What Really is a Lutheran?

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While there are a variety of ways one could answer this question, one very important answer is simply this, “A Lutheran is a person who believes, teaches and confesses the truths of God’s Word as they are summarized and confessed in the Book of Concord.” The Book of Concord contains the Lutheran confessions of faith. 

Perhaps you have attended an ordination of a pastor and heard him promise that he will perform the duties of his office in accord with the Lutheran Confessions. When people are confirmed they are asked if they confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, as they have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true. 

These solemn promises indicate to us just how important the Lutheran Confessions are for our church. Let’s take a look at the various items contained in the Book of Concord and then we will talk about why the Lutheran Confessions are so important for being a Lutheran. 

What are the Ecumenical Creeds? 

The three ecumenical creeds in the Book of Concord are the Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed. They are described as “ecumenical” [universal] because they are accepted by Christians worldwide as correct expressions of what God’s Word teaches. 

What is the Augsburg Confession and Apology of the Augsburg Confession? 

In the year 1530, the Lutherans were required to present their confession of faith before the emperor in Augsburg, Germany. Philip Melanchthon wrote the Augsburg Confession and it was read before the imperial court on June 30, 1530. One year later, the Lutherans presented their defense of the Augsburg Confes-sion, which is what “apology” here means. It too was written by Philip Melanchthon. The largest document in the Book of Concord, its longest chapter, is devoted to the most important truth of the Christian faith: the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. 

What are the Small and Large Catechisms? 

Martin Luther realized early on how desperately ignorant the laity and clergy of his day were when it came to even the most basic truths of the Christian faith. Around 1530, he produced two small handbooks to help pastors and the heads of families teach the faith. The Small Catechism and the Large Catechism are organized around six topics: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Holy Baptism, Confession, and the Sacrament of the Altar. So universally accepted were these magnificent doctrinal summaries by Luther, that they were included as part of the Book of Concord. 

What are the Smalcald Articles and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope? 

In 1537, Martin Luther was asked to prepare a statement of Lutheran Belief for use at a church council, if it was called. Luther’s bold and vigorous confession of faith was later incorporated into the Book of Concord. It was presented to a group of Lutheran rulers meeting in the town of Smalcald. Philip Melanchthon was asked to expand on the subject of the Roman pope and did so in his treatise, which also was included in the Book of Concord. 

What is the Formula of Concord? 

After Luther’s death in 1546, significant controversies broke out in the Lutheran Church. After much debate and struggle, the Formula of Concord in 1577 put an end to these doctrinal controversies and the Lutheran Church was able to move ahead united in what it believed, taught and confessed. In 1580, all the confessional writings mentioned here were gathered into a single volume, the Book of Concord. Concord is a word that means, “harmony.” 

What is the connection between the Bible and the Confessions? 

We confess that, “The Word of God is and should remain the sole rule and norm of all doctrine” (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 9). What the Bible asserts, God asserts. What the Bible commands, God commands. The authority of the Scriptures is complete, certain and final. The Scriptures are accepted by the Lutheran Confessions urge us to believe the Scriptures for “they will not lie to you” (LC,V,76) and cannot be “false and deceitful” (FC SD,VII,96). The Bible is God’s “pure, infallible, and unalterable Word” (Preface to the BOC). 

The Lutheran Confessions are the “basis, rule, and norm indicating how all doctrines should be judged in conformity with the Word of God” (FC SD RN0. Because the Confessions are in the completed doctrinal agreement with the written Word of God, they serve as the standard in the Lutheran Church to determine what is faithful Biblical teaching, insofar as that teaching is addressed in the Confessions. 

What is the main point of the Lutheran Confessions? 

The Lutheran Reformation was not a “revolt,” but rather began as a sincere expression of concern with the false and misleading teachings, which , unfortunately, even to this very day, obscure the glory and merit of Jesus Christ. What motivated Lutheran was a zealous concern about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is how the Lutheran Confessions explain what the Gospel is all about: 

“Human beings have not kept the law of God but have transgressed it. Their corrupted human nature, thoughts, words, and deeds battle against the law. For this reason they are subject to God’s wrath, the death and all temporal afflictions, and to the punishment of the fires of hell. As a result, the Gospel, in its strict sense, teaches what people should believe, namely, that they received from God the forgiveness of sins; that is, that the Son of God, our Lord Christ, has taken upon Himself the curse of the law and borne it, atoned and paid for all our sins; that through Him alone we are restored to God’s grace, obtain the forgiveness of sins through faith and are delivered from death and all the punishments of our sins and are saved eternally. ...It is good news, joyous news, that God does not want to punish sin but to forgive it for Christ’s sake” (FC SD, V, 20). 

