Monday, July 11, 2005

In God's House-Explanation of Liturgy for Children

IN GOD’S HOUSE- An explanation of our Lutheran Liturgy for Children

I. Introduction

As parents, we know that taking children to church can be extremely difficult. We want them to grow up in the faith, and to make God a priority in their lives. Sometimes, however, the negative consequences outweigh the positive when we bring our children to church. They don’t seem to understand what is going on and they don’t seem to get much out of it. They become easily distracted and bored. They get loud and we have to take them out. As a result, we, as parents, can’t worship either. After a few bad experiences, we became less apt to want to bring them at all. With this in mind, and also having four children myself, I have developed a resource that can be used to help our children understand worship. Bringing children to church will never be easy. But, it is my hope that by understanding our Lutheran worship and being able to participate in the service, they will gradually become more comfortable with it.

A. God’s House

A child can understand what a house is. Your family lives in a unique house or apartment. They see different houses in their neighborhood. All houses have things in common. All houses have doors that you use to enter. All houses have people in them that talk with one another. All houses have water in them. All houses have food and drink in them. Music is also common in most houses. Most houses have candles in them. Houses protect us from the outside elements. Believe it or not, all of these things are also found in God’s House. There is a door that allows people to enter. There is conversation going on between God and the people. There is water, food and drink in God’s house. There is music and singing in God’s house. God’s house has candles in it. God’s house protects us from the outside world. You can begin by explaining to your children all that is found in their homes is also found in God’s house.

B. Why Are We Going to Church? A Divine Service

Children often ask why they have to go to church. The standard answer is because God wants us to. This is true; but it is only partially true. God wants us to come to church because He wants to give us His gifts. Worship is primarily Divine Service. That means, that in worship, our God is “divinely serving” us. Our God is using His Word and His Sacraments to bless, to encourage, to strengthen, to empower, to enlist and to do so much more. He does this regardless of age. We come to church because we need what God has to offer. Then, as a response to what He does, we respond with thanksgiving and praise. Why do we go to church? Because God is there and He wants to give us His gifts. All children love to receive a gift. At church, God is giving us gifts. Children can understand that for sure.

C. Preparation for Going to God’s House

Before we go to someone’s house, we make preparations. We put on certain clothes. Maybe as parents, we dress our children in certain clothes and we encourage them to act in a proper way. We can do the same before we go to God’s house. We can remind our children that we are entering the house of God. We, therefore, want to respect His house. We wear nicer clothes. We are on our best behavior, not because we are trying to impress God but because we respect Him and want to give Him our very best. We also can tell our children that being in God’s house is a joyous thing. We have the privilege of hearing and talking with our Heavenly Father. Preparing our children gets them in the proper mind for worship and it also helps us as parents.

II. An Explanation of the Worship Service

A. Singing in God’s House- Hymns and Liturgy

Music is a integral part of our society. Everywhere you go, you hear music. The same is true in God’s house. You hear music being played throughout the Divine Service. It is played before the service begins and after the service ends. It is played throughout the service. Music is heard as we sing the hymns. The hymns are used to help teach all of us the faith. They are a sung confession of the faith. It is my firmly held conviction that our children can not only learn our hymns, but can also value them, as well. To do this, it takes practice. Later in this resource, I will provide you with a list of hymns that children can learn at very early ages. Maybe they won’t know the whole hymn, but they can learn a stanza or two. Learning various hymns as a child leads to a deep and abiding appreciation of them when they are older. Parents can also teach their children to sing various parts of the liturgy. For example, the children can sing the Kyrie, “Lord have mercy.” Children can learn, “Create in Me.” Teaching our children the various parts of the liturgy and the hymns will go a long way to help them participate in the service.

