to be sung responsively, so we normally follow this ancient practice. Responding to the Psalms during the service may help us to remember the lessons during the week.
Epistle(Acts 2:42
Eph 4:11
Tim 3:16-17)
The early church was devoted to the Apostles teachings, and so is the church today by regular public reading of their Epistles. (letters)The scripture readings can be used all week for study and prayer.
VerseJohn 6:68Alleluia means Praise the Lord!
Before we hear the Gospel and Sermon we acknowledge the presence of the lord as we are gathered together with Praise.
Praise the Lord always. His ways are not our ways and in good times and bad, we should remember that He is the living water. He alone has the Word of life. Even in temptation, remember to trust in Him alone.
Gospel (John 6:63
John 20:30-31)
The third reading from Scripture is the Gospel reading. It is the Words and life of Jesus the Christ. We stand for this time while hearing the words of our Lord. Get in the practice of discussing the Words of Jesus with your immediate family and your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Hymn of the Day (Col 3:16
Psalm 78:4)
This is a Lutheran addition to the historic Mass, this hymn is usually doctrinal in nature, and most often reflects the theme of the day. Remembering these relevant Hymns can be helpful in our daily prayers.
Sermon(1 Cor 1:23
2 Tim 4:1-2)
The Pastor speaks on behalf of God in the ancient tradition of the prophets, apostles, and even Jesus Himself. Using His Word to shepherd His people. Remembering and meditating on the sermon lesson makes a great family devotion and/or bible study.
Creed(1 Tim 6:12
Matt 10:32-33, Rom 10:9-10)
After hearing the preaching of the word, the congregation together summarizes the Christian faith by reciting one of the ancient creeds. The Creeds codify our Christian doctrinal beliefs and unite us in the 2000 year history of the true Christian faith.Recitation and memorization of the creeds prepare us for public engagement by keeping a summary of what we believe close to our lips.
Prayer of the church(1 Tim 2:1-6
James 5:16)
We must pray not only for ourselves, but for the entire world. We are commanded by the Word to pray that our leaders and leaders of other nations keep the peace and that we may continue worship God in peace and freedom. It is good to pry for all the world in our daily prayers as we also pray for our families, friends, enemies, and ourselves.
OffertoryPsalm 116:12-14, 17-19As Psalm 116 teaches, the highest offering we can give to God is to simply receive the cup of salvation in faith. If we glorify God in all we do it is an ongoing form of worship.
Proper Preface2 Tim 4:22 (Col 3:1)
Psalm 136
Prayer and liturgy of the Lords Supper. This ancient practice was first recorded in 220AD. We can give thanks for the Lords Supper daily as we await the next time we commune together in the Sacrament.
SanctusIsaiah 6:3
Matt 21:9
The words of the Angels as recorded in Isaiah 6 are used to acknowledge the presence of the Lord God in the Sacrament that we are about to receive. Sanctus means HolyThe Holiness of God should be remembered every day and we should attempt to let this carry over into our daily lives.
Prayer of Thanksgiving and
Lord’s Prayer
(Luke 24:30)
Matthew 6:9-13
Prayer of Gratitude as we remember the New Testament in the Lords blood, and we together recite the Prayer given by the Christ Himself as we prepare for His Supper. The Lords prayer is not only a great daily prayer, but the form can be a great template for all of our prayers.
ConsecrationMatt 26:26-28
Mark 14:22-24
Luke 22:19-20
1 Cor 11:23-25
The very Words of The Lord Jesus Christ mean what they say. It is the Word combined with the elements that combined deliver His body and blood for our forgiveness. One of God’s means of grace. The Lords supper is a place where the Christ promises to meet us every time we participate in the Supper.
The Peace and Agnus DeiJohn 20:19-21, 26, 14:27
John 1:29
The Lord calmed the fears of the disciples many times with His Words of peace. The Pastor now speaks that peace to us on the Lord’s behalf.
Agnus Dei Means Lamb of God.
reminding us that Jesus Christ the perfect Lamb of God was sacrificed for us once for all.
When confronted with the daily trials of life, we can and should remember the peace that only the Lord can provide. We are reminded of this weekly and should carry that peace into our daily lives, even in times of trouble.
Post Communion Collect and Nunc Dimittis(Psalm 136 Psalm 118)
Luke 2:29-32
We thank the Lord for His gifts of Forgiveness, Life, and Salvation. We also pray that He will help us carry these gifts to our neighbors.
Nunc Dimittis means “now you dismiss”
Remembering the blessings of our Lord, we hope we can carry these blessings out into the troubled world.
BenedictionNumbers 6:22-27As we began the service in the Lord’s name. we end with the Lord’s name placed upon us with this blessing first given by Aaron and recorded in Numbers 6. We can confidently live each day knowing that the name of the Lord has been placed upon us with this ancient blessing.
Developed by Rev. Timothy Rossow