What is a “confessional” Lutheran? 

The word “confession” is used in a variety of ways, but when we speak of a “confessional” Lutheran we mean a Lutheran who declares to the world his faith and most deeply held belief and conviction, in harmony with the documents contained in the Book of Concord. You will catch the spirit of confessional Lutheranism in these, the last words written in the Book of Concord: 

“Therefore, it is our intent to give witness before God and all Christendom, among those who are alive today and those who will come after us, that the explanation here set forth regarding all the controversial articles of faith which we have addressed and explained—and no other explanation—is our teaching, faith, and confession. In it we shall appear before the judgment throne of Jesus Christ, by God’s grace, with fearless hearts and thus give account of our faith, and we will neither secretly nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it. Instead, on the strength of God’s grace, we intend to abide by this confession” (FC SD, XII,40). 

What is an “unconditional subscription” to the Confessions? 

Confessional Lutheran pastors are required to “subscribe” unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions because they are a pure exposition of the Word of God. This is the way our pastors, and every layman who confesses his belief in the Small Catechism, is able with great joy and without reservation or qualification to say what it is that he believes to be the truth of God’s word. 

Dr. C.F.W Walther, the Missouri Synod’s first president, explained the meaning of an unconditional confessional subscription in words as clear and poignant today as they were then: 

“An unconditional subscription is the solemn declaration which the individual who wants to serve the church makes under oath that he accepts the doctrinal content of our Lutheran Confessions, because he recognizes the fact that they are in full agreement with Scripture and do not militate against Scripture in any point whether the point be a major or minor importance; and that he therefore heartily believes in this divine truth and is determined to preach this doctrine.” 

So what is it to be a Lutheran? 

Being a Lutheran is being a person who believes the truth of God’s Word, the Holy Bible, as they are correctly explained and taught in the Book of Concord. To do so is to confess the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Genuine Lutherans, confessional Lutherans, dare to insist that “All doctrines should conform to the standards [the Lutheran Confessions] set forth above. Whatever is contrary to them should be rejected and condemned as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith.” (FC EP. RN, 6). 

Such a statement may strike some as boastful. But it is not; rather, it is an expression of the Spirit-led confidence that moves us to speak of our faith before the world. 

To be a confessional Lutheran is to be one who honors the Word of God . That word makes it clear that it is God desire for His church to be in agreement about doctrine, and to be of one mind, living at peace with one another. (1 Cor.1:10; 2 Cor.13:11). It is for that reason that we so treasure the precious confession of Christian truth that we have in the Book of Concord. For confessional Lutherans, there is no other collection of documents, or statements or books that so clearly, accurately and comfortingly presents the teachings of God’s Word and reveals the Biblical Gospel as does our Book of Concord. 

Hand-in-hand wit our commitment to pure teaching and confession of the faith, is, and always must be, our equally strong commitment to reaching out boldly with the Gospel and speaking God’s truth to the world. This is what “confession” of the faith is all about, in the final analysis. Indeed, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak” (2 Cor. 4:13). This is what it means to be Lutheran. 

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Dr. A. L. Barry 
LCMS President 1992, 1995 and 1998
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod 

Readings and Sermon: Sunday October 14, 2018

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View the Bulletin for Sunday October 14, 2018
Service Times: 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
Bible Study: 9:20 a.m.

Old Testament Reading – Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Epistle –
Hebrews 3:12-19

The Holy Gospel according to St. Mark, the tenth chapter.

As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Readings and Sermon: Wednesday October 10, 2018

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View the Bulletin for Sunday October 10, 2018

Deuteronomy 9:1-22

Matthew 11:1-19
When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

NOTE: Sorry for the delay in posting the Wednesday recording — the Webmaster was on vacation this week.

Joyfully Lutheran

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“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 THESS. 5:16–22).

How shall we live as Lutherans?

During this 500th anniversary year, we’ve been taking stock of the gifts given by God through Martin Luther and the Lutheran Reformation. But looking back for its own sake is of little benefit. We look back to learn, rejoice and repent precisely to move forward into the here and now. So also, St. Paul’s teaching to the Thessalonians applies to us today!

“Rejoice in the Lord always.”

