In the Old Testament we read of how Esther needed to approach the king to inform him of a genocidal plot against her people. As queen living in the palace, she could go to the king, but it was extremely dangerous for her to do so without having been summoned. She could have been put to death if the king had not welcomed her by holding out his scepter for her to touch (Esther 4).
Even today, approaching a powerful person could be hazardous. If you were to try to get near a president or prime minister, you would surely be stopped and could be arrested.
Access to the powerful of this world is restricted. But, wonderfully, access to the almighty God is open to all who come to Him believing and trusting in His Son, and we can approach Him at any time. We take this for granted as we approach God in prayer, not only at certain times, but whenever we feel the need. We don’t have to wait for an invitation, for we have a standing invitation in His Word.
We take advantage of this right of access to God that we have through Jesus Christ when we gather in church to approach Him together in a worship service. We begin by calling upon His name with the Trinitarian invocation. We then confess our sins and receive assurance of forgiveness in the absolution.
Then follows the introit ; the word is derived from Latin and means “entrance” or “beginning.” With assurance of God’s grace in Christ we are able to enter into God’s presence and begin our service of prayer, praise, and instruction in His Word.
The traditional introits, one for each of the Sundays, festivals, and other important days in the Church Year, consist of verses from the Psalms or other parts of Scripture. You can find them all in The Lutheran Hymnal, pages 54-94. In the service they can be read by the pastor alone, or responsively by pastor and congregation. Some of our congregations sing the introit in the form of an antiphonal psalm.
The introit announces the theme of the day or season. This can be seen most readily in the introits for the festivals. The one for Easter Sunday begins, “He is risen, Hallelujah!: Why seek ye the Living among the dead? Hallelujah!” The one for Trinity Sunday proclaims, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”
The connection between the introit and the theme for the day is not always so obvious, especially with those for the Sundays in the Trinity (or Pentecost) season. Pastors and worshipers may pick up on various words and phrases in the introit for the day and make connections between them and the Scripture lessons and sermon text for that day.
But even if no specific connections are made between the introit and the other parts of the service for a particular day, the words of the introit are still meaningful by themselves. The one for the First Sunday after Trinity is a good example: “O Lord, I have trusted in Thy mercy: my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord: because He hath dealt bountifully with me.” With these words from Psalm 13, we as redeemed children of God express our joyful confidence as we come before Him.
It would be good for us to make a habit of looking at the introit for the day as part of our preparation for worship, either before going to church or in church as we wait for the service to start. These words drawn from the Bible make us conscious of the glorious privilege that God has given us to be able to come into His presence. We are poor, miserable sinners, yet God invites us who are cleansed by the blood of Christ to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4)