Tag Archives: Lutheran church

Idols hmmmm, really? Tells me to remember who’s really in charge!

I am the pastor of First Saint Johns Church in York, Pa. First Saint Johns (FSJ) was completed in 1875, as you can see from the featured image, the altar, and the rest of the sanctuary are very nice and very reverent.

There are those who I have showed the sanctuary to and felt that there was just “heavens, too much idolatry”. Rather amuses me. I’ve been in a lot of sanctuaries where you might truly wonder what the space is actually used for. By looking at this picture, there should be little doubt what or, better, Who this space is about. It’s all about Jesus and the people who built his sanctuary 140+ years ago knew it.

The altar is especially interesting in that it shows the most important aspects of who and what Jesus is all about. Underneath the flat part, called the mensa, is a lamb, shows that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Next is a crucifix, reminding us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Next is Christ ascending to glory in heaven. The top stained glass window shows Jesus as Lord of all creation, at the right hand of God the Father.

The stained glass windows on the sides have various Christian symbols and at the top is one of the apostles.

People have actually told me how idolatrous this is??? Yet I can go into an old Quaker, Calvinist, etc churches and honestly wonder what’s going on there. I can go into a lot of “community”, “independent”, etc and see no indication that I’m in what purports to be a “Christian” sanctuary. There is a lot of symbology on the altar and on the stained glass at FSJs. A lot of visual reminders of what we believe and Who we hold important. Over the ascending Jesus is the motto “Sola Deo Gloria”, yea wow, “To God only the glory”, yikes that’s a first commandment buster, right?

Why do people really object to this? Why do they prefer to have a “church” that is essentially void of anything that is Christian? I would submit that especially with all the “big-box” non-denominationals, that it’s really more about those in the church preferring to kind of push aside all the Jesus stuff. Yea, they sing about Jesus and kind of preach about Him. But it’s not really about Him, if it was why is there a problem about having a lot of visual reinforcement.

My answer. In the world today it’s all about me, what’s good for me. Well Jesus is good for you, the only and ultimate good. But too many people don’t see it that way. Today’s culture says: I don’t want to be reminded of all that Jesus stuff, if I’m here I’m worshiping what I want, “ooo that gory crucifixion stuff”. Well that’s a whole big subject, and well we just shouldn’t have to do that, just make me happy God. I showed up, I should get the big payoff. Doesn’t work that way folks. It is all about God and not about you. That’s why we have all these reminders to reinforce that in us when we are in true worship, lifting up and praising God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

People who built these great old churches understood that and when I stand in front of the altar here I know exactly what and especially Who it’s all about. It’s why we at First Saint Johns are serious about what we do and why we do it, it’s for Jesus who sacrificed all for us and we will be His for all eternity. So instead of mouthing silly platitudes and not thinking about what is important, let’s all do some serious thinking about what and Who is ultimately important. I have all these beautiful and compelling reminders here, maybe it’s time for you to think about why this is all important.  Sanctuary 140th anniversary

Body of Christ 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a First Saint Johns January 31, 2016

[for the audio version click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are part of the Body of Christ which is His Church said … AMEN!

The Apologetics Study Bible prefaces this discussion this way: “The church in Corinth was in some degree of turmoil, and Paul wrote this letter in response to some disturbing reports he had heard from the church as well as by way of reply to a set of questions the church had sent to him.”[1]

Have to give the Corinthians credit, they did realize that they were not where they should be and took the initiative to write to Paul and acknowledge that, and ask for guidance. As Christians we could take a cue from that. It’s a guy thing, if I’m lost I’m going to keep driving around thinking I will find the way. What happens? You usually end up more lost than you started. Today’s sermon is related to the last sermon in that we are given gifts in order to serve God and serve His church. But it is more than just properly utilizing your gifts, it’s understanding that as a Christian it’s not just about me. It is about the community, community is made up of many parts, the Holy Spirit guided you to be a part of this community. All the parts of your body are important. If you do not have all the parts then you are limited in what you can do. The church is the same way and this is also about your stewardship in the church. When all the parts of the Body, the Church, are working to the level that God designed for them and placed them together for, the Body/the Church functions at its finest level and serves each other and our neighbors much more effectively. The Corinthian church was sadly dysfunctional, it wasn’t the Body of Jesus, it was each man and woman for themselves. Much like today’s world; what am I getting out of this, I do for me let everyone else handle their own life. If I’m an eye, well too bad for the rest who can’t see. Imagine First St Johns where we have those who are so gifted in so many things, and yet chose to keep their gifts to themselves. Next week is our Chili-dog/bingo bash, what if Marge decided not to share her award winning chili? We would all be the lesser for it.