B. Water in God’s House

Most houses today have access to water. Water is necessary for us in that we need it for the normal functions of our body. We need it to keep us clean. The same is true in God’s house. On some occasions, water has a very prominent role. When we have the privilege of having a Baptism, God joins the Water with His Word and washes away that persons sins. They become God’s beloved child. On Sundays when we don’t have a Baptism, there is still water present. We begin most services in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. When we do this, we are remembering our own Baptism where we were washed with the Water and the Word. Every Sunday, we can remind our children to look at the Baptismal font in the front of the church. Remind them how God used water to make them His child.

C. Entering God’s House- Confession/Absolution

Before going into another person’s house, normally, either the person on the inside must let us in or we must have the keys to get in. That is exactly what happens in God’s house. The catechism reminds us that the church has been given the “Office of the Keys.” This a particular church power that Christ gives to His church to open and close heaven. Before we can be in God’s house, we must be ready. That is why we have Confession and Absolution at the beginning of the service. When we confess our sins, and when the pastor proclaims that forgiveness in Jesus’ name, we remember that the door to God is open. We remember why we are able to be in God’s house. He lets us in and we are now with him. We can remind our children how precious the forgiveness of our sins truly is.

D. The Liturgy of the Word- The Introit, Gloria Patri, Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, The Salutation and the Collect- Order and Structure in God’s House

This part of the service is the liturgy proper. It is sung every week; so it provides order and structure for our worship. In the Introit, God is speaking to us. The words spoken are related to the Scripture lessons and to the theme for the day. In the Gloria Patri, as well as the Gloria in Excelsis, we give our God the glory due Him. The Kyrie is asking that same God to have mercy on us, His children. Because they are so repetitive, it is my belief that children can learn to sing these sections of the liturgy very early. This section ends with the pastor reminding us that God is with us and then as a response we pray back to Him. The collect is a short summary of the theme for the day. Encourage your children to listen and pray to God as the prayer is said.

E. Apostles’ or Nicene Creed- Saying What We Believe

Understanding God can be difficult for children, as well as for adults. The Creeds are our confession of who God is and what He does in our lives. The Creeds helps us understand Him better. We confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He made us unique. He keeps us safe and provides for us. He sent his Son to die and rise again for us. He sends His Holy Spirit to bring us to faith and strengthen us in that faith. The earlier you can teach your children the Creeds, the better off you and they will be.

F. God’s Speaking to Us

In the house of God, it is such a joy to hear our God speak to us. That is what He is doing when the Old Testament, the Epistle and the Gospel are being read, as well as during the Sermon. The Hallelujah verse is also sung between the Epistle and the Gospel to remind us that we are about to hear the very words of Jesus. This can also be learned very easily. We need to help our children pay very close attention to the Word of God and to the sermon. During the sermon, God is speaking to us and relating the Word of God to our daily lives. Again, they may not understand all that is said that particular day; but, as they listen, the Holy Spirit is strengthening their faith. The next time they hear the same text, they may understand a little bit more. One way to help our children pay closer attention to the 3 readings is to read them the week before. In your devotion time, maybe before or after the family meal, the father or mother can read the lessons. If they have already heard the readings before Sunday morning, they will really feel a part of the service when that part begins.

G. The Offering- Giving God Money in His House

Explaining the offering to children does not need to be difficult. What we need to tell them is that everything in the world is already owned by God. He made everything that we see around us. We are simply the caretakers of His property. We are called to be good stewards of that property. We give back a portion of what God has already given to us to say thank you to Him. The money is used by the church in its mission and ministry. It is vital that we teach our children to be good stewards. We can teach them this by helping them set aside a portion of the money that comes to them and help them put it in the plate as it is passed. After the Offering, we sing the Offertory, asking God to create in us a new heart. We are making the transition to the second part of the Divine Service- the celebration of Holy Communion.

