What’s Our Saviour Lutheran Church All About?
Our congregation’s primary occupation is the preparing of sinners for the Last Day when Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. Preparing for that day is ultimately what the Christian faith is all about. Jesus died on the cross of Calvary 2,000 years ago to save this world of sinners from an eternity in hell. The everlasting benefit of His sacrifice is received by individuals through faith.
What is faith?
Martin Luther defined faith as “a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it.” Furthermore, he writes that “faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God (Saint John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers.” We believe that God works through the ministry of our congregation to bring sinners to faith, nurture them in that faith, and keep them in that faith unto life everlasting. That’s what Our Saviour Lutheran Church is all about.
Our Difference Is the Difference!
Perhaps what is first noticed by the visitor to Our Saviour is that the “style” of worship is much different than that which is found in many other churches these days. As a church of the Lutheran Confession of the Christian faith, we follow the worship philosophy of Martin Luther, who firmly believed in a conservative approach to liturgical revision. At the time of the Reformation, he made no radical changes in the worship life of the people, but rather retained as much as possible from the historic forms. His basis for evaluating liturgy was always the Gospel. If something in the liturgy obscured the Gospel or confused its meaning, it was eliminated or revised in such a way that it directed people to Christ and the forgiveness of sins.
In keeping with this way of thinking, we at Our Saviour have retained the historic form of the Divine Service as the main Sunday service. Modern innovations which may appeal greatly to our emotions or reason or “the spirit of the age,” but which misdirect hearts away from Christ, have no place in the worship of Our Saviour Lutheran Church. Externally, what this means is that there are no emotionally charged “praise choruses” sung at Our Saviour, no sermon series designed to meet “felt needs,” no new liturgy every week—nothing, in fact, to keep worshippers entertained. In comparison to other churches where these things and others like them are the weekly fare, Our Saviour may, at first glance, seem to be stuck in the past, or even stodgy and dull. That assessment, however, is about as far from the truth as possible.
Substantive and Serious?
Rather than being dull, stodgy or stuck in the past, the worship at Our Saviour is substantive and serious. It is substantive in that it is filled from beginning to end with the real meat and potatoes of Christianity. There is no fluff or filler. Everything is directed toward Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. The worship at Our Saviour is serious because eternity, sin and grace, heaven and hell are serious matters. We take it very seriously that we sin against God in thought, word, and deed and that, on our own and because of our sins, we would be headed for an eternity in hell. We take it very seriously that Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, suffered and died on the cross to forgive us our sins so that we would not be damned, but have everlasting life. We take it very seriously that Jesus Christ comes to be present among us in the worship of our church so that He might forgive us. Frivolity has no place in our serious worship, but joy does, as do peace and contentment and hope.
The Three Solas
Key to understanding the Lutheran difference, as expressed at Our Saviour, is what is known as the principle of the three solas: Sola Gratia, Sola Fides, and Sola Scriptura—or, in Englsh: Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Word Alone. The first two of the solas come from Ephesians 2:8-9: “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” We believe that salvation and eternal life come to us solely as a gift from God because of His grace or love for us. It is totally undeserved by us. It is all God’s doing. Faith, which enables us to receive this gift and trust in it, is also a gift from God. To this, “Word Alone” is added, for it is through the revelation of God to us through His Word that we are made wise unto salvation. Human wisdom or knowledge apart from God’s revelation may serve the purposes of God, but must never be the basis for our lives. God’s Word is the infallible, never-changing norm for all doctrine and practice.
Word and Sacrament?
Often times the phrase, “Word and Sacrament” are used to describe the kind of ministry that takes place within the Lutheran Church. The Word, as previously noted, is the Word of God by which He reveals His grace, mercy and love for us poor sinners. This Word is no mere book or dead letters printed upon a page, but the living Lord Himself, Jesus Christ. Saint John 1:1&14 states: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Through the preaching of the Word, the Incarnate Word, Jesus, comes to us to speak peace and forgiveness to our hearts. In addition to the Word that is preached, there is the “Visible Word” or the Sacraments. The Sacraments are the very special and holy means, instituted by Jesus for His Church, by which He is present among His people for the purpose of giving us forgiveness, life and salvation. In Holy Baptism, Jesus works to free sinners from their bondage to the devil, cleanse them of their sins, and make them a part of His kingdom of grace. In Holy Absolution, the Lord Jesus responds to the sincere confession of the believer and through the pastor, declares the believer to be forgiven. And speaking through the pastor in Holy Communion, Jesus declares that the bread and wine used in the Sacrament are His true Body and Blood. He gives us Himself to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of our sins.
The Divine Mystery
No one can understand how mere bread and wine can be the Body and Blood of Jesus. Likewise no one can understand how simple water and the speaking of a few words in Baptism can do such great things or how it is that Jesus speaks His life-giving word to us through the voice of a pastor. This is why these things are called Divine Mysteries. However, while these things are beyond our understanding, they are not beyond our believing. We believe that when Jesus says of the bread, “This is My Body,” that it really is His true Body, the same body that was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died, rose again and ascended into heaven.
How can we believe this?
Because Jesus says it. In the beginning He said, “Let there be light,” and it was so. Now He says, “This is My Body…this is My Blood,” and it is so. Faith believes because it is Jesus Who says it. The primary purpose that Jesus comes into our midst and speaks His Word is to give us the forgiveness of our sins. We come to church to receive His gracious forgiveness, for it is this and this alone which will preserve us in the true faith as we strive toward the Christian goal of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. If you want a place for socializing, join a club. If you want a place to voice your social concerns or political ideas, join a political party. If you want to go someplace where someone will make you feel good about yourself, go to a spa or join a support group. If you want to experience heaven, that is, the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting, then Our Saviour is the place for you.