Further explanation

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” How many times have we heard those words? And yet, they testify with renewed freshness to our identity as children of God who’ve been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Wouldn’t it be something if God’s faithful would remember that every time they heard the words of the Invocation, perhaps tracing the sign of the cross as a visible reminder?

St. Paul beautifully captures the eternal significance of our baptism into Christ when he writes to the Galatians that “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

We are clothed with his righteousness. Unlike the man in the parable of the wedding feast who had no wedding garment, when we stand before our Judge on the Last Day, we will be clothed and covered, robed in the purity of Christ.

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Already now, in this heaven on earth we call worship, we stand with boldness before the Triune God who has claimed us and named us.

Confession and Absolution
We can indeed approach God with confidence. And yet, because we stand on this side of our Lord’s final return, we still have with us the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. We have not yet faced the final judgment.

And so, with sin still working in us, the condemnation of God’s Law must still confront us, lest we have any delusions that we might have something to boast of before our mighty Judge.

Above all else, Confession and Absolution keep us honest — honest with ourselves and honest before God. The act of confession is not some work that we lay before the Father’s throne; rather, it is the simple acknowledgment that God’s Word is true and right and that when we measure ourselves against its demands, we come up short.

God’s Word says “you shall not give false testimony,” but in truth we have lied and gossiped and slandered. And so, the Christian confesses: “Lord, Your Word is true; I have sinned.”

There are three basic ways to handle sin and guilt. One is to ignore or minimize them. We’ve all been tempted in that direction more than a few times. Isn’t that, after all, what our sinful human nature is all about?

Another way is to institutionalize them, especially the guilt part. After all, if you can keep people feeling just guilty enough, you will keep them coming back for more.

The third way is to give sin and guilt their proper due, and then to silence them. That is the way of God’s absolution. With his forgiveness, our sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west.

Christians know that, but they also need to hear it often. We need to be reminded that those familiar words, “I forgive you all your sins,” are not just some impersonal announcement. They say what they mean and accomplish what they promise. Jesus himself said to his disciples that the sins they forgive are forgiven (John 20:23).

The last and greatest absolution that will ever be spoken to us will be at the last judgment. In the final pages of the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis provides a marvelous description of this event.

As each individual comes before Aslan — the lion who is Lewis’ figure for Christ — one of two things happens: either the person gazes directly into Aslan’s face and recognizes his forgiving countenance, or, upon seeing the lion’s stern demeanor, passes into his long shadow, forever to be separated from Christ.

In the Confession and Absolution we are being readied for our appearance before Christ on the Last Day. And hidden behind those comforting words that our sins are forgiven is the invitation, “Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).

When our Lord speaks those words to us at the Last Day, Confession and Absolution as we know it will cease, for we will then bask in the eternal absolution of the Lamb.

In this world of sin and death, Christians have plenty of opportunities to join in the brief, yet all-encompassing prayer of the Kyrie: “Lord, have mercy.”

All around us we see the results of hatred, envy, lust, and greed. Surely, the world is in need of God’s mercy. It’s no wonder that the church, in her worship, pleads before God on behalf of the whole world. It’s a prayer that no one else is going pray.

Yet, when we cry out, “Lord, have mercy,” there is confidence in our voices because we know that God is indeed merciful. He desires to bring relief to the suffering that is all around us.

