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Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

I have written several pieces on aspects of the Lord's Prayer (including the upcoming devotional we will go through together this Lent), but as we consider the Lord's Prayer's place in the worship service one of the things that stands out to me is how the prayer is introduced. The pastor says, 
"Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray:"
I always find the word "kingdom" fails to get across what it should. On the surface, this sounds like, "Lord, remember us up in heaven." But as Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven, He is not talking about a place. He is talking about an activity. We don't have a useful word for it in English. It is the kinging of God. How God reigns and rules. 
As we introduce the Lord's Prayer, we are saying, "Lord, in Your position as King, as You rule and reign over the world, remember us and teach us to pray:"
It is worth noting that Jesus gives this prayer at the request of the disciples. They want to learn how to pray. The Lord's Prayer is what Jesus gives them. The disciples are like children with a parent. Can you remember a time when you asked your parents to teach you something? Can you think of a  time when one of your kids asked you to teach them something?
I'm reminded of the scene in A Christmas Story, where Ralphie's mom suggests that he should go help his dad fix a flat tire. Ralphie's response is so earnest - "Really! Can I?" When Ralphie tells his dad, "Mom said I should help." His father's excitement is beautiful, "Oh yeah?!" The old man isn't the most patient teacher, but the prospect of teaching his son something so near and dear to his heart is evident.
As we are introduced to the Lord's Prayer, we ask the Lord to remember us as He reigns as King, and to continually teach us to pray. We ask for Jesus to teach how to do something so near and dear to His heart: to pray.
The Proper Preface, much like other elements of the Divine Service, changes with the season and specific festivals of the church year. It always begins with these words:
"It is truly good, right, and salutary..." 
And always ends with these words:
"...evermore praising You and saying:"
The Proper Preface is a time to locate the congregation's praise in the activity of the season or the day. The most common Proper Preface, used in the season of Pentecost, calls to our attention Jesus' resurrection as He overcomes death and the grave "on this day" meaning Sunday, the Lord's day. 
Since God's saving action in Christ is a reality that has been given to us, we therefore join the heavenly host in praising God for all that He has done for us.
The Proper Preface answers the basic question: "Why are we here?" The answer is not complicated. To praise God for all He has done for us. To receive His good gifts. 
The Proper Preface is like that moment in A Charlie Brown Christmas, when everything has gone wrong for Charlie Brown and he finally asks the big question, the why question, saying, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" And of course Linus stands up and tells the Christmas story from Luke 2, answering the question as to what Christmas is all about.
The Proper Preface answers the big, why question. "What is this all about?" It's about Jesus overcoming death and the grave and by His glorious resurrection opening for us the way of everlasting life.
That's the why. That's the answer to the big question.
The Prayer of Thanksgiving immediately precedes the Words of Institution (or Lord's Prayer, depending on which setting of the Divine Service you are using). This is a prayer that prepares the congregation for the reception of the Lord's Supper. In this prayer, the congregation prays for forgiveness, renewal, and strength.
This prayer is essentially a mealtime prayer on steroids. It's a moment of being gathered together, a moment of recognizing God's mercy and grace, a moment of preparation for the gift we are about to receive.
I imagine the Prayer of Thanksgiving to be like that moment on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning as you sit ready to open the first present. The air is filled with excitement and anticipation. You are more prepared than you ever been to receive this gift in front of you.
Of course the Christmas gifts we receive may be glorious or disappointing. But we are never disappointed by our Lord. His gift of the Lord's Supper always delivers forgiveness, life, salvation, renewal, strength. It is a gift we can always count on and be thankful for. 
As we turn toward the Service of the Sacrament, we re-begin in a way with words of greeting as the pastor says:
The Lord be with you.
And the congregation responds:
And also with you.
And with thy spirit.
These words stand as a foreshadowing of what is about to happen. The Lord is coming down to be with us. The Lord is coming down to be truly present in bread and wine. The Lord is coming down to forgive our sins in His holy Supper.
Of course, the Star Wars franchise has stolen this sentiment as people are always saying, "The Force be with you." But notice it is said almost entirely as a goodbye in that world. It is a blessing, a benediction. 
As we say "The Lord be with you" we are not offering a mere wish, some superstitious expression of protection. We are saying something very real. We are speaking to a personal God on behalf of other people, asking this personal God to be with and dwell with others. 