Paul writes that in baptism, in that new life that we are given, we are baptized into one body. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we are or do, it matters that we are all equally brought into the Body of Christ through baptism. Likewise we all eat the Body of Christ and drink His blood, all equally, all to our soul’s health. If we are all equally baptized and share in the Body and Blood of Jesus, doesn’t that mean that we also bring to the Body our gifts that make the Body stronger?

One aspect that seems to be ignored in today’s world is the understanding of synergism. Together we are much stronger in our individual life and in the Body of Christ by bringing our time, treasure and talent together, not withholding it and keeping it for ourselves. It is the synergism of the Body of Christ that not only helps us to grow and strengthen as a person, but also as a church. I bet you that any player in the NFL would like to be on the Carolina Panthers right now, than they would the 3-13 Tennessee Titans! You can be a superstar, but if you are in it just for yourself, no one’s really going to know you and you’re sure not going to be getting a Super Bowl ring anytime soon. If you’re Cam Newton, everyone knows you and you’re probably getting fitted for your Super Bowl ring right now.

Jesus has put together His church for a time and a place and a reason. He has made you part of His church in this time and place. For a tiny band, we had a 2015 season that would make any church sing and praise! We came together as the Body of Christ and in God’s strength proceeded to make a mark for His Kingdom in this community. That is because people put aside their individual agendas and came together as His Church to work His will. We all recognized that we’re baptized and given new life in the same water as everyone who is part of First Saint Johns. We all ate the same Body and drank the Same Blood of Jesus as everyone here and stepped up to collectively and in a positive and uplifting way build the Body of Christ in York! One of you were the eye, one the arm, one the leg and all came together in the Holy Spirit’s brain, vision and guidance to bring us together to accomplish so much in bringing the Gospel of Jesus to York. If someone chose not to come together, the rest realized the importance of what was being done and were used by the Holy Spirit to compensate for those who chose to withhold their gifts. Likewise for those who chose to take and to be a drain on Christ’s Body, others were guided to work around those who were hindering the advance of the Kingdom. Ben Paynter writes in Men’s Health Magazine quoting the journal Philosophical Transactions “… that men throughout the ages have clustered in tribes to stay motivated, embrace risks, conquer pain and build empires.” The Kingdom of God is the greatest empire and we as the Body of Christ, His Church, here at First Saint Johns are an integral part of the Kingdom. We have been clustered together by the Holy Spirit so that we can motivate each other, embrace the risks that we have taken. We have conquered pain, we have overcome the obstacles others have thrown in the path of Jesus’ Church. But it could only happen because, unlike the Corinthian Church we chose to take the difficult path. The result? Many have been touched by the church to hear the Gospel. If you have been listening to the radio station, the platform that we have all helped to build, was used by Bill Stockwell to broadcast a powerful message of the scourge of heroin addiction that is having a destructive impact on the York greater community. You all here, as members of this church had an impact on the world that far outstrips anything you could have done individually. You submitted to the will and leading of Jesus and accomplished far more than you would have if you decided: “If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Everyone, even those who did not think they had strength, stamina, skill or resources, decided that they would only grow and serve each other and themselves by bringing their gifts and blessings together to serve their part of the Body of Christ here at First Saint Johns.

Okay, no one’s going to be getting sized for a Super Bowl ring, but I have no doubt that for those who came together and overcame in order to bring about such great service for the Kingdom he or she will be the recipient of great treasure in heaven. You have followed Jesus’ promise: “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Because we have come together, because we have been good stewards, because we have acted like the Body of Christ we have laid up that treasure in heaven. That treasure in heaven will make a Super Bowl ring look like something you can get out of a gumball machine.