Our prayer may not always bring an immediate response — at least, not the response that we are seeking — but even then, we commend ourselves and the whole world to a merciful God.

Like the confession of sins, however, our cry for mercy will be silenced in heaven. There we will see the results of God’s mercy, as before the throne and in front of the Lamb will stand all the redeemed — not one of them worthy of the honor.

Hymn of Praise
On the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels let loose their earth-shattering song of praise: “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

On that specific occasion, their praise gave utterance to the good news that the Son of God had come in the flesh. Heaven had come down to earth! And ever since, the Church has continued to rejoice in this miracle of our salvation.

The opening words of the Gloria in Excelsis are followed by a hymn of praise to the Triune God. One can imagine the faithful singing these words in heaven: “We praise you, we bless you, we worship you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory.”

Our focus is on the incarnate Son of God, the only-begotten Son, the Lamb of God, and only Son of the Father. And if that isn’t enough to name this One who is the object of our worship and praise, twice we sing, “you take away the sin of the world.”

There it is, the heart and substance of the Christian faith. In heaven we will be gathered around the throne and the Lamb, confessing that he alone is holy, he alone is the Lord.

In more recent times, the Lutheran Church in North America has made a significant contribution to the church’s liturgy through the alternate Hymn of Praise, “This is the Feast.”

Drawing directly from the description of heaven in the Revelation to St. John, our voices are joined to that heavenly throng as we sing with them:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12)

Word of God and Sermon
Frequently we conclude the reading of Holy Scripture with the phrase, “This is the Word of the Lord!” More than just a “word” from God, this is his revelation in which he makes known to us his will, most specifically, his merciful will that desires our salvation.

Ultimately, this word points us to the Word, the incarnate Son of God. He is God’s final and full revelation to us, the mirror of the Father’s heart.

That is the point that the writer to the Hebrews makes in the opening verses of his epistle: “In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2a).

Only through him — God’s only Son — are we able to know the Father’s favor and grace.

In the sermon, the Word of God is brought to bear on the lives of the hearers. This is the equivalent of sitting at the feet of Jesus. But it’s more than mere instruction.

Through the sermon, God speaks to us with his two-edged sword of condemnation and promise, Law and Gospel. The subject of the sermon is both God and us.

Through the sermon we come to a better understanding of ourselves, especially our need for God’s forgiveness. But we also come face to face with God’s mercy and love.

Week after week, God’s faithful hear the voice of their Good Shepherd, preparing them, in a sense, for that final day when Jesus calls them to their eternal reward.

In the course of his earthly ministry, Jesus put this hard question to his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” He wasn’t asking for the opinions of the crowds. He wanted a confession of faith.

In reality, this confession is no different than the confession of sins. In both, we acknowledge that what God has said is true. When we confess our sins, we acknowledge the truth that God speaks about us — that we are sinners. When we confess the faith of the church in the creed, our confession speaks about God — who he is and what he has done.

In every age, the same question is put to the church: who do you say that I am? As we open our mouths and begin, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty …,” we confess a profound truth that has passed over the lips of Christians in every generation.

This confession of the Triune God is the property of no single individual, but of the whole church, including the whole company of heaven. There are more than a few saints and martyrs who put their lives on the line as they defended the truths that we confess in the creeds.

Think of Athanasius, that faithful fourth-century pastor and confessor, who was exiled numerous times for his defense of the truth against the false teachers of his day. Or Luther, who stood firm against the combined might of the Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire.

In our own day, there are faithful Christians who risk their lives — and sometimes die — to confess these truths.

In the Revelation to St. John, we find confession going on in heaven. Just listen to the snippets of the grand confession that swirls around God’s throne:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come! (4:8b)

Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created (4:11).

Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth (5:9-10).

In the same way, as we stand on holy ground where Jesus comes in his Word and Sacraments, we join that noble company of saints and martyrs, confessing these holy truths concerning the Triune God.

“What shall I render to the Lord?” Truth is, we have nothing to render him. We brought nothing into this world, and we will take nothing with us when we depart.

As Jesus so poignantly tells us, our treasures are already stored up for us in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21). There is, however, an offering that we do make, both now in our worship and one day in heaven itself. It is the sacrifice of thanksgiving as we call on the name of the Lord (Ps. 116:17).