H. Speaking back to God- Prayers Used in Worship and the Lord’s Prayer

Praying to God is an essential part of being a Christian. We teach our children to pray at the dinner table, before they go to sleep and when someone is hurt. Praying is also an essential part of the Divine Service. During the General Prayer, we pray for what was preached about in the Sermon. We pray for our country, for our leaders, for those suffering, those in the hospital, those celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, as well as any other need that might arise. The Lord’s Prayer, which sometimes comes later in the service, is a beautiful summary of what we can pray to God for. We pray for His name to be kept holy. We pray for His kingdom of grace to come to all people and His will to be done in this world. We pray that He would give us what we need to survive and to help us to forgive those who sin against us. Finally, we pray that the devil would not trick us and that we would not fall into temptation. Learning the Lord’s Prayer can be done by children at a very early age.

I. The Communion Liturgy before the Meal- The Preface, the Proper Preface, The Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei

Again, these are the regular parts of the liturgy that we do every time we celebrate Holy Communion. They help us to prepare our hearts and minds for receiving God’s meal. The Preface reminds us that God is with us, that we are to lift up our hearts and to give thanks for what God is going to be giving to us. The Proper Preface again highlights the theme for the day, and it reminds us why we need to give thanks to our God. The Sanctus reminds us how special it is that Jesus will be present; while the Agnus Dei reminds us that the Body and Blood of Jesus gives us the forgiveness of our sins.

J. God’s Meal

One of the most important times for us as a family in our various households is the time that we spend around the dinner table. We talk about how the day went and we strengthen the relationship that we have with one another. The same is true in God’s house. Holy Communion is the time that we are privileged to eat with our God. It is the time when we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, for life and for salvation. It is also a time in which God strengthens the bond that we have with our fellow Christians at St. John. I must admit that explaining Holy Communion to our children is not an easy task. They don’t understand why they too can’t eat and drink the meal. The easiest thing to say is that when they grow to be about 14 years of age, they too will be able to eat and drink this special meal. When they are old enough to understand what is going on, then they can commune. You can begin by saying that Jesus said that He is present in the bread and wine. It is a mystery. It is God’s way of being with us and our way of eating with Him. You can remind them that they do receive a special blessing from God and this, too, is important. They are part of this fellowship even if they can’t eat the meal quite yet.

K. The Communion Liturgy after God’s Meal- The Nunc Dimittis, the Thanksgiving, the final Prayer and Salutation, the Benedictamus and the Benediction.

After receiving the body and blood of Jesus for our forgiveness, we say, just like Simeon, that we are ready to depart in peace. Our eyes have seen, our ears have heard and our mouths have tasted the salvation of our God. We give God thanks one last time and we pray that what we have received in God’s house will continue in us as we leave. We are told one last time that God is with and He wants to bless us. The final words of God are His blessing and benediction over us. Because of Jesus, His face shines upon us and His peace always rests over us.

III. Other Miscellaneous Elements of God’ s House

A. Decoration in God’s House

Many people decorate their houses based on what time of year it is. If it is Christmas, families put up Christmas trees and decorations. If it is Easter, we have Easter decorations. God’s house is the same. In the church, we follow a church year, with its various colors and decorations throughout the year. The main festivals in the church year are Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. Each time of the year brings with it unique decorations. For example, during Christmas, we have a Christmas tree, and a beautiful manger scene that we put up in the front of the church. During Lent, we put up a large wooden cross, which is draped with purple fabric. As these various “decorations” change throughout the year, we can explain to our children the significance and meaning. Helping our children understand and appreciate the passing of the seasons will help to enhance their worship. Please see the list below of what the different colors in the Church symbolize.