The Blackabys write: “If you are not a part of a caring community of believers, you are missing out on what God designed you for. You are also in danger of falling into sin. You must link your life with others who are seeking God’s will. Seek to be a person who willingly joins others in carrying out God’s assignments. Strive to be a source of support and encouragement that those around you need.”[2]

Let’s grow in our stewardship. How much more can we give of our time, talent and treasure in order to accomplish more for the Body of Christ in the world? We have seen what our mustard seed faithfulness has done in the past year. What can we do this year and the next? It doesn’t have to be a huge feat, so often the smallest mercies, gifts, blessings that you bestow on a young man or woman, on just one who is less fortunate, have effects that echo through years, decades. How would the Holy Spirit guide His church to use that extra money you give now to have an impact on the Body of Christ that will ring through our community for the good of so many, for years to come?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] The Apologetics Study Bible p 1707

[2] Blackaby’s Experiencing God Day by Day p 327

Confession, bone deep honest with God, with His minister

Dr Martin Luther did not post his 95 Theses and then be pursued for the next 30 odd years to have the baby thrown out with the bath water. He had problems with the Roman Church, but it was not about liturgy or Biblical practices, it was about abuses that arose from the Roman Church adding to the Bible. Communion, baptism, confession were not an issue, Luther had no problem with these because they were Biblical. He did have problems with the ways they had become corrupted, but not with the biblical principals.

However subsequent “reformers” chose to dump those practices that they just did not like. Not that they were unbiblical, they just didn’t like practices such as understanding that baptism meant new birth in Jesus. They just did not like that the bread and wine in communion, were the actual Body and Blood of Jesus, they didn’t like the idea of confessing to another person, even though the Bible is pretty clear. It frankly seems as though those who come through Reformed Christianity or other avenues that only seem to emphasize personal preferences, or personal improvement in order to further their own lives, come to the realization that the spiritual practices of Christianity do have a much more profound meaning and do what is far more important in our lives, build our relationship with God.

Mark Buchanan is very much in the Reformed Christian branch of Protestantism, an ordained Baptist minister and well known author. He also quotes Richard Foster, a Quaker, definitely not Lutheran!  In his book Your God is too Safe (p 166) “…Protestants became so scornful of the Roman Catholic practice of confession that we dropped it altogether and ended up creating churches of smiling, laughing, savvy people who are dying on the inside and too afraid to let anyone know. First Church of the Whitewashed Tombs. This, too, bypasses the real issue of spiritual growth. Rather than bear fruit, we’ve tended to paint it on and hope nobody notices that we have no real roots or sap to grow fruit anyhow.”

Full disclosure, I would have to concede, that even though Lutherans retain the confessional, corporate and individual confession, they don’t really practice it. When I was at seminary, graduated 2010, the seminary chaplain held confession every Wednesday. Out of about 500 students and maybe 100 professors, staff etc, he said that he had about 25 people attend confession, about 5% of the possible population. I was one of the 5% and found great benefit in personal confession. Lutherans talk confession, but actual practice, eh… not so much.

Lutherans do practice corporate confession, meaning at the beginning of every worship, we have confession, agreeing we are sinners in need of divine forgiveness and then I announce that as “a called and ordained servant of Jesus Christ and by His authority I forgive you all of your sins.” So I’m sure many feel that the base is covered.

Pastor Buchanan goes on to say: ” Confession is when we quit all the deal making, the sidestepping, the mask wearing, the pretense and preening and we get bone-deep honest before God…” (p 167)

“…In order to present our real selves to God, we need to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and honest about ourselves to at least one other trusted and godly person.” 

I submit, being a person that has to learn all about the subject, has been trained to listen, has taken an oath to never discuss anything that has been confessed to him, called the “sanctity of the confessional” which is even recognized under the law and would be a reason to discharge me from the ministry should I violate that sanctity, that maybe you want me to be that “trusted and godly person.” Puhlease do not get some goofy idea that this feeds some prurient interest on my part. Nothing could be further from the truth, hearing someone’s confession is not something that I relish or look forward to. But I see it as a responsibility. As a pastor I am going to be held to a higher standard in the final judgment and I am not going to be put in the position of being asked, “it would have helped people to know that you offered regular confession, you had the opportunity to do it, why didn’t you?