The impersonal Force of Star Wars is nothing compared to the personal God who came down from heaven and was incarnate for us. He lived among us, healed us, proclaimed good news to us. He suffered and died for us. And He is risen from the dead and ascended on high for us. He promised after His resurrection and before His ascension to always be with us. Our proclamation of "The Lord be with you" is not a wish. It is a reminder that this is reality. The Lord is with you. And soon within the service He will come to be with you in a real and tangible way as we eat His body and drink His blood.
The Sanctus is the immediately response to the Proper Preface.
In the Sanctus we repeat the words spoken in Isaiah 6 by the seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 
Isaiah's response is one of total fear, for he knows that he is a man of unclean lips and he has seen the Lord of hosts. Isaiah truly and honestly believes he is about to die as he hears these words of the angels.
And here we are, centuries later, repeating the words Isaiah heard and they no longer cause fear and trembling. They are words of joy. 
Of course we add on to them a bit. In many versions of the Sanctus we add words spoken on Palm Sunday by the crowds, "Hosanna (save us now) in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." 
Again, this may seem an odd choice. After all, Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem is an entry of peace (riding on a donkey as opposed to a warhorse), but it is not the peaceful entry we expect. Jesus makes peace by the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20).
The Sanctus seems to be two random pieces of Scripture taken out of context and forced together in a rather odd spot in the liturgical movement. 
It's like in The Lord of the Rings films when they take quotations from some characters and give them to other characters. This should fail miserably, but somehow it ends up working out just fine. People who have not read the books probably have no idea these lines were re-assigned so to speak. The films take lines from Tom Bombadil and give them to Treebeard, lines from Gandalf and give them to Grima Wormtongue, lines from Faramir and give them to Eowyn. If you watch the appendices on the extended editions of the films, the writers will justify and defend these moves, noting the importance of Tolkien's language and wanting to use it somewhere.
I remember going to a Zac Brown Band concert where they played Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It should not have made sense, a country band performing this 1970s rock ballad, but it was perhaps their greatest performance of the night.
Perhaps you really enjoy pizza with odd flavor combinations that should not make sense. I remember having one with asparagus and sausage that was pretty good.
In each case what doesn't seem to make sense at first glance ends up working quite well. 
That's sort of how I feel about the Sanctus. The creators of the liturgy in centuries past wanted to use Isaiah 6 and they wanted to use the Palm Sunday "Hosanna" language. They decided to put them together at this moment of praise in the liturgy and it shouldn't work, but it does.
It is fitting for us to call holy, holy, holy in the moments before approaching the altar of the Lord. It is fitting for us to call for God to save us now (Hosanna) before we receive Jesus body and blood for our forgiveness, life, and salvation.  
After the offering has been taken, the congregation sings a song that seems to serve two purposes. Firstly, it expresses thanksgiving for the gifts God has given us. Secondly, it marks the transition from The Service of the Word into The Service of the Sacrament.
At First Lutheran and at many other Lutheran churches there are a few options for the Offertory. The first draws from Psalm 116 asking "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?" (the expression of thanksgiving). It also says, "I will take the cup of salvation" (at least a serendipitous allusion to the Lord's Supper).
The next option draws from Psalm 51. This gets at the preparations for the Lord's Supper as it asks God to create clean hearts within us and to renew our spirits. 
The next option asks God to "let the vineyards be fruitful." Such a statement asks God to make good on His promises to bless those who have poured out their full tithe (Malachi 3:10). But, like the first option, there is Lord's Supper language as we ask to "be fed with the bread of life" and for God to "grace our table" and "give us a foretaste of the feast to come."
In this way, the offertory serves as an interlude, a transition. We respond to God's Word and promises by offering sacrifices to Him. These are not sacrifices of bulls and sheep and goats that are supposed to atone for sin, but rather sacrifices of a different kind. Sacrifices of thanksgiving that are the first fruits of the abundance God has given us.
Simultaneously, we are preparing to celebrate the Lord's Supper where we recall Christ's sacrifice for us - His body and blood, given and shed, for us and our salvation.
The offertory is like halftime in a way. Halftime is a time to review the first half, and prepare for the second half. You review what went wrong and right in the first half. You make adjustments and go forth with a game plan into the second half.
In worship, the first half is the Service of the Word. The second half is the Service of the Sacrament. The offertory responds to the first half and prepares our hearts for the second half. The offertory says thank you to God's Word of Law and Gospel (what went wrong and what went right), and marches into the second half with full confidence in the victory of Christ that is passed down to us week after week.
Calling it "Halftime" in the hymnal probably wouldn't fly, but I like it.
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