In the Apology to the Augsburg Confession (Article 24), this eucharistic sacrifice is carefully distinguished from the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. The sacrifice for sins belongs to him alone.

Every time we try to grab that honor for ourselves, we come up short — very short. But when we recognize our rightful place — that we are on the receiving end of God’s merciful goodness — then the sacrifice of thanksgiving cannot help but pour forth from our lips as we give our thanks to the One who gave everything for us.

The giving of our firstfruits, whether it is money or possessions, time or talents, is also a part of this sacrifice of thanksgiving. Our mouths cannot remain separated from the rest of our bodies. If the thanksgiving is flowing from our lips, then it will also find expression in the giving of our very selves for the sake of Christ and the neighbor.

If any part of the service has been recognized as providing a glimpse of heaven, it’s the Sanctus: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory.”

This is the eternal song of the angels who hover over the throne of God in the vision of heaven that was given to Isaiah (Is. 6:1-4). Such was the splendor of their song that the very foundations of the threshold of the temple trembled at the sound.

At first glance, these words appear to be out of place at this point in the service. Nevertheless, the reality is that there is nothing in this entire world that compares with the miracle of Jesus’ bodily presence to feed his people.

In this meal God is breaking into our world to give us life. No wonder our repeated cry is “Hosanna in the highest,” for what is more needed in this dying world than the Lord’s salvation?

The second half of the Sanctus contains a statement as bold as the first. Here we have our own little Palm Sunday. Just as the crowds cried out to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, so do we declare, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 21:9; Ps. 118:26).

Heaven continues to break into our world as Jesus, our humble king, comes riding into our midst in the Lord’s name. This confession in the Sanctus of Jesus’ real presence is so significant that Luther proposed moving the Sanctus after the Words of Institution in order to highlight the reality of the words we sing.

Words of Our Lord
Among many Christians, the words of Jesus that we often refer to as the Words of Institution are nothing more than an historical report: this is what Jesus did and what he said. Period.

We have been blessed to know, however, that these words mean much more. They do what they say.

According to the command of Christ, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper not as a mere meal of remembrance but as a Sacrament by which Jesus himself comes to us. We don’t transport ourselves back in time; rather, he comes to us and brings heaven down to earth for our benefit.

Of course, in heaven we won’t receive the Lord’s Supper. There we will have Jesus — the Bread of heaven — in all his fullness. But for now, as we wait for his return, he establishes his own beachhead in our sin-infested world, coming as our defender and deliverer, offering his own body and blood as the medicine of immortality.

Here we find strength for the journey as Christ dwells in us and we in him. And the more we partake of this sacred food, the greater our desire becomes to be with Christ forever.

In the words of Thomas Aquinas’ great eucharistic hymn:

O Christ, whom now beneath a veil we see:
May what we thirst for soon our portion be:
To gaze on Thee unveiled, and see Thy face,
The vision of Thy glory, and Thy grace.
(Lutheran Service Book, 640)

Agnus Dei
Turning again to the Revelation to St. John, at one point John sees a scroll in the right hand of the One who was sitting on the throne. A “strong angel” puts forth the challenge, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”

Then, between the throne and the elders, the Lamb comes into view. Undoubtedly the most significant feature in John’s description of this Lamb is that it is a lamb who appears to have been slain.

When we sing the Agnus Dei, “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us,” we are preaching and praying all at once. It was, after all, with these very words that John the Baptizer pointed his disciples to Jesus (John 1:29, 36).

As we prepare to feast on the Lamb of our salvation, we do indeed proclaim him who gave his life for us. Here is the Lamb of God! Yet we also pray to him who is now present in his body and blood.

We pray for mercy, mercy from the One who showed the true depths of mercy and compassion as he was silently led to slaughter, dying like a lamb shorn of all its honor.

Returning one more time to the apostle John’s vision of heaven, we later hear his description of the saints in white robes.

“Who are they?” John is asked. The answer: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:13-14).