While Dr Luther did not have a problem with confession, he did have a problem with how the Roman church did business conducting confession. I will readily stipulate that because the concept of confession has been undermined and frankly trivialized by the Roman church (to wit, go and say five Hail Marys and the stations of the cross, come back and I will forgive you), that has allowed most to simply dismiss it as a relic of a past church. As a baptized Christian you are forgiven, we have that assurance when we take the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. Yes you are forgiven. Jesus died for all your sins. Your works do not add to your forgiveness.

Having said that Pastor Buchanan quotes Richard Foster (please note that Mr Foster is a Quaker, again not a Roman Catholic with an agenda, or Lutheran for that matter.):

“The person who has known forgiveness and release from persistent, nagging habits of sin through private confession [that is, to God alone] should rejoice greatly in this evidence of God’s mercy. But there are others for whom this has not happened. Let me describe what it is like. We have prayed, even begged, for forgiveness and though we hope we have been forgiven, we sense no release. We doubt our forgiveness and despair at our confession. We fear that perhaps we have made confession only to ourselves and not to God. The haunting sorrows and hurts of the past have not been healed. We try to convince ourselves that God forgives only the sin; he does not heal the memory. But deep within … we know there must be something more. People have told us to take our forgiveness by faith and not call God a liar. Not wanting to call God a liar, we do our best to take it by faith. But because misery and bitterness remain in our lives, we again despair. Eventually we begin to believe either that forgiveness is only a ticket to heaven and not to affect our lives now, or that we are unworthy of the forgiving grace of God.”

I’ve had men tell me “I don’t confess my sin to men.” Well tough guy that’s not biblical, it’s just not. James’ epistle 5:16 clearly states: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Ya, you may think you have it altogether, but honestly, those are the type of people that end up with all sorts of additional problems that they allow to come between themselves and God. The manly thing to do? I did it. Sit across from someone who you can trust and say I need absolution, I need to know from someone I can trust (your pastor) that I am forgiven. If you want to go into detail I will certainly listen and help you. I do not, however, need to hear the detail. I do not even need to hear the particular besetting sin. But if you are in any doubt, or need assurance, your pastor will sit across from you and provide that. That is at least for those churches that provide for confession.

Listen, tough guy, you want to be tough? Stand up, admit your sin, know that you are forgiven, go back into the world and truly live the life in Christ. Frankly the biggest cowards I’ve seen are the ones that can’t stand up to their sins, to those they’ve sinned against and of course that is always against God. Who refuse to know that they are forgiven and will know how to live his life truly in Jesus. Ask yourself can you really continue to live a life that is as Pastor Buchanan describes: “in churches of smiling, laughing, savvy people who are dying on the inside and too afraid to let anyone know. First Church of the Whitewashed Tombs.” Ya know, going through the motions, doing the “right” thing, knowing that you are just living a farce, never really dealing with your relationship with Jesus and your fellow man, just making it up. Wow, this is from guys who would tell me how much they can’t stand phonies. Ya, really dude? Take a look in the mirror.

Let’s all be real, strong men (and women), deal with the things we need to deal with, with someone we can trust. Get in their with your pastor, tell him what’s happening, get the assurance that you are forgiven in Jesus, maybe some objective guidance as to how to move on from a besetting sin, put it behind you and grow in your relationship with Jesus. Sorry guys, you are nowhere near as smart and tough and savvy as you think. I know that, because I know I’m not. Let’s get real together, move on as men together and do some real stuff. Then we can really smile, laugh and be savvy and show the world what it really means to be a Christian man.

There’s a demand for real worship, there is real worship out there

Ya, I’m going to keep up this drumbeat, the evidence continues to mount and I intend to do my best to genuinely pastor a genuine Christian church in response to that evidence. I submit that all the iterations of the Christian church have done a lousy job, fussing at people doesn’t work, patronizing people doesn’t work, setting up phoney hurdles doesn’t work, wishy-washy liberalism doesn’t work. What works is Law and Gospel, seriously presented Law and Gospel of the Bible.

