TATDS: The Liturgy of the Word

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This post is part of a series of posts focused on teaching your children about the Divine Service. For an introduction to this series, please click here.

For The Preparation, click here.

For The Entrance Rite, click here.

The Liturgy of the Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1–5 ESV)

As we move from The Entrance Rite into The Liturgy of the Word, we have the great opportunity to confess the true presence of Christ in the words that we hear proclaimed from Holy Scripture and from our pastor in the sermon.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 ESV)

The Old Testament, Gradual, and Epistle

As we hear the Word of God, we are given Christ through His spoken Word. The first three parts of the Liturgy of the Word in our modern Divine Service are the Old Testament reading, the Gradual, and the Epistle. These parts of the service might be very familiar to your child. They are likely familiar with hearing you read and teach stories from the Bible. We know from what Scripture teaches us how important these passages are. So what are some ways that we can engage our children in these readings?

  • Look up your church’s readings for that Sunday ahead of time. More than likely, your church will use either the three-year lectionary or the historic one-year lectionary. Both of these schedules can be found starting on page xiv in the front of Lutheran Service Book. Look for the connections to Christ in the readings, and as you are sitting in the pew preparing for service, point them out and ask your child to listen for those connections.
  • Talk to your child about how Christ comes to us in different ways, and one of those ways is in His Word. Point out that as we hear our pastor read the Word of God, we are hearing the words of Jesus.
Alleluia and Verse

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Above, you see the standard Alleluia and Verse as it is used in Setting Four of the Divine Service in LSB (page 205). You can look through all of the other settings as well to see how the Alleluia and Verse are sung and worded. In these words, we are proclaiming that we are about to hear the Word of our Lord as it was proclaimed in His time on this earth. We are hearing from one of the four Gospel accounts in the Bible. Alleluia means “praise the Lord” in Hebrew. We are singing praises to Him as we prepare to hear the very words He spoke on earth.

  • Teach your children the meaning of the word alleluia. Talk to them about why we stand up for the Holy Gospel.
  • Read the account of doubting Thomas to your children (page 412 in The Story Bible). After you read about that, read John 20:30–31. Show your children that we are given the words of Holy Scripture so that we may have faith in the One who saves us from sin.
Holy Gospel

The entire liturgy moves us to receive Christ in Word and Sacrament. We see that movement in hearing the Word of God, and in future posts we will see the movement that takes us to the altar to be fed with His holy body and blood.

After Confession and Absolution, we progress from the Kyrie to the Hymn of Praise to the Collect to the Old Testament Reading and Epistle and then to the shouts of “praise the Lord” in the Alleluia. And now we have arrived at the Holy Gospel.

  • As with the other readings, look ahead to see what the Gospel selection will be for the upcoming Sunday. Several of these accounts can be found in great resources such as The Story BibleThe Hear Me Read Bibleor My First Bible Storybook. Read through the passage in one of those resources and show your child the images that are associated with the account. This will allow them to listen for words they recognize and visualize what they hear on Sunday.
  • Turn to page 431 in The Story Bible and read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian to your child. Talk to them about how the Word of God creates faith.
Hymn of the Day, Sermon, and Creed

I love how Rev. Dr. Arthur Just Jr. describes these three elements in his book Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service:

The Hymn of the Day and the sermon are interpretations of the Gospel, and the Creed is the baptismal faith confessed in light of the Gospel and its proclamation in song and word. (206)

There is a reason that we don’t sing just any random hymn before the sermon. The Hymn of the Day is an extension of the Gospel for the day. It relates to the theme that is presented in the Holy Gospel.

In the Sermon, the pastor takes the overall theme from all of the Readings and the Hymn of the Day and proclaims that message to his flock. He proclaims the Law in its fullest and convicts sinners, himself included, of all that we have done wrong. He then brings the Gospel to those sinners. As C. F. W. Walther said in his lectures on Law and Gospel:

You are not rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God if you do not allow the Gospel to predominate in your teaching. (Thesis XXV)

The pastor brings this Gospel to the broken and proclaims Christ crucified to them.

As Dr. Just tells us above, the Creed is our “baptismal faith confessed” now having heard the Gospel and its truths.

These parts of the Divine Service can sometimes be the time that we pull out the coloring book to keep our children quiet. It’s something that I do myself! How can we engage our children in this part of the service?

  • Have your child listen for familiar words and phrases from that Sunday’s Gospel, which you read together earlier in the week.
  • When you get home, go through the text of the Hymn of the Day together. See what connections your child can draw between that and the Gospel.
  • Talk to them about what pastors are called to do—preach the Word and administer the Sacraments. Show them how pastors fulfill this duty in the reading of Holy Scripture and in the Sermon.
  • Point your child to the truths that are confessed in the Creed. Go to the Small Catechism to teach them why we confess these words.
Prayer of the Church

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1–4 ESV)

Our children may view the Prayer of the Church as the time where we all stand up and respond after pastor says, “Lord, in Your mercy . . .” They may zone out or not listen. We are to joyfully bring our petitions to the Lord during this time. Here are some strategies to teach your children about the Prayer of the Church:

  • Talk to your child about how we are bringing our corporate prayers to God together as a congregation.
  • Consider holding your child during these prayers, encouraging them to fold their hands and bow their head with you. This will let them see the pastor at the altar and see your posture during prayer.
  • Continue praying the petitions that you pray on Sunday throughout the week. Several congregations include a list of prayers in their bulletin. Take it home and pray for those people together.

So what do you think? What are ways that you talk about and teach your family the elements of The Liturgy of the Word? We’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

God’s blessings as you teach your children “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3 ESV).

Selections from Divine Service, Setting Four, come from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission.

C. F. W. Walther reference is from Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible  © 2010 Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission.

To learn more about the Divine Service, pick up a copy of Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service from Concordia Publishing House.


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About the Author

Joe Willmann


Joe Willmann is the Senior Instructional Designer for Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, MO. A former teacher and administrator, Joe has a passion for education and learning theory. He earned his Bachelor's Degree from Ball State University and his Master's Degree from Concordia University - Ann Arbor. He lives with his wife, Nicole, his daughter Ava, and his son Carter. You can read his latest posts here.

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