B. Colors

Blue- Advent; a color of royalty as we anticipate the birth of Jesus
White- Christmas, Easter and other holy times- a color of holiness and perfection
Black- Good Friday- a color symbolizing death
Red- Pentecost, other Festivals- a color symbolizing fire, Holy Spirit and bloodshed
Green- Sundays after Pentecost- a color symbolizing growth and new birth
Purple- Lent- a color symbolizing repentance and self-denial

C. Hymns that Children Can Learn throughout the Year (Learn one Stanza at a Time)

Advent- TLH # 62, 63, 68
Christmas- TLH # 87, 94, 102, 646, 647
Epiphany- TLH # 127
Lent- TLH # 146, 149, 159
Easter- TLH# 191, 199, 200
Pentecost- TLH # 657, 658, 376,451, 428

Closed Communion

Imagine that you are gathered with others for worship. After the hymns and liturgy, Scripture lessons and sermon, the Pastor says, "We are ready to participate in the fellowship of the Lord's Supper. Therefore, those of you who are not baptized, or are not instructed in the teaching of the apostles and prophets, or are not part of this confessional fellowship, are now dismissed. Thank you for your interest in hearing God's Word. We pray it will bear fruit in your heart and life."
You are attending a first-century Christian worship service. This congregation is practicing closed communion. Simply stated, the practice of closed communion means that only those who belong to the same confessional fellowship–those who believe, confess, and teach the prophetic and apostolic faith–may join together in the fellowship of Holy Communion.
Refusing communion to the general public and even to erring Christians is consistent with the historic practice of the Christian Church. Through the ages confessing Christians have regarded unity of doctrine as a prerequisite for admission to the Sacrament of Holy Communion. To this day, the Lutheran Church follows the Christian practice of closed communion. Those who are not Lutherans frequently do not understand this practice and often become very judgmental in the things they say. Sometimes even Lutherans do not clearly understand closed communion and may be embarrassed that their congregation follows this practice.
The purpose of this article is to briefly explain our practice of closed communion so it may be understood by inquirers. The focus will be on three major emphases.
The practice of closed communion rises from the Scriptural understanding of the nature of the Sacrament of the Altar.
"Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body, which is 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, saying: 'Drink of it, all of you; this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'"
These words are known as the Words of Institution, since they were used when the Lord's Supper was instituted. They come from our Lord Jesus Himself. To call Jesus Christ "Lord" is to recognize that His Word is authoritative. He is Truth. His Word is truth. His words are true. When He says of the unleavened bread "This is My body" and of the cup (wine) "This is My blood," we must take Him seriously. Therefore, in this Sacrament we receive our Lord's true body and true blood in, with, and under the unleavened bread and wine.
Therefore, we do not contradict our Lord's Word by teaching that this Sacrament is merely a meal of obedience in which we participate simply because He commands it.
We do not contradict our Lord's Word by teaching that this Sacrament is a symbolic meal in which the bread and the wine merely represent or symbolize the absent body and blood of Jesus.
We do not contradict our Lord's Word by teaching that this Sacrament is a meal in which our Lord is spiritually present and bodily absent.
We do not contradict our Lord's Word by teaching that this Sacrament is a sacrifice for sin which the pastor offers to God.
As Lutherans, we take the Lord at His Word. We do not claim to understand how the sacramental union takes place, but we dare not contradict the Word of our Lord simply because we cannot understand it. This Sacrament is the Lord's Supper. He is the Host, and we are His guests. He determines the nature of His Holy Meal. Genuine faith receives what the Lord promises and gives.
In this Sacrament, the Lutheran Church is aware that much more than bread and wine is involved. The body and blood of Jesus Christ are really present, as He himself says. Such an awareness of the nature of this Sacrament causes Lutherans to exercise great care so the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ is recognized, respected, and received in faith. To change the clear Word of our Lord regarding His Supper is both disrespectful and disobedient.
The practice of closed communion is required by the understanding that fellowship at the Lord's Table is the confession of a common faith.
Some people may not understand the unity of faith and its practical application in the Sacrament of the Altar, because they misunderstand the Biblical concept of fellowship. In our day "fellowship" means little more than friends getting together to enjoy each other's company. In the New Testament the word "fellowship" (koinonia) means "participation in a common thing."
In Acts 2:42, the "fellowship" which characterized early Christians came about because "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching...." not because they were friends (which they probably were) and not because they got together to enjoy each other's company (which they probably did). If fellowship were only a synonym for friendship and get-togethers, it would also apply to pagans. Pagans can also be friends who get together to enjoy each other's company. However, the basis of pagan get-togethers is not the apostles' teaching. Among Christians, where any part of the apostles teaching–God's Word–is denied or rejected, the very foundation of fellowship is undermined.
