This blog post is adapted from Blessed Be His Name by Rev. Dr. Kevin S. Golden.
Scripture teaches us to call upon the name of the LORD, bless His holy name, give thanks to His name, praise His name, and hallow His name. In doing so, we worship Him because He and His name are inseparable. This worship focuses upon what He has done for us and upon His delivering the benefits of His work to us. The apostle John proclaims the benefit we receive from the name of the LORD: “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). Life is bound up in the name of Christ. The life of Christ, eternal life, victory over death, is given you in His name. The Church’s liturgy, therefore, delivers His name so that you have life.
The Divine Service
Lutherans have historically used the term “Divine Service” to state why we gather. God serves us. He does not need what we bring to Him, though He delights to receive our praise and even more to receive our sin that we be forgiven. We direly need what He gives. So He serves us with His good gifts. Those gifts are given in His name. Within the Divine Service, the name of the LORD takes center stage, from Invocation to Benediction.
The Divine Service begins with the Invocation: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The first gift given by the LORD as He serves us is His triune name. It is a promise that we are served not by a generic god but by a very specific God who has revealed Himself to us by His name. The Invocation also recalls our Baptism into the name of God (Matthew 28:19). It is as if the LORD is saying to us, “I made you My own in Baptism, placing My name upon you and delivering to you all My goodness bound up in My name; now I give you My goodness anew.”
Confession and Absolution
His name is front and center in the Confession and Absolution. Among the biblical passages often used within the liturgy of Confession and Absolution is “Our help is in the name of the LORD” (Psalm 124:8). It is fitting text to find upon the lips of the faithful as they confess their sins because they know there is but one place to find the help they need, one place to find forgiveness: in the LORD who delivers forgiveness to us in His name. The Absolution is delivered by the LORD through the pastor with the words “Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” With the authority of Christ given in John 20:19–23, the pastor forgives in the name of the LORD. As the words of the absolution make clear, the faithful are not receiving the pastor’s forgiveness. That is fine and good, but his forgiveness does not deliver the life of Christ. He is speaking by the authority of Christ, in the name of the LORD, delivering the LORD’S forgiveness, which brings life.
The Divine Service closes with the Benediction: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” These words were first given by the LORD Himself to Moses with the instruction that Aaron and his sons were to speak them over the LORD’S people. Thus, this is often referred to as the Aaronic Benediction, as it was used by Aaron and his sons, who were the first priests. The LORD repeats His name throughout the Benediction, and He reveals what He gives in those words: “So they shall put My name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27). In the Benediction, you receive the LORD’S name anew. His name does not wear off from when you received it in Baptism. But you cannot receive His name too often. In the Benediction, it is as if the LORD says, “I gave you My name in Baptism. Now I give you My name anew so that you go forth in full confidence, knowing that I dwell with you.”
The Divine Service is framed by the name of the LORD with the Invocation and the Benediction, highlighting the centrality of His name in the life of the Church. He continually delivers His name throughout the Divine Service.
Blog post adapted from Blessed Be His Name: Revealing the Sacred Name of God copyright © 2021 Kevin S. Golden. Published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
To read more about how the Lord’s name is called upon in the liturgy, order Blessed Be His Name below.