When I say that the evidence continues to mount, I refer to more research by David Kinnaman of Barna Research. Kinnaman has been added to my list of “I’d read his grocery list if he published it”. Barna Group’s recent research shows that while there is a move away from the church, it’s not because of a disbelief or rejection of God, or of Christianity. More and more the evidence points to the rejection of the church. It’s time to for the end of the phoney-baloney liberal church, it’s time for the end of the “feel-good” church, whatever goes church, the legalistic church, the palsey church. It  is time for the genuine Christian church and all the indicators point to the need for the genuine church to reassert itself. For too long the church has worried and fussed about being popular, that’s not what it’s supposed to be, it’s supposed to be Christ’s church and His Voice, not the world’s, not a popularity contest and filling the position and need that the world is realizing isn’t being met.

62% of unchurched people 2 out of 3, “consider themselves Christians.” Obviously what they need is not happening in the church as it is today, or not finding the right Christian church.

“About one-third (34%) …, describe themselves as “deeply spiritual.’ Four in ten ‘strongly agree that their religious faith is very important in their life today and 51% are actively seeking something better spiritually than they have experienced to day. One-third say they have an active relationship with God that influences their life and describe that relationship as ‘important to me’ (95%), ‘ satisfying’ (90%), and ‘growing deeper’ ( 73%).”

Clearly there is something missing, and too many, even among those in the church are realizing it and are searching for it and the church is failing to provide it. It’s time for genuine worship, Law and Gospel, it’s time for a strong, courageous church, that, empowered by the Holy Spirit, stands for Christ and His Word and not for the politically, socially and theologically popular. Worship is about glorifying God, praising Him, lifting Him up. It’s not about the pastor, he is there to point to Jesus so that people will leave that church knowing Christ better, not the preacher. It’s time for genuine discipleship, people want to “grow deeper”, and the church is treating it as if it’s just a social event. The church needs to grow in discipleship, prayer, genuine worship, genuinely lead as Christians, instead of competing for world popularity. The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod does have genuine worship and truly preaches Law and Gospel in Jesus. The need is out there and the LCMS stands ready to provide, let’s show the world what the church of Jesus will be.

Living as brothers and sisters in Christ Acts 4: 32-35 First St Johns April 12, 2015

[for the audio version of this sermon, please click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are brothers and sisters in Jesus said … AMEN! Then we said He has risen! He has risen indeed!

As you have probably realized, one of my main themes is the resurrection of Jesus. In his commentary on the Book of Acts, Dr McGee points out: “…in the early church the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the very center and heart of the message, and no sermon was preached without it. The theme of Peter on the Day of Pentecost was the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[1] Another observation Dr McGee makes, a subject that comes up in terms of Jesus being in heaven: “…He has ascended … But He is still at work! He has moved His headquarters. As long as He was here on this earth, His headquarters were in Capernaum. Now His headquarters are at the right hand of the Father.”[2] That’s more of a discussion for Ascension Day, but can never be overemphasized. Jesus is in glory at the right hand of God continually interceding for His people, for us!

The other thing that we overlook in the Acts church is the fellowship of the church. Lots of people like to say they’re an “Acts” church, but really I haven’t seen it and I’m not sure it can really be replicated. “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” This is something that you just don’t see in the church anymore. I believe one big reason is that we are all so immersed in the world, that we project that life into our church life. Too many people see the church not as a place to worship, to truly lift up and glorify God at which the Holy Spirit comes to us and gives us the faith, strength and integrity we need to go into the world for God. Instead it’s where we lift up to God our wants in the sense of “ok God, I’m here, You owe me, come on and back me up, help me with my agenda.” We may never be able to replicate the Acts church, until, I imagine the resurrection, but we should always strive for that as a goal. Our mission statement here at First St Johns gives us that focus: “Spiritual Warriors, Faithful Servants, Disciples of Jesus”. Are we focused on what is in Jesus or our agenda? Certainly the church of Jesus Christ has an agenda, Martin Luther put us back on that agenda: ““Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” It is always and forever about God’s Word and not about our agenda. In a world where we see Scripture being tortuously warped out of shape, the Lutheran Church, at least should be, all about His Word.

