All posts by saintjohn

Missional

Core Values: Missional

In my newsletter articles for the last few months, I have been discussing our core values. This month, I address our fourth and final value: what it means to be missional. This value requires us to be somewhat cautious. The Church’s mission isn’t really up for us to determine. Instead, we are called to embrace the mission given us by Jesus Christ. And this will make us distinct from every business, non-profit, and charity out there.

 

What is it? We turn to Jesus’ own words in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

 

Everything that we do as Church revolves around making disciples – learners and followers of Jesus Christ. And disciples are made through Baptism, teaching, preaching, and prayer (Acts 2:42). This is why the focus of our congregation is on the Divine Service and Bible classes.

 

Discipleship begins with the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. It continues as we return to the Divine Service for Confession and Absolution, and the Holy Supper. And then we store up God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). The Words of God in written, spoken, and sacramental forms are the mission of the Church, and the only source for the Christian faith.

 

Discipleship also extends into the home and our personal lives. We don’t leave the Word at Church, but it goes with us. The home especially is to reflect the depths of our faith, whether we live alone or with a full house. In Deuteronomy 6, we are instructed, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

 

The Mission of the Church is faithful Word and Sacrament ministry in the Church, home, community, and around the world. We are a Biblical, Confessional, Liturgical, Missional Church. And now I hope you feel a little more prepared to give an answer to the person who asks you about your Church.

 

Biblical

Core Values: Biblical

 

So what kind of Church are we? We are a Biblical Church. We have been defining our core values this spring. And this is where we start. We believe the Bible to be the Word and revelation of God. We take it seriously. We shape our lives by it. We read, study, and give it prominence in worship. It is inspired, inerrant, and authoritative.

 

And we read the Bible in a particular way. It is so much more than, “basic instructions before leaving earth.” Jesus is the heart and center of the Scriptures. The Bible brings us Christ and tells His story. The Bible is the history of redemption. And as we read, listen, and engage with the Scriptures, we are incorporated into that story.

 

And for us, context matters so much. Bible verses are not fortune cookies. We don’t just rip them out of their context and then make them mean whatever we want. The meaning of a verse is determined by the author, not the reader. So when we want to know the meaning of a particular verse, we look at the immediate context, the chapter, the book, and finally the rest of the Bible.

 

We also believe that God’s Word is unique in that it accomplishes what it says. Isaiah 55:11 says, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” God’s Word goes out and it changes reality. It declares us righteous. It forgives our sins. It makes us His own.

 

So the Bible is central to our life together as His Church – it is the voice of God. And because we love Him, we desire to get to know Him through His Word. We read the Bible in our own private devotions. We study the Bible in classes. And let me invite you to get involved in one of our weekly Bible studies. This is the best place to get comfortable with God’s Word.

Confessional

Core Values: Confessional

So what kind of Church are we? We are a Confessional Church. This means we have a clear and thorough definition of what we believe. We are grounded in our doctrine and we are accountable to the truth we confess. Christ and His work of justification are at the core of what we believe.  And whether our doctrine is popular or unpopular, we make it known.

 

Our Lutheran confessions are included in the Book of Concord. They were finished in 1580, so we have been saying the same thing as Lutherans for a long time! The Book of Concord contains:

  • The Ecumenical Creeds: Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian
  • The Augsburg Confession
  • The Apology of the Augsburg Confession
  • The Smalcald Articles
  • The Power and Primacy of the Pope
  • The Small Catechism
  • The Large Catechism
  • The Formula of Concord, Epitome
  • The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration

 

We often interact with the Small Catechism around here. I lace it into my sermons. It is used in catechesis. We encourage parents to help their kids memorize the Small Catechism before they even start youth catechesis. Luther intended for us to use the Small Catechism throughout our lives as a prayer book and devotional.

 

 

Liturgical

Core Values: Liturgical

Over the past few months, we have been getting to know our core values: biblical, confessional, liturgical, and missional. This month I would like to address what it means to be liturgical.

