Our God Speaks and we listen. He acts and we react. How mighty and majestic is the God who not only created us but bought for us a place in heaven. This is our gracious giver God. We do not worship a stone idol, a graven image. We worship Jesus Christ: True God and true man, redeemer of all humanity.
This redemption, this salvation is a wondrous event. It pulls us toward him. It draws us to his house. It empowers us to sing praises to his name. Even as we join together to publicly worship him, He strengthens our faith. He makes us better, more loving people. He actually builds us up so that we can be a little more like him each time we immerse ourselves in his Word and Sacraments. This is worship, or at least it's a way to verbally express something that is ultimately inexpressible.
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If prayer could be seen, what would it look like? Well, no one really knows the answer to that one, but when you attend a Lutheran church, you may see many symbols and colors used in worship. You may also hear language that might seem strange. All of this is done to make worship a more concrete, more tangible experience. We try to give expression to a God that is beyond our vocabulary. A cross reminds us that Jesus died on a cross to pay for our sins, but the cross is empty and that reminds us that Christ was victorious in death, rose from the dead and now sits with the Father in heaven. There are really too many visual elements in worship to explain all of them here, but all of them are used to give poetic expression to our prayer. In this poetry of word, movement, symbol and color, we make our best attempt to express our gratitude to God for eternal life.
What is a hymn anyway? A hymn is a song that praises God. This could accommodate a very large range of music. Martin Luther once said, "I place music next to theology and give it the highest praise." Partly due to this deep theological view of music and partly due to Germanic heritage, Lutherans have historically used more challenging music in worship. You may find some of the hymns hard to sing or even hard to understand. That's all right, some life-long Lutherans have the same challenge. But remember that this activity of worship is directed toward God. While it may take us some time, patience and effort, we want to offer our very best to God. Some of our hymns are most definitely meat and not milk, but seldom will one find a more beautiful collection of worshipful psalmody and poetry than one finds in a Lutheran hymnal.
You will find that worship in a Missouri-Synod Lutheran Church centers around two things: Word and Sacrament. The Word of God, that is the Holy Bible, is the most central thing in our lives. This is how we learn of our salvation that was won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. But our Lord is not just some god about whom we speak, He is the living God who comes into us through the hearing of his Word and through participation in his Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord's Supper). We believe that through this Word and Sacrament, God actually enters into us via the Holy Spirit. He saves us, strengthens the faith of those He has saved, and empowers us to live a Christian life. Word and Sacrament are therefore the central points of both our worship and our lives.
The Word of God carries two primary messages: Law and Gospel. Law is that which God expects from us. We see Law in things such as the Ten Commandments. We also see Law in the words of Christ when He commands us to love one another as God loves us. The Gospel is the good news message of the gifts God gives us. Of course, salvation is the greatest of all his gifts to us. Because Jesus Christ saved us from Hell by dying on the cross for our sins and being raised from the dead on the third day, we too shall live eternally with God.
The Law is used primarily by the Christian so that we can see what God expects from us and thereby see how sinful we are. This way we see our need for salvation. The Gospel's beautiful news of salvation for all mankind is truly seen by those who are first convicted by the Law.
First, we recognize whose supper it is. It is the Lord's Supper, not ours. So, we feel obligated to celebrate it the way He has commanded it to be celebrated. The Lord intended for people to cele brate his supper who believe they are truly receiving his body (the very body that hung on the cross) and his blood (the very blood that dripped from his side) for the forgiveness of their sins. We believe this even though it is beyond our understanding as to how such body and blood can be in, with and under bread and wine. What's more, these people should be united in the same belief in Christ and his teachings. Therefore, we invite anyone who walks in doctrinal fellowship with the Missouri-Synod to join us in the Lord's Supper. However, there are other guidelines for those who are not fully united with us:
We welcome all Christians to our worship. However, it is a consequence of the sad division of Christianity that we cannot extend an open invitation to join us at the Lord's Supper. Lutherans believe that the Lord's Supper is not only for the forgiveness of sin but also a sacred act in which the congregation celebrates a oneness in faith and teaching. Reception of the Lord's Supper by a Christian not united with the Lutheran Church in faith and teaching would be implying a oneness which does not yet exist and thus would be giving a misleading witness to the world. However, we must all pray that such unity might one day exist according to our Lord's good and gracious will.
We also welcome non-Christians to our worship. Obviously, we cannot invite you to the Lord's Supper since you do not share our faith in Christ. However, we do invite you to join with us in prayer, and we pray that our worship might touch your heart as you hear how Jesus Christ died so that you too can have eternal life. Please feel free to speak to the pastor if you have any questions about our Christian faith.