In I Corinthians 10:16-17, "koinonia" is the word used to express the intimate fellowship, the communion of the Lord's Table. There is the intimate fellowship or communion (koinonia) between the unleavened bread and the body of Christ and between the cup (wine) and the blood of Christ. In the Sacrament of the Altar there is also the fellowship or communion (koinonia) between Christ and the believers, as well as the fellowship or communion (koinonia) of the believers who commune at the same altar. To ignore the essence of any or all of these "koinonias" is to undermine and mock the Sacrament of Holy Communion itself.
Since fellowship at the Lord's Table means confession of a common faith, it would not be truthful for those who teach the Real Presence of Christ and those who deny the Real Presence of Christ to join one another. It would be neither faithful to Scripture nor helpful to fallen humanity if those who confess clear Scriptural teachings and those who deny clear Scriptural teachings are welcome at the same altar. Where this is permitted, people can rightly ask whether Christian teaching and practice is determined solely by God's Word or simply by human consensus.
The Sacrament of the Altar is a means of grace, a way that God offers, gives, and seals forgiveness, life, and salvation to the believing communicant. Word and Sacrament are those means of grace. "Word" accents the verbal; "Sacrament" accents the visible. The differing accents do not mean they are mutually exclusive. In fact, they stand or fall together. In Holy Communion our Lord gives His body and blood for us Christians to eat and drink to forgive our sins and keep us in the true faith. This faith is not just a warm feeling about Jesus, nor is it some lowest-common-denominator understanding about Jesus, nor is it even a correct understanding about the nature of Holy Communion. This faith is the Christian faith, the teaching of the prophets and apostles, the Gospel in all its articles. In this Sacrament we commune not only as individuals but also as the family of God united in a common faith and confession.
The Apostle Paul stresses this unity of faith and confession in I Corinthians 11:29 when he reminds Christians that in eating and drinking the Lord's body and blood, "you (plural) are proclaiming the death of the Lord until He comes." We who commune together proclaim the Gospel together. This corporate act presupposes that we share a common faith and confession. Therefore, the practice of closed communion seeks to prevent a proclamation of confessional agreement and unity in the faith where there is, in fact, disagreement and disunity.
This same theme of unity in faith runs through the Old Testament prophetic struggles against syncretism, the attempted unity of conflicting beliefs. The split between Israel and Judah was as much religious as it was political. Relationships between the two were discouraged. After the Exile, the labors of men like Ezra and Nehemiah stand out in the struggles to maintain purity and unity of faith. Their struggles were not mainly against pagans. Their struggles were mostly against those who claimed to be orthodox Israelites but who were not true to the ancestral faith.
At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther struggled against those who added their own opinions to the Sacrament of the Altar, whether Roman or Protestant. In his letter to Frankfurt he saw clearly that open communion went hand in hand with those who refused to take the Lord at His Word. He was appalled that those of opposing beliefs about this Sacrament should commune together at the same altar–the excuse being that what happens in the individual heart, not in God's Word, is decisive–and he chastised them. It is only natural in our day, with its emphasis on the individual and its ethics based on personal feelings, that open communion is practiced. This must not happen.
In truth, the apostolic practice of closed communion continues unchanged to this day among those who agree with the apostles. However, there have always been those who want to make Holy Communion fit their own personal whims. From the errorists in Corinth to the errorists of today, open communion will be advocated and practiced by those who are indifferent to the apostles' teaching either by acting as if one's personal "faith" is superior to the Christian faith–the teaching of the apostles and prophets–or by acting as if differences in doctrine are equally valid expressions of some vague truth. It shall not be so among us.
Some have said, "You can't look into another person's heart to judge his faith." This is true. No one is admitted to or kept from the Lord's Table on the basis of our knowledge of the faith in his heart. We admit or refuse to admit someone on the basis of the faith he confesses. This involves his confession of sin, his confession of Christ as the only Lord and Savior, and his confession of the Christian faith–the apostles' teaching. Others have said, "You Lutherans think you're the only ones going to heaven." No responsible Lutheran has ever taught that. However, we certainly are trying to be faithful to the apostles' teaching, since that is the only true basis for Christian fellowship and unity.
