Why do we begin worship with the invocation, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”?
This invocation is from Matthew 28:19, where Jesus instructed the disciples to teach and to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” The pastor here calls upon the name of the Lord, that He would dwell among us during the service. In our service, we remember these words spoken over us at our baptisms. We remember the promise that “whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). We also proclaim that we worship the whole Trinity, not just one person of the Trinity.
Many people claim to believe in God, but do not recognize the Trinity. Some believe that Jesus was not human; others believe that Jesus was not God. We begin the worship of the True God by invoking His Name. We call upon the Name of the One who hears us and answers. We call upon the Name of the One who alone can save us from our sins. There is to be no confusion regarding the object of our worship.
As we come to worship, we also understand that as we gather, God comes to us. Though we come to worship Him, we receive what He has to give us. Our praises which we offer pale in comparison to the blessings which He gives us through His Word and Sacraments. The invocation, then, is not just an indication of the object of our worship, but a call to God to keep His promises and bless us. We invoke His Name as the only Name by which we are saved.
When the invocation is said, the pastor makes the sign of the cross just as he does at baptism, marking the person as “one redeemed by Christ the crucified.” It is also appropriate (though not necessary) for each worshiper to make the sign of the cross as the invocation is spoken, in remembrance of his or her own baptism. This practice is done by most Catholics and many Lutherans, as well as some other Christians. It is strongly encouraged by Martin Luther in the Small Catechism, that we may constantly bring to remembrance Jesus and His cross, the central part of our Christian faith, the faith into which we were baptized.
As printed in the bulletin Sunday, September 2, 2018.