The divine service typically begins with an Opening Hymn
, usually a hymn of invocation or a hymn of praise. This is often connected with the season of the church year (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc.), bringing us back into God’s time after a week of worldly time.
The liturgy itself begins with the Invocation. To invoke is to call upon God to be present in our midst. Since this is the name Jesus gave to baptize with—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it identifies us as His people, not a random assembly but a very definite gathering, with a common calling and purpose. So we’re remembering the beginning of our Christian lives, and the source of our salvation.
But we don’t barge into God’s presence as if we had a perfect right to be there. The reality of sin is present and active, and we can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist. In fact, sin erects a barrier between the Lord and us, and God alone can break it down. The death of Christ shows our sins to be deadly serious, yet it also brings God’s forgiveness. So now, facing the Holy God, we confess our sins and desire to be restored in His grace.
Then the pastor speaks the word of God’s forgiveness, or absolution, to the worshipping congregation. This is in accordance with the Lord’s command, as with Jesus sending His disciples with authority in the Spirit, and also in behalf of each Christian gathered here, since it is the church, or the priesthood of all believers, that has been entrusted with the power of confession and absolution.