This is the blood of our redemption, the propitiatory sacrifice that was foreshadowed at the first Passover when the blood of the year-old lambs was sprinkled on the doorpost as a sign that blood had already been shed in that house.

In his Easter hymn, Martin Luther applies that incident to us, thus revealing our standing before the Father:

See, his blood now marks our door;
Faith points to it;
Death passes o’er,
And Satan cannot harm us.
(Lutheran Service Book, 458)

So it is at every celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The blood of the Lamb is poured out for our drinking and his flesh for our eating. Clearly, God’s mercy is shown, and his peace rests on us.

Try for a moment to picture the heavenly throng standing before the throne of God on the Last Day. The numbers will be staggering.

And yet, united as we all are to Christ, the Bridegroom, we will be one — his elect Bride. As the faithful make their way to the altar to feast on the Bread of Life in the distribution, they are given a glimpse of that holy Bride.

Oh yes, we see all of her warts and blemishes: the petty bickering over trivial matters, the deep disagreements on more weighty issues, and the painful ways in which we sometimes treat one another.

Yet, by our common confession of the truth, we are one in Christ. As Christ gives himself to us in this holy meal, he strengthens that unity and bids us love one another with a deep and abiding love. How can it be any other way, as we are sent from the table with the blessing to depart in peace?

Nunc Dimittis
Another Lutheran contribution to the church’s liturgy is the use of the Nunc Dimittis as the post-communion canticle: “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace.”

At first glance it appears that we’re taking the words of Simeon completely out of context. After all, what does his experience have to do with ours?

How can Holy Communion ever compare to Simeon’s unique honor of holding the infant Jesus in his arms during the child’s first visit to the temple at the tender age of 40 days (Luke 2:25-38)?

Of course, we would love to have been in the temple and shared in the experience with Simeon. For that matter, we would give anything to have been the first — along with the shepherds — to see the infant Jesus, or to have been with the Magi as they offered their gifts to him.

But, as Luther so insightfully taught, we don’t find Christ in those places. Through the events of his incarnation, birth, crucifixion, and resurrection our Lord has accomplished our salvation.

But the benefits of his saving work — forgiveness, life, and salvation — are distributed to us through his means of grace, his Word and Sacraments. We can’t go back to stand with Simeon in the temple. The good news is that we don’t have to.

So when, following our reception of the Lord’s Supper, we sing Simeon’s ancient song of faith — “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace” — nothing could be more appropriate. Indeed, our eyes have seen his salvation. Better yet, we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8).

So, what could be better than holding the infant Jesus in our arms? How about eating and drinking his body and blood given for the forgiveness of our sins? This truly is heaven on earth, because here we have Jesus and all his benefits.

“The Lord bless you and keep you.”

Recall again the words of Jesus in the parable of the sheep and the goats: “Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom.”

The blessing that God speaks to us in the Benediction prepares us for that final summons. Throughout the Divine Service, God is forming us in his likeness as he establishes in us a deeper and more lasting faith toward him and a persistent and steadfast love for one another.

“The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.”

In their reports of Jesus’ Transfiguration, the evangelists tell us that Jesus shone more brightly than the sun, prompting Peter to say, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

In heaven we will have the same response because it will be good — very good — to be in the presence of the Light of the world.

For the moment, we see only dimly, but then we will see face to face. Still, it is good to be here even now, in this heaven on earth that we call worship, for already here God showers us with his grace.

“The Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace.”

We Christians are truly blessed in that God does not hide his face from us. In all other religions there is ultimately doubt as to their gods’ attitudes toward them.

How can it be otherwise, given that their gods are the creation of their own imaginations? But ours is the creator of heaven and earth.

To be sure, he is a stern judge who holds the sinner accountable. But in the person of his only Son, we see our Father’s true nature, his fatherly heart of love. That is the countenance that he lifts up toward us in his holy Word and Sacraments as he reveals his mercy and grace.

Where the Lord blesses and makes his face shine and lifts up his gracious countenance on us, there is peace. Not the peace of this world, but peace between God and his faithful people.

We know that peace because even now, in Word and Sacraments, we have Jesus and all his benefits. And in heaven we will rest in his eternal peace.