There’s a lot of joy in Lutheranism. Certainty of eternal life is ours (ROM. 5:1FF.). Christ proves it true. “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (ROM. 4:25). “I know whom I have believed” (2 TIM. 1:12). “Whoever believes has eternal life” (JOHN 6:47). “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 JOHN 1:7). Jesus loves sinners! “He receives sinners and eats with them” (LUKE 15:2). Joy!

Lutherans realize that they always fall short of the demands of the Law, and that “none is righteous, no, not one” (ROM. 3:10). Not a one of us will walk into heaven because our thoughts, words or deeds were less sinful than the worst of sinners. That means that we are free to see those who don’t know Jesus not as people who need to get holy like us, but rather as objects of Christ’s love — sinners all, just exactly like us (MATT. 9:36F.) Joy!

Lutherans rejoice to know that God’s Word of the Gospel is brought to us by a voice (ROM. 10:17), by a text of the Bible (JOHN 20:31), by the word of absolution (JOHN 20:23), by water (TITUS 3:5) and in bread and wine (1 COR. 11:23F.) — all for manifold and multiple certainty JOHN 1:16). Joy at every turn for sinners! Knowing that salvation is doled out to us in these ways, continuously, we are freed not to be prudes or hypocrites or unforgiving jerks (MATT. 18:28). Christ took on our flesh (JOHN 1:14)! Creation was created, and despite sin, Christ has redeemed His creation, and it is good and to be enjoyed to God’s glory (ROM. 14:13FF.; 1 COR. 10:31)! Joy!

Lutherans do not limit salvation to Lutherans (MARK 16:16). Orthodox Lutherans confess exactly what the Bible says (1 COR. 4:6). People who believe in Jesus as Savior are Christians even if, like the apostles with Jesus, they don’t have everything exactly as the Bible teaches (1 COR.  3:10FF.). Joy!

“Pray without ceasing.”

We have “access” to God the Father in Jesus Christ (EPH. 2:18). Jesus taught His disciples how to pray by word and deed (MATT. 6:5FF.). We have loads of prayers in the Bible (all the psalms, for instance!). In fact, Luther taught that every single verse of the Bible can be used for prayer, with individual petitions on “Instruction,” “Thanksgiving,” “Confession of Sin,”, etc.* Nothing we Christians have been gifted and tasked to do in this life is more powerful than prayer (JOHN 14:13), especially our prayers SPIRITUAL HEALTH. together for all manner of needs on Sunday morning.

How powerful is the ceaseless prayer of the shut-in widow who is perhaps unknown to most of her congregation! Pastors, how powerful is your prayer for your people (PHIL. 1:3)! Laity, have you been on your knees for your pastor, for your congregation?

Jesus teaches us to pray, tells us God is our dear Father. He invites us to pray at all times (EPH. 6:18), He loves it when we pray, and He promises to hear our prayers (MATT. 7:7–8)! Isn’t that just marvelous? Joy!

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

It is God’s will that we rejoice, pray and give thanks (PHIL. 4:4). A heart that has ceased to give thanks for life, for eternal life, for Christ’s gifts of forgiveness, for congregation, for pastor — yes, even for trials — is a heart in atrophy! “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” (MARK 9:24). Luther taught that for persistent thanklessness, the Lord slowly takes away His Gospel. I think that’s true for nations, for families, for individuals, for congregations, for pastors and for church bodies. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever” (PS. 136:1).

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies.”

Luther put it this way, “Do not despise preaching and His word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it” (Small Catechism). Don’t close your ears because your pastor has a few quirks and is a sinner, like the rest of us (EPH. 4:2). Don’t stay away from church for stupid, selfish reasons. We are sinners all. Open your Bible — and that includes you, pastor (JOHN 5:39F.)! God’s Word is rich and diverse and made just for you (PS. 19:10; 2 TIM. 3:16)!

“Test everything; hold fast what is good.”

There’s a lot of spiritual junk out there! In fact, as the Bible teaches, false teachers will abound in these last days (MATT. 24:11). Make sure you’ve got your Lutheran Study Bible from CPH, and use it! Keep your Small Catechism with explanation handy! “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (JOHN 8:31).

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 THESS. 5:23–24).

Pastor Harrison
The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Children's Choir!

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MUSIC MINISTRY
Attention all kids in Kindergarten through 6th grade! Children’s choir is starting up Sunday October 14th. Rehearsals start immediately after the 10:30 service and last approximately 20 minutes. The kids will sing at various services throughout the year wrapping up sometime in May. A sign up sheet is located in the church narthex. See Mark Killinger if you have any questions.