How does a true life of worship begin?
A true life of worship begins where it must begin: belief in the true God.
Who is the true God, in whom we are to believe? Jesus, God’s eternal Son, conceived and born in human form, has proven the identity of the true God. He did so in true history by his resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is the “door that no one can shut” (The Book of Revelation chapter 3, verse 8). Through it, is the way to knowledge, belief and life in the one true God. As Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (The Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 6). Jesus’ resurrection declares that the true God is one divine being, in three eternal almighty persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. (For more on this essential truth, go to this website’s menu item, Cultural Intersections, Reflections 1.0).
Belief in God is true when it rests solely on the divine-human person of Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection as humanity’s one Savior. This belief results in great joy because it frees us from having to earn or work anything in ourselves for salvation. Even belief is not from ourselves. It is a gift of God the Holy Spirit worked in us through the preached Word of God and Christian baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
In true belief, or faith, we openly confess our sins in sorrow, without excuse-making, because we have been made fully confident of the forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus won for all humanity at the cross and resurrection. This is how the true life of worship begins. Once it begins in us by the Holy Spirit, we can worship God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all the time, everywhere.
What should I know about the Christian worship service? What can I expect at Faith Lutheran Church?
First, it is important to understand that in the Christian worship service there is activity occuring in two directions. The first and most important direction occurs from God to the believer in Jesus (or from heaven to earth). This is called the sacramental direction. Secondly, worship returns to God from the believer in Jesus (or from earth to heaven). This is called the sacrificial direction.
The sacramental is God’s service to us in Jesus Christ, which takes place through the reading, teaching, preaching, and pondering of the Biblical written word of God, and through Christian baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and through the Lord’s Supper, which Jesus instituted for believers on the night he was betrayed and arrested. Through these means, belief, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and other spiritual gifts are given.
The sacrificial is the Christian believer’s praise and prayer and gifts offered in response to God’s graciousness to the sinful human world in Jesus Christ.
Since Christianity is founded on God’s service to sinners through Jesus Christ, a Christian worship service should place the sacramental over the sacrificial in importance. Without God’s sacramental service to sinners in Jesus, there can be no sacrificial praise of Jesus returning to God!
The following are either sacramental or sacrificial as you find them in a traditional Christian worship service.
Invocation (calling upon God for blessing) – sacrificial
Confession of sins – sacrificial
Absolution (the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name) – sacramental
Hymn singing – sacrificial
Confession of a Christian Creed (Apostle’s Creed or Nicene Creed) – sacrificial
The Sermon – sacramental
Prayer and offerings – sacrificial
Celebrating the Lord’s Supper – sacramental
Baptizing someone – sacramental
Benediction (closing blessing in God’s name) – sacramental
As you reflect on the sacramental and sacrificial aspects of a traditional Christian worship service, consider also that God is a God of order, not disorder. The Apostle and missionary named Paul explains to us in his first letter to the Christians of Corinth, Greece, “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (First Corinthians, chapter 14, verse 40). Historically, from the days of the first century synagogues, Christians have used a set pattern of worship (sometimes called a liturgy) to achieve this. A liturgy, or set order of service, promotes the dignity of God’s holy and merciful name in the congregation of believers. Without good order, it can give the impression that God doesn’t care how his name and truth is proclaimed, and cause believers to become careless and entirely “me” focused, rather than remain “Jesus” focused. At Faith Lutheran Church you can expect to worship according to some form of the traditional Christian order of service—not for tradition’s sake, but for the sake of “Jesus” focus!
What and how do you sing?
The singing is mostly hymn-based, including both traditional and contemporary hymns, and congregational, that is, we sing together. We do have a choir, in which you are welcome to participate. Both piano and organ are employed to lead worship. Other instruments are also welcome, depending on the musicians we have available in the congregation, including guitar.
If I attend Faith Lutheran Church as a guest, can I take communion immediately?
The short answer is, probably not immediately, unless you have received instruction in the Biblical Lutheran confession previously. But we would love to have you commune with us as soon as possible. You are invited and welcome to attend and stay through any service, including communion services, until you are prepared to commune through instruction with our missionary pastor, Matthew Crick. If you are asked to wait to commune, it will be worth the wait, even as Pastor Crick himself experienced in his earlier adult life. In his mid 20’s, he entered instruction with a Lutheran pastor before joining the Lutheran Church as a communicant member. His first communion remains a treasured memory. Every time he communes, it is present comfort in Jesus and promise of tomorrow.
What is the reason for requiring instruction in the Bible before taking communion?
The Bible teaches that the Lord’s Supper is a fellowship meal established by Jesus himself that all of humanity, ideally, might commune together as fellow Christian believers. The Book of Acts describes the life of the early Christians. “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer” (Acts chapter 2, verse 42). As we learn here, the early Christians worshiped in unity of doctrine of the Apostles of Jesus, prayed in unity of faith, and received the Lord’s Supper (breaking of bread) in unity of confession. The confession was that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (First John, chapter 4, verse 2). The Apostle Paul said of this fellowship: “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (First Corinthians chapter 10, verse 17).
What does this mean for Christians today, fractured as they are into so many different denominations?
When Christians visit a congregation not their own, they should refrain from communing until they know what is preached and taught there, taking the time necessary to determine whether it agrees with the Bible. Also, bear in mind that any pastor, as he leads the worship service, cannot really know anything about the beliefs of worship guests until he has had the opportunity to speak with them about the things of God. Remember he has been called to be a caretaker of the Lord’s Supper, a loving, faithful caretaker for all who seek to commune in fellowship, whether members of the church or guests to the church on any given Sunday.
This Lord’s Supper as a fellowship meal is also a protection for anyone who might commune without faith in Jesus or without understanding of the true nature of the Supper. What do we mean? The Lord Jesus is really present, physically, with the bread and wine of the Supper, for the forgiveness of sins, to be received through faith. This is something that must be respected and held sacred by all, so that no one, through carelessness, hard-heartedness, or lack of faith, communes to judgment, rather than blessing. The Bible says, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself (First Corinthians chapter 11, verses 27-31).
What is self-examination?
The medical community directs us to do self-exams for our physical health. The Bible directs us to give ourselves a spiritual self-exam as a protection against God’s judgment (First Corinthians chapter 11, verse 31). In Second Corinthians chapter 12, verse 5 we learn what it means to examine oneself: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” To prepare properly to receive the Lord’s body and blood in the bread and wine, we must examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. To do this, we may ask ourselves the following questions:
- Am I sorry for my sins? Do I desire to turn away from my sins and live a new life?
- Do I believe that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was born a sinless human being and died on the cross to save me from my sins, and then rose bodily from the grave to bring me eternal life?
- Do I believe that I am saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ?
- Do I believe that the body and blood of the Lord Jesus are truly present with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins?
For this reason, congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod like Faith Lutheran Church, Medford, OR, practice membership communion. As you might guess, few church bodies practice this today, but it is the practice the Bible teaches and requires, so that all understand what it means to self-examine before taking the Lord’s Supper. Ask Pastor Crick about instruction so that you may commune with us, in fellowship and blessing. It is what we want! And it will be worth it to you. You will come to appreciate the Lord’s Supper like never before.