The Divine Service: Thy Strong Word

By Kathy Strauch

For three years I walked past the statue. Although my schedule varied from day to day, it was almost impossible to get anywhere on campus without coming into contact with the statue. So, nearly every day, I caught a glimpse at a mystery captured by two bronze figures.

The statue called ‘The Divine Servant’ portrayed a scene from John’s Gospel. The apostle Peter sat astonished as Jesus knelt before him, washing his grimy feet caked with dirt. God, the Word of Life, the One who spoke everything into existence, was kneeling before a sinner washing his dirty feet.

This statue beautifully illustrates what God does for us in the Divine Service. In the Divine Service, God is at work delivering gifts and serving sinners through His Word, through Jesus. Through the Divine Service, God cleans and takes away the filth of sin from the sinner. He washes us and makes us as white as snow.

Pastor Norman Nagel wonderfully describes the Word of God as imparting gifts when he writes, 

“The greatest gifts are all given by the Word of God, The Word of God not only tells what these gifts are but also conveys them. When the word of forgiveness is spoken to you, forgiveness is given to you…It is then as if God takes your hand and presses His gift into it with the assurance, “Now you have really got it. Without a shadow of doubt, it is surely yours.”

God’s Word creates and gives what it declares.

A hymn expresses this creative nature of the Word through the lyrics, “Thy Strong Word bespeaks us righteous, bright with Thine own holiness.” (LSB 578, Thy Strong Word) The Word speaks and we are righteous with the righteousness of our Lord by faith in that Word. We are righteous because He has declared us to be so through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

The Word is always at work in the Divine Service giving life because the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. (Romans 1:16) God is at work creating and sustaining faith where His Word is present. (Romans 10:17)

This strong Word pierces through the darkness of our sin and unbelief in the waters of our Baptism. Here, the Word recreates, resurrects, and places His saving name on the Baptized. The strong Word that Baptized us continually comes to us through His Gospel proclaimed, the absolution declared to us, and through the Lord’s Supper where He continually feeds us His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.

Apart from the Word, apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. (John 15:5) The Divine Service cannot exist apart from the Word of God. The focus of the Divine Service is the Word of God because the focus of the Divine Service is always Jesus and His gifts.

 

Kathy Strauch is a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Troy, Michigan and is a graphic designer.

 

Created: October 31st, 2017