Confessional Christian congregations, including Hope, who have joined the confessional fellowship of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, understand that unity of faith and teaching is the essence of fellowship. Fellowship at Holy Communion involves the fellowship of the sacramental union, the fellowship of Christ with the believer, and the fellowship among those faithful to the apostles' teaching. Communicants confess a common faith. Such an intimate fellowship means that those who commune together confess the same thing. Therefore, those who do not confess the same thing do not commune together. Jesus is not honored when the Lord's Table is used as a way of expressing or achieving unity of faith where it does not exist. Joint communion of persons having differing beliefs, even about the Sacrament itself, is not the way to achieve unity. This is a horrible confusion of Law and Gospel. True unity in the faith confessed is not produced by ignoring basic Christian teaching nor by attempting to falsify the last will and testament of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Sacrament of the Altar is not people at work achieving their ecumenical desires. The Sacrament is God at work forgiving sin and keeping His family in true fellowship with Him and with each other.
The practice of closed communion presupposes that proper pastoral care shows loving concern for each communicant.
"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself," writes the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 11:27-29.
In Corinth, some thought they could make Holy Communion fit their own ideas of what it ought to be. Paul admonishes them. Christ's body and blood are given in this Sacrament for eating and drinking. Every communicant must examine himself to determine his relationship to what God is giving in this Sacrament. Am I a sinful human being? Am I sorry for my sins? Do I in faith desire to receive the body and blood of Jesus in this Sacrament for the forgiveness of my sins? Unless a person truthfully and honestly responds positively to these questions, he eats and drinks judgment upon himself. Before the fact, Paul calls them to repentance so they do not place themselves under God's judgment. He knows that God will not tolerate anyone taking His Sacrament lightly or wrongly, even in ignorance. Like good medicine, which is to be used only under a doctor's care, the Lord's Supper is beneficial only when administered and received according to the Gospel, in keeping with God's Word.
Therefore, when the Pastor of Hope does not give the Lord's body and blood to someone unknown to him or to someone not of our confessional fellowship, he is acting responsibly as a "...servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God" (I Corinthians 4:1). In the Lutheran Church, looking out for someone's spiritual well-being is a positive act. Out of love for others, we do not invite them to partake in something that may be spiritually harmful to them. Nor do we pass off our pastoral responsibility by saying, "That's up to them." We do invite questions. We ask that a prospective communicant first be instructed in the chief parts of the apostles' doctrine. After this instruction, if individuals join us in confessing the apostles' doctrine, they are accepted into our confessional fellowship as communicant members of Hope Lutheran and of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
The pastoral concern of the Lutheran Church can be illustrated in this manner. An automobile is a wonderful convenience. It is intended to be helpful to you, but it can also destroy you if you do not treat it with care. Consequently, for your own protection, our government requires instruction in the operating basics and evidence of driving ability before anyone is legally licensed to drive a car. This requirement is not intended to deprive anyone of anything. On the contrary, it is a matter of experienced, responsible persons being concerned for the physical well-being of others. Much the same attitude is found in the Lutheran Church with regard to participation in the Sacrament of the Altar. We are concerned about the spiritual well-being of those under our pastoral care and those who may desire that care.
It is a great irony that those who practice closed communion are often called legalistic and unloving. Love is not empty words. It means commitment. It means that we dare to encourage, admonish, confront. The fact that this happens does not mean love is absent. It means that Christian brothers and sisters care enough to face divisions, neither glossing over them nor pretending that division is good. We are to confess together the Christian faith, the teaching of the prophets and apostles which is the basis of our fellowship. If anyone cannot do that, the Lord's Table is not the place for practicing hypocrisy. The Lord's Table is not a place to pretend a unity that does not exist. To do so is loveless disregard for the Word of the Lord and for the spiritual well-being of other people. We at Hope, and we of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod desire to be faithful to the Great Commission and teach all that the Lord has commanded.
The practice of closed communion rises from the nature of the Sacrament, is required by the understanding of fellowship as a common confession of faith, and is a loving expression of proper pastoral care.