Yes, we all have lives, but, as Christians it’s not about how we make God’s Word apply to our life as it is how is God working through us, according to His Word, to shape not just our life, but the world around us. We are way too quick to discount that we are all in the Body of Christ, all indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We take Jesus’ Body and Blood as very real sustenance, if you don’t understand and accept that, then you abuse His Body and Blood. The Body and Blood that were abused to give us true forgiveness of sin. How can we then reabuse that same sacred body? We become part of His Body when we are given the Lord’s Supper, but too often when we hit that door on the way out, it’s no longer about Him, it’s all about getting back to life. Our life is in Him! How can we justify trying to impose our agenda on Him who gave Himself for us when He has promised us “life and life more abundant” in Him? We are complete, when we are together in the Body of Christ, His church, His people. That is very much how the Acts Church was, totally about the Body of Christ.

We have to remember the extremely difficult life that people came in to when they became a Christian. In our reading from Palm Sunday we read: “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue, for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” (John 12: 42-43) What we have in Acts is the result of what happened when people were put out of the synagogue. Anyone could be thrown out. Today, people change churches on a whim. In that time, it could be the difference between making a living or being in poverty, possibly even being left to starve. No Jew would do business with someone who wasn’t a part of the temple, they would not hire them as an employee. When these people became Christians they often had little or nothing in terms of money or material possessions. They usually needed the basics, food and clothing. The Acts Church found itself in the position of having to support its members. We sure don’t have that today. I’ve had this discussion with a few people lately. We do things to help our non-Christian neighbor, but that is not what we are about. We cannot be a general social service agency, the Holy Spirit leads us to do good works and we do good works. But our priority is always about our brothers and sisters in Jesus. First St Johns is a great old church, it has been sustained marvelously by its members. Many who came here at the beginning had nothing and many members of this church gave in order to support those who were in need. We need to recapture that focus here. We don’t have a lot in terms of resources, time, treasure and talent, we have become dependent on what has been left by members and feel that should be enough to further our mission. It is just not enough. We have become way too self-focused, what I get out of the church and that was not what the Acts Church was about. Many Christian brothers and sisters would have starved except; “for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

Your church, First Saint Johns, does much, but there is so much to do. When we rely on what was left to us and decide that should be enough to get what we need, we certainly have forgotten what the church is all about. In a way this is a sermon about stewardship, about how we need to portion our time, treasure and talent to the church. But it is also about how we need to be Jesus’ church the way it was originally formed. The Book of Acts is often called the Acts of the Apostles or the Acts of the Holy Spirit. It is because it was a church that followed the Acts that the Holy Spirit guided the church in. Are we living that today?

Let’s take a look at how we share with our brothers and sisters in Jesus, which is part of our Christian life as the original church Acted in the Book of Acts. The apostles gave “their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all.” Me, you, we can all do better, it’s not to say that we’re going to sell everything we have. But as a church we can share, we can share space in our marvelous building and not begrudge its use, we can share our time to serve brothers and sisters and then others, we can share what we have, including but not limited to money. But as always we dedicate more of our time to growing in our faith and sharing that with those who do not know Jesus and helping them in ways that will show them the love of Christ and His church.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] J Vernon McGee “Thru the Bible Commentary Series Acts” p ix

[2] Ibid p viii

Christian creeds, what we really vow to truly believe before God

I did a post yesterday based on an article in Leadership Magazine about “Evangelcial Christian” churches who just dispense with Christian worship. They call it worship but is it? When you don’t even do the basics of Christian worship? Please feel free to check it out and let’s talk.

In the meantime, in my other reading I’m reading a book titled “The Catholicity of the Reformation”. That Dr Martin Luther really had no issue with Roman Catholic worship the liturgy, for the most part. What he had a problem with was the doctrine and traditions that had grown up in the church.

