What happens after we have received that tremendous gospel declaration, “Your sins are forgiven”? Here I will encounter a recurring problem: what terms should we use? One of the difficulties we have in the Lutheran Church is using Latin/Greek terms relative to worship and think that since we have done so for decades that “everyone knows what that is.” The reality is most people do not know. Pastors, this is a call for us to teach, teach, teach. At the same time, these Latin/Greek terms express in shorthand the essence of a phrase or hymn. Thus, I have used the terms here but with explanations. BTW the latest hymnal from the LCMS, Lutheran Service Book (LSB) offers an excellent service for worshipers by including both the original Greek/Latin terms and a translation. Likewise, LSB provides the Scripture references for every response.
After the declaration of forgiveness, the service moves us to the appropriate response, which includes three major parts: Introit (Psalm)/Entrance Hymn, Kyrie (“O Lord”), and Hymn of Praise. One of the sad things that has crept into the church is that pastors and congregations often move the hymns of praise (praise songs) prior to the Invocation. This change moves the praise away from a response to the Gospel and to become almost a “pep session” to get us in the mood for worship.
Introit: “The Introit marks the beginning of the church service proper. The word Introit means entrance, so called because it was chanted while the officiating clergyman entered the chancel and took his place before the altar” (Walter Buszin, The Concordia Liturgical Series for Church Choirs: The Introits for the Church Year, CPH: 1942). Traditionally the Introit includes three parts: antiphon (response sung by congregation or choir), Psalm verse, and Gloria Patri (“Glory to the Father”). The antiphon highlights the theme for the Sunday.
Kyrie eleison (“O Lord, have mercy”): This is a series of petitions and invitations for all worshipers to call upon the Lord. These responses are often chanted, which I find very comforting and inviting for worship. Of course, chanting is not required, but is a historic practice of singing Scripture texts.
Hymn of Praise: The texts for these hymns vary considerably. A traditional one “Gloria in Excelsis” (“Glory to God in the highest”) is based on Luke 2:14 and John 1:29. More recently, “This is the feast” is based on Revelation 5:12-13 and 19:5-9. I think this is the place where some of the (appropriate) contemporary praise songs could be incorporated. However, just stringing together some contemporary songs does not do justice to this section of worship. Rather, a smooth transition between 2-3 praise songs could be effectively used to enhance the service and reflect the interaction between God’s work and our responses. I have seen this done very well as suits the worship environment.