 

This value addresses what we do together as we gather weekly for the Divine Service. And what we do isn’t just a matter of taste or preference. The content of our service really matters. The Sacraments deliver grace to us. And we gather to hear the living voice of the Gospel and the whole counsel of God in Scripture, preaching, and every other component of what we do on Sundays.

 

We also recognize that style isn’t neutral. We pay attention to the mode and style of worship of the saints who have gone before us. We use a historic liturgy, doing what faithful Christians have done for centuries. We don’t emulate the modern rock concert or stand-up comedy. For us to be a liturgical Church means we recognize the need to be reverent in our services.

 

Our theology of worship comes from the Scriptures and our Lutheran confessions. Acts 2 reminds us of the nature of the Church as they gathered around the Word of God and the Sacraments, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

 

Our Lutheran Confessions tell us that worship is receptive, “So the worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive gifts from God.” This is why we call our worship the Divine Service. We recognize that God condescends to come down to us and meet our needs for forgiveness, life, and salvation. Christians need this grace throughout our lives.

 

And this is why we gather. The Church offers something that we can’t get anywhere else. This means that our practices should look different than everything else out there. We don’t exist to entertain. We are distinct. We are set apart. And we have our eyes fixed on Jesus who is really present in bread and wine; water and Word.

How to Make Worship Kid-Friendly

I read a great article recently with the above title. You can find the whole thing here:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2016/01/18/making-worship-kid-friendly/

This article suggested that traditional, liturgical worship is exactly what our kids need. I would suggest it is what our teens and adults need as well. Worship style is not just a matter of taste. It’s about content and continuity with the Church that has come before us. And it has real implications for the future of the Church. And notice that I said need rather than want. We don’t always know what is good for us.

“To be honest, I see a generation that is crying out for the sustenance that traditional worship can bring. For boundaries, for beauty, for connection to something bigger that themselves. Their faith is parched for corporate worship that will last, that will sustain…One of the lies of contemporary commercial worship is that modern entertainment is the only way to engage the fleeting attention span of our youngest worshipers.”

Now, liturgical worship is demanding. It is like learning to dance (and by that I don’t mean the kind of dancing that happens at prom). It takes time and energy to learn by heart the rhythm of the service. But everything worth doing places demands on us. And teaching our kids to participate by example offers eternal benefits.

It is possible to truly engage our kids with liturgical worship. It will demand something of parents, teaching their kids the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, practicing at home, and involving them in the whole service. And it will demand something of the congregation, gladly welcoming the involvement of children and the little bit of extra sound that may bring.

It is easier to give in to the pressures of entertaining them with services that are loud, showy, and visually stimulating. But, “In making the Church entertaining, we’ve dug a massive hole and thrown our children into it.” We will always lose the entertainment battle.

Liturgical worship requires us to engage with God’s Word – to engage with Christ. And it creates a new culture for the Church – a culture that is not a cheap knock-off of what the world is doing at the moment. It offers us a real alternative. It offers us the biblical practices of the Church: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

So join me in worship this week. Bring your kids and grandkids. Hand them a hymnal. Show them where we are in the Service folder. And teach them by example to sing, chant, listen, kneel, and pray. Show them how important this is by your attendance and your participation. See you Sunday!

Pastor

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday and Lent

On Ash Wednesday February 10, we begin the Lenten season. The color of the Church is purple, fixing our minds on repentance and the crucified King. The tone is subdued, we don’t sing or say alleluias during Lent, saving them for the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord. The season invites us to form better habits, especially Bible study, prayer, service to others, and giving. Some will fast during Lent, but we do so privately and quietly (Matthew 6:16-18). We have additional Wednesday services during Lent at 1:30 and 7:00 p.m. We do all of these things in response to the cross and for the glory of God. Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality because of the curse of sin, that “we are dust and to dust we shall return” (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20). Following the service, Pastor will offer the rite of the imposition of ashes. They are applied with the sign of the cross to point us to the passion of the Christ and the hope we have in Him.