Swat Those Flies- Traditional Values

As you may remember, the theme for 2005 is Building Bridges. God has built his bridge down to us by the person and work of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. As a result, we can approach God with freedom and confidence. Our sins are forgiven. We have access to God. In addition, He has built bridges between us. We are united together in His church, here at St. John. Furthermore, He helps us build bridges to those around us in the community. Our foundations for this bridge, as you also may remember are 6-fold: 1) The Bible 2) Lutheran Confessions 3) Lutheran Liturgy and Hymns
4) Traditional and Conservative Values 5) Practical Faith 6) Outreach to the Community and world.

This month, we look at the fourth foundation: Our Traditional and Conservative Values. In our Gospel lesson for June 19th, Matthew 10:24-33, Jesus warns the disciples about the persecution that they will endure from the world. As they are out spreading the Gospel, Satan will be there, around every corner, attempting to stop it. In the above Gospel lesson, Satan is called an interesting name. He is called Beelzebub. Satan has many names in Scripture, but this particular one is insightful. Literally, Beelzebub means, “Lord of the flies.”

For me, the summer time is a wonderful time of year. I admit that the hot temperatures can be difficult at times; but generally, it is wonderful to get outside and enjoy the sun. What is not so nice about the summer is all the flies that are out-and-about. These flies can annoy us especially when we are outside doing something enjoyable. These flies can even bite us and cause us pain.

There are many other types of “flies” that are out in our world today, not just in the summer time, but throughout the year. These “flies” can also annoy and cause us great pain. Some can even be deadly. These “flies” come from Satan himself, “the Lord of the flies.”

What are some of these flies that I am talking about? There are so many in our American culture. One of them is certainly the elevation of the individual. What matters most is me and only me, the world would say. My needs are the only thing that motivate me. When we stop caring about others and only look to ourselves, then there are so many problems.

What are some of the other flies that fly around our country today? They are: the undermining of the family, along with the refusal of parents to discipline their children; illicit immortality and sexual depravity, especially the acceptance of homosexuality; rampant drug use; the lack of concern for life at its beginning and at its end; a post-modern attitude that results in an unwillingness to take a stand for what is right and what is wrong.

The church has many “flies” in its midst as well? What are some of those flies? They are: a denial of the inerrancy of God’s Word; a refusal to teach God’s Word rightly and correctly; a rejection of the Sacraments of the Church; a false understanding of the mission of the church; a love of worldly and business philosophies; and worst of all, the love of money.

What can we do to deal with these flies? Get out the ultimate fly swatter: God’s Word. The precious Word of God gives it to us straight. It knocks the flies right out of the air. It flats them and takes the sting right out of the them. God’s Word lays out a traditional and conservative philosophy for us as Christians. So, let us cling to God’s Holy Word. It won’t let us down. It never has and it never will.

