There is an old story about a deeply religious man who held the strong conviction that his faith and his actions should never contradict one another. An acquaintance once asked him if he was a Christian. His response: “Why would you ask me if I am a Christian? Ask my banker. Ask my baker. Ask my mail carrier. They’ll tell you whether or not I am a Christian.”
There is another old story (as told in the 12th chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel) about a religious scholar who asked Jesus which of the commandments is the most important one. Jesus told him the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. And the second most important one is to love your neighbor as yourself.
So what do Christians believe? What do Lutherans believe? What do the people of Saint Peter believe? We could refer you to our tradition’s collection of stated beliefs. They are detailed in an edition we call “The Book of Concord.” In this book can be found The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed, The Augsburg Confession, The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, The Smalcald Articles and The Formula of Concord. It is both a strength and a weakness that Lutherans strive for precision when we try to describe our beliefs. Very little that we believe can be squeezed onto a bumper sticker. You’d have to wade through pages and pages to get to the heart of it.
But you probably didn’t follow the link to this page in order to beef up your reading list. Perhaps the best way to sum it up is to say that we believe in the way Jesus points us to God. We are forgiven, restored, and called to faithfulness by God’s love and grace.We trust that at the heart of a faithful life is a deep and consuming commitment to love God and each other. And the best measure of what we believe is most likely the impression that others have of our love, our compassion, our integrity and our humility.
All that said, here are some of the ways we talk about our God, our faith, our church, and what it means to love both God and neighbor with our whole hearts.
• What do we believe about God?
• What do we believe about the Word of God?
• What do we believe about the church?
• What do we believe about our commitment to neighbor love?
• What do we believe about the life of a Christian?
• What do we believe about our Lutheran traditions?
• What is a “liturgical church?”
• Who is welcome to join us for Holy Communion?
What Do We Believe About God?
Along with our brothers and sisters in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, we confess the Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In our preaching and teaching we trust the Good News about Jesus as the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.
Our teaching and theology serve the proclamation and ministry of this faith. We do not claim to have answers for all questions; not even all religious questions. Our teaching and theology prepare us to be witnesses in speech and in action of God’s rich mercy in Jesus Christ. Through our trust in the promise of Christ we find ourselves in a right relationship with God, and filled with God’s gifts of hope, peace and joy.
What Do We Believe About the Word oF God?
We believe the Word of God — the 39 books of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian’s Old Testament) and the 27 books of the New Testament — is the source and norm for all of faith. We strive to ensure that everything we believe and everything we do is in accordance with God’s Word.
The above referred documents collected in the Book of Concord are a lens through which Lutherans read the Scriptures. At best they are an explanation of what we have learned. We trust and believe the Scriptures present Christ to us in a way that leads us to the very heart of God, who loves us, forgives us, heals us, transforms us and calls us to lives of faithfulness.
What Do We Believe About the Church?
In the Augsburg Confession, we describe the church as “The assembly of saints in which the Gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.” (Article VII) It is, as Martin Luther explains in the Small Catechism, an instrument of the Holy Spirit, who “calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” Through the ministry of the church we hear salvation proclaimed, experience the forgiveness of sins and explore our call to live in this world as a reflection of Christ.
We seek to be open and honest about who we are, and why we need the forgiveness Christ grants us. We are members of this church not because we imagine ourselves to be better than others, but because we believe that what God provides through the church is what we need.
WHAT DO WE BELIEVE ABOUT OUR COMMITMENT TO NEIGHBOR LOVE?
Lutherans are Christians who believe in grace. We are saved by the grace of God — an unconditional gift to us that we do not deserve. This gift frees us from having to earn God’s love. Our entire lives, then, become an opportunity to thank God for what we have received. When we love our neighbor, we do so not because of a sense of obligation, but because it presents as a sacred opportunity to give back to God, who has already given us so much.This is why caring for neighbors in need is often something Lutherans do with joy and delight.
What Do We Believe About the Life of a Christian?
At Saint Peter, we take very seriously the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples in St. Matthew’s Gospel. As they gathered on a mountaintop in Galilee some time shortly after the resurrection, he said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (St. Matthew 28:19-20)
With these words, Jesus directs us both to become disciples, and to help others become disciples. A disciple is one who follows, studies, and emulates a master. We become disciples of Jesus Christ by practicing habits of discipleship in our lives. Although discipleship can take many forms, the particular discipleship habits we promote at Saint Peter are:
We commend these habits of discipleship to you, and trust that they will help you to grow in faith and in faithfulness.
What Do We Believe About Our Lutheran Traditions?
The Lutheran movement grew out of a desire to reform the church. In an era when the message of Christ had largely become lost, the pioneers of our church sought to realign religious practice with how Christ is presented to us in the Scriptures.
In five hundred years, we have refined and developed many traditions — some of which are very dear to us. But we continue to understand ourselves as a group of reformers: people who are determined to present Christ as clearly and boldly as we can. And if any of our traditions prohibits this, we are committed to reform our ways until they once again fulfill our primary calling of bearing Christ to the world.
What Is A Liturgical Church?
Worship is among the most central components of our life together. We believe it is in Word and Sacrament that God promises to meet us, offering us love and grace, and calling us to lives of discipleship.
The word “liturgy” literally translated means the work of the people. In our tradition, worship is not done by the leaders and experienced by the congregation. It is, literally, the work we do together. We all have a role to play when God’s people come together for worship. At Saint Peter we have a strong tradition of inviting volunteer leaders of all ages to help lead us in this work we do.
In a liturgical church, there is a basic 4-fold pattern that is followed when it assembles for worship. That pattern includes: Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending. Within the four movements of this ancient liturgical rite, are the various components that make up a worship service.
Liturgical churches make use of a lectionary—a series of Bible readings and prayers appointed for the various days in the church calendar. Most lectionaries are three years in length, with each year focusing on one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark or Luke—John is used throughout the lectionary). Lectionaries appoint readings and prayers for Sunday worship, as well as for certain Festivals and Commemorations that may take place during the week.
Who Is Welcome to Join Us for Holy Communion?
The Sacrament of Holy Communion has its roots in the Last Supper of our Lord. During the final week of his life, Jesus gathered to celebrate the Passover with his closest followers. Following the meal, he broke bread and distributed wine, instructing them to, “do this in remembrance of me.” At the table that night were the one who would betray him, the one who would deny him three times, and the ten who would run and hide when he needed them most. Jesus was radically inclusive about who joined him for his Last Supper.
At Saint Peter, we believe that the table around which we gather is not ours: it is the Lord’s. And the invitation to join us at that table is not ours to extend: it is his. Consequently, we strive to model our invitation to Holy Communion on our Lord’s inclusivity. To receive communion at Saint Peter you do not need to be a member of this or any other Lutheran Church. You do not need to be of a minimum age. You need not acquiesce to our particular understanding of this meal. If you desire to meet Christ in the meal, you are more than welcome to do so with us.
For even more about on what we believe, read the "Ask Pastor Dave" Q&A series on the Saint Peter blog. Here, members and friends ask Pastor detailed questions about what it means to be a Lutheran today. Click the links below to get started.