The book by Carl E Braaten and Robert W. Jenson discusses how much even liturgical churches have slid into American Evanglical Chritianity, as it were. It’s a regular issue in the Lutheran Church that some pastor is making worship too Catholic. I know what that means, but I don’t think the person(s) saying it really knows what it means. If worship is getting liturgical, that’s not a problem in the Lutheran church. Luther never proscribed the liturgy, he frankly encouraged it. But the American Lutheran Church has become so affected by American evangelicalism that it really has lost its identity. The liturgy in the Lutheran Church faithfully lifts up Scripture and true worship. It is what we should be doing and not getting into what was frontier/camp meeting “worship” led by, often, self- appointed “preachers”. Generally there were too many preachers that were uneducated, didn’t really understand the Bible, doctrine and the purpose of actual worship. They made a bunch of nice-sounding noises and played to the crowd, but did little real teaching and no one really knew to keep them accountable. Hence, today, we have all sorts of nice sounding stuff, that has little with actual Christian worship. Oh, I can hear it now,  “yada, yada, that’s your opinion, we can do what we want, yada, yada” which only illuminates the speakers lack of understanding of Christian worship.

One thing that particularly caused me agita (although I don’t think I can ever get over the idea that a “Christian” church doesn’t included the Lord’s prayer in worship!!!), was the lack of a creed, confession. In this day and age when all sorts of organizations, from Fortune 500 companies, huge government agencies, down to the smallest organizations, are told to develop mission statements and mottoes, to think that the Christian church shouldn’t be likewise focused is just stunning!

Braaten and Jensen write: ” The function of the creeds and confessions is to provide standards by which the church can judge and condemn false teaching contrary to the gospel.” (p 59) Would any knowledgeable Christian disagree with that? Really, how could you disagree? They go on to point out: ” …heresy has become virtually outmoded in the modern church…” Would any of the same people disagree with that? No! Yea, guess I’m going to be a little catty here, but when we join together as the Body of Christ and recite a creed (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian) we are making a vow, before God, in terms of what we genuinely believe. So my catty comment is; Why don’t so many churches (many flat-line, uhmmm, I mean main-line) say the creeds? Because they know their teachings are false, and they’re at least smart enough to not offend God any further, by making false promises. Do I give them credit for at least a little integrity?

The writers go on to say: “…the enlightenment brought the age of tolerance in which the rules that set limits to heresy were overthrown. Orthodoxy was put on the defensive. Heresy become a matter of religious freedom and human rights. The threat of heresy to personal salvation that prevailed in the ancient church was annulled…Dissent was permitted so long as it did not break the unity of the church. Not heresy but schism became the more serious concern. To prevent heresy from leading to schism, the churches today, maintaining their organization unity at almost all costs, have taken to promoting inclusivity and diversity at the expense of revealed truth and biblical morality, pushing back the limits to heresy, to the point where people are ‘tossed to and fro and blown by every wind of doctrine’ (Eph 4:14)

I know, maybe another cheap shot, but certainly Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill comes to mind. But certainly so many other “Christian churches” who become much more  about other things. The Mormon Church is much more about big business. Churches that are all about their pastor, their building, their… You name it. But are just not about real Christian doctrine. Why don’t they want to get into creeds, because genuine Christian worship is just not what they’re about.

Yea, I’ve singled some out, but this is so widespread that the actual orthodox Christian churches are the ones that are perceived as odd-ball and the rest of the churches are seen as “real” Christian churches. The result of that is a cynical perception of the church by the general population. If the big churches really don’t teach Christianity, and they must be representative because they have all the money and people. Well then the church is actually just a feel-good-rah-rah operation. To most people that translates into phoney and I’m certainly not going to disagree. But for those churches that are genuinely Christian, who do lift up the creeds, who do the things in worship that do turn us to God, who do lift up Jesus as the atonement of our sins and the Lord of our salvation, solely because of His works, they are lumped in with the phoney. That is not a desirable result for any church, or believer.

Maybe those “churches” and all who claim to be true Christian churches might start getting on track and we might be able to all make a true witness to the rest of the world of genuine Christianity, to our Savior Jesus Christ, by making it regular practice to profess a genuine/historical creed (Apostles, Nicaean, Athanasian) Come on, really impress everyone and take time once per month to do the Athanasian Creed. Look it up.