In Christ,

Pastor Jim Haugen

Foundations of Confessional Lutheranism

Greetings in Christ,

Last month, I talked to you about a theme for the year 2005. That theme was Building Bridges. There were three different aspects to the theme. The first aspect was how God the Father has built a bridge down to us through His Son Jesus’ death on a cross and resurrection from the grave. We can approach God now with freedom and confidence. The second aspect of Building Bridges was the importance of working at our relationship with other members. Satan tries to tear down the bridges that we have with them. We need to continually work at fostering our current relationships and also work at building new ones. Thirdly, we talked about the mission of the church which is to build bridges to the community and to the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As we know, every bridge has to have a strong foundation. Without it, the bridge will not stand the test of time and will fall down. So, in coordination with the theme Building Bridges, I have chosen six foundation posts, as it were, for our church- six things that make our church unique and relevant in our world today. My hope is that these foundations will continue to remain strong at St. John’s.
1) The Bible. There is no better place to start. God’s Holy Word is the sole source and norm for all teaching. God lovingly gave us His Word to teach us about himself and His love for all mankind in and through His Son Jesus Christ. We go to His Word for comfort, strength and power for living. God’s Word has always been a foundation for us as Lutherans and I pray that it will always be a strong foundation of our church in the years ahead.
2) Our Lutheran Confessions. As a Lutheran Church, our Confessions are also vitally important to our mission and ministry. We have always believed in the importance of clearly stating what we believe, teach and confess according to God’s Word. The Book of Concord, our written confession, is a clear statement of our doctrinal positions on a whole range of issues. It includes “the Small and Large Catechism, the Augsburg Confession” and many other wonderful documents. These document remain just as relevant today as they ever have been. If you are interested in obtaining a Book of Concord, let me know.
3) The Historic Lutheran Liturgy, Worship and Hymnody. In the Christian church today, you see various ways of worshipping the Lord. The Lutheran Church has always believed in the importance of the Historic liturgy and hymnody. It allows God to primarily give us His gifts and secondarily it allows us to give thanks for those gifts. The Lutheran Church has never thought of worship as being entertainment. It is God’s means for bringing us into His presence to bless, heal and uplift our hearts and minds for service to God in our world today.
4) Traditional/Conservative Values. No one would argue that our society has changed in regards to morality and behavior over the last 25 years. What was once considered obscene and inappropriate is viewed today as acceptable and a constitutional right. The Lutheran Church has, since its inception, believed in the sanctity of life at the beginning and end of life. We have always opposed abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriages. These issues tend to get politicized, but to us they are issues of conscience. It is important for us that we don’t allow society to dictate our morality. It is also important that we stand up for what we believe but we do so in a lovingly and compassionate manner.
5) Practicality. Something that is always on my heart and mind as a pastor is trying to bring the faith to bear in our everyday life. Living the Christian life today is extremely hard. There are numerous pitfalls and temptations to avoid. Satan is there at every turn to lead us astray. Our worship, Bible study and fellowship should then lead us to faithful and faith-filled living. The Holy Spirit through the Word changes our mind as well as our heart and encourages us to give evidence of our faith to the world around us.
6) Love for Others and Spreading the Gospel to all nations. Again, the Lutheran Church has always believed in the importance of reaching out to all nations with the Gospel. It is not okay for us to hold onto the pure Gospel and not share it with others. May the Holy Spirit continue to motivate us so that we powerfully take the Gospel outside of our church. May we always have a deep love for others who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Building Bridges is our theme for 2005. God has blessed our church with a very solid foundation. We are at a time in our history to do some most important work. May God continue to bless our ministry and strengthen our foundations so that He is glorified.

In Christ,

Pastor Haugen

Ground Rules

I wanted to lay out some ground rules for this blog. The purpose of this blog, as I see it, is not to impune another's character. We are not out to break the 8th commandment. The purpose here is not to mention individual pastors or teachers unless what they say is documented in a published writings. This is an idea blog- a think tank, if you will. This blog is intended to spread Confessional Lutheranism by letting people know what is going on around them. Cleveland has a history of being a Lutheran area. It is my hope that by the grace of God, we can attempt to get back to being a solid Confessional Lutheran community. The intention of this blog, then, is teach what being a Lutheran is all about. One cannot teach Lutheranism without also referring to other teachings, as is fully evidenced in the Book of Concord. But, as we do so, we need to be as objective as possible.