Society and culture do not rule a confessional Lutheran church. We believe, in fact, that the church should reform the culture so that it conforms to Christ. What does this mean regarding the LGBTQ community? What does this mean regarding Abortion? What does this mean regarding Euthanasia? What does this mean regarding race and skin color? Much indeed!
Confessional Lutherans follow the ancient liturgies of the church. Should you come by and visit, you will notice a very clear order and pattern in our service. You will notice that the pastor wears special clothing (no he doesn’t wear a dress and a scarf; it’s called an Alb and a Stole). The sanctuary is adorned with colors and symbols, with crosses and candles. You’ll probably notice that the pastor chants. You’ll notice that the congregation is heavily involved in the service through responses, chanting, singing, reciting creeds, standing and sitting (sometimes kneeling). But what you’ll notice most of all, hopefully, is that nearly everything we say is the Scripture. We sing the Scripture, we speak the Scripture, we read the Scripture publicly, and the sermons are from the Scripture. Jesus is EVERYWHERE in our liturgy and our practice, and this is no minor thing. Lutherans believe that church and worship is “all about Jesus,” and we are very intentional about this.
You generally won’t find too much jumping around and hands waving in the air. Seldom will you see a pastor in a suit or tie while leading the service. We have hundreds of hymns, some dating back to the 2nd century, that we sing throughout the year. We use liturgical colors and symbols. Yeah…this is what Lutheran worship is all about. It’s about God coming to us in Word and Sacrament to share with us His will and His forgiveness and His love and His grace. We’re authentic; we’re not gimmicky; we are what we are. And our Christian life is centered around the Word of God and the Sacraments.
There’s a lot of talk and speculation about the “End Times” and the “New Millennium”. Famous authors and preachers spend hours talking about the signs and wonders and making predictions about the Last Day. To date, thousands of predictions have been made. To date, none of those predictions have panned out.
Lutherans are Amillennial. We do not take the millennium (the thousand years as mentioned in Revelation) literally. In fact, according to the Scripture, we are IN the thousand years right now! The thousand years has been upon us for about 2000 years, since Christ’s death and resurrection, since the Apostles started the first churches in Jerusalem. Further, we do not believe that Christ our Lord will reign on the earth as some earthly king. The Scripture is clear: our Lord’s kingdom is not of this earth. We do not believe in the 19th century invention of the “rapture” where Christians are “taken” and everyone else is “left behind”, as the popular pseudo-Christian books assert. In fact, if we take Noah the Flood seriously, those who were “taken” were the unbelievers and pagans and those who were “left behind” were Noah and his family, the faithful.
Instead we believe that when the Last Day comes, it will come as a thief in the night – it will be like a flash of lightening – it will be quick and we will not know it until it comes. Our Lord’s judging of the living and the dead will happen in an instant and the heavens and the earth, as we know it now, will be gone and a new heaven and a new earth will take its place. Speculation is never good; trust in the Lord and His Word.
Sometimes when we think of “conversion” or becoming a Christian, we think of making decisions, altar calls, promises and commitments on the part of the one being converted. But Lutherans believe as the Scripture teaches, that man cannot come to God, cannot find God through reason or strength, that man is hostile to God from conception, and totally incapable of making himself a Christian or doing the works necessary to appease God.
This puts us in a pickle. How do we become Christian — how do we convert — if we are unable to do it ourselves?
The answer is found in the Scripture. “Faith comes by hearing!” That’s right. God’s Word is very powerful, living and active, and it changes us when it penetrates our ears and hearts. In fact, God’s Word is what does the converting. God saves through His Word, applied in Holy Baptism, through the Word attached to the Lord’s Supper, through the preaching of His Word, and through all the other interactions and exposures sinners might have to God’s Word.
God never left the work of salvation and belief in our hands. He’s got it covered! Repent and believe the Good News.
Yes, it is true. We are poor, miserable sinners. And since this is true, it is also true and necessary that we confess our sins. Our Lord instructs us to confess our sins of thought, word and deed, both sins we know we commit, and the sins we don’t; both sins we intentionally commit and sins unintentional.
What is confession? Well, it has two parts: first that we confess and second that we receive absolution, which is the forgiveness of sins proclaimed by the pastor as if by God Himself. And we must not doubt, but believe firmly that our sins are truly forgiven by God in heaven.
Sometimes folks get hung up on the idea of a pastor saying, “I forgive you all your sins…“, but there is no reason for concern. The pastor is only speaking the words that Christ the Lord has already said and has authorized His Church to say. The reason the pastor says, “I forgive you...” is for your conscience, so that you know for certain that your sins are forgiven because God is speaking through the pastor directly to you. Further, the authority for the Church to forgive sins (and to withhold forgiveness) is given by Christ Himself in the Scripture. For example, in John 20, Jesus says, “if you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven them. If you do not forgive the sins, they are not forgiven.” This is Jesus’ sharing of this important authority with His holy church.
Lutherans also offer private confession and absolution, especially for those poor souls whose consciences are heavily burdened on account of sin and need special attention. Should you wish to take advantage of private confession and absolution with the pastor, please contact the church.
In the Lord’s Supper, our Lord delivers to us the true body and blood of the sacrifice at the cross, where He paid for the sin of the whole world. In truth, we do not attempt to explain how this works, that is, how the true body and blood are present in the bread and wine of the Supper. But we simply go to the Scripture where, on the night our Lord was betrayed, He took bread and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them and said, “take and eat, this is my body given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them and said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.”
By these words and by this institution, our Lord tells us that His body and blood are present in the bread and wine and given for our forgiveness, faith, strength and salvation. We reject any notion that our Lord is only spiritually present because what spirit has flesh and blood to give? We also reject any notion that the Supper is merely symbolic, because our Lord said “this IS” and not this “symbolizes”.
One more thing to know regarding our practice. St. Paul’s follows the historic and biblical practice of Closed Communion. In a nutshell, we only allow those who rightly confess the Christian faith, who are sorry for their sins, and who believe that Christ has forgiven them of their sins — and offers this forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper — to commune at our altar. We do not want to exclude anyone, but those who are outside the faith or who do not profess the same beliefs as we do are already excluded and it would not be right for such to commune (unity/union) with us who seek to share a common belief and practice of the faith. If you have questions about this, please contact the church. Whatever the case, we do ask that you respect our practice. If you are unsure of our beliefs, but would still like to visit, you are encouraged to speak to the Pastor or and elder before the service. If you wish to approach the communion rail, please cross your arms which tells the pastor that you desire a blessing but that you are refraining from the sacrament out of respect and concern. Thank you.
Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. In other words, water, by itself, is just water. But when God combines His Word to it, powerful things happen! In the Scripture, God promises that all who believe and are baptized are saved (Mark 16), and that we are born again by water and the Spirit (John 3). He instructs us regarding how we make disciples: baptizing and teaching (Matthew 28:19ff). He promises the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism (Acts 2:38ff). In Holy Baptism, our old self dies and the new self, wrapped in Christ, comes alive (Romans 6).
The specific method used to baptize is not prescribed (immersion, pouring, sprinkling) and historically all three methods have been used. There is even evidence showing that baptisms were done by all of these methods during the time of the Apostles (see The Didache). Scripture also makes clear that baptism is for all, including young children. Jesus was beside Himself when the disciples tried to stop children from receiving His blessing. When the Scripture speaks of “entire households” being baptized, this included the women, the slaves, AND the children. St. Peter, in Acts 2, says that the promise received through baptism (forgiveness and the Holy Spirit) are for all, including children.