What We Believe
A few words about Life-together as God’s People in and through St. Luke Lutheran Church
We believe faith is not a solo journey, nor was it intended to be. Faith is personal, but it is not individual. The New Testament uses the image of Body, with its many diverse parts, to convey the sense of God’s call to community. Life is not about nor centered in the finger or fingernail, but rather full life is seen in the working of the whole, marvelous, and miraculous Body. Such a Body is expressed and experienced through the community as it gathers for worship, education, socializing, and social action AND as it scatters for service in God’s world.
The ministers of this faith community are the people. Such an invitation and commission comes through God’s gift and call in baptism (see below). Those people not only use their gifts and talents to lead worship, to teach church school, provide for meals and snacks, coordinate college and youth ministry, but also more importantly to put those same gifts and talents into service in their daily lives at home, work, labs, classrooms, libraries, and places of volunteer service. We believe ALL are called to be ministers, or mini-stirs – called to stir God’s world with a little of God’s peace, love, and justice.
Christians in the Lutheran heritage speak more easily of ‘justification”. God’s gracious action through Jesus to put a broken and rebellious world back into the right relationship with God. God calls us to respond to such a gift faithfully with appreciation and service. But let’s address the ‘salvation’ question directly and bluntly. A young man in a New Testament encounter asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Modern translation: “what must I do to be saved?”
We believe that people who ask that question are selfishly focusing on themselves.
We believe the Christian faith is not to find its epicenter in me or in any one person – and their salvation.
We believe the purpose of the Christian faith is not to get more of me into heaven, but rather to get more of God into the world.
Yes, we do believe in God’s salvation. But we believe the purpose of our life-together is to be in service to God in the world, to help nudge and heal, to help re-create what God’s will is for the world God so loves.
Social action is a part of our community life and ministry: locally, nationally, and internationally. Some of our initiatives include:
- CROP Walk
- Reconciling in Christ (welcoming LGBTQ people)
- Tompkins County Workers Center Certified Living Wage Employer
- Sale of and information on Fair Trade products: coffee, tea, chocolate, and olive oil
- Advocacy Sundays
- School Kits
- letters and petitions to legislators
- Santa’s Salaries for teachers and pastors in Zimbabwe
- Quilts for the world
- providing meeting space for 12-step groups
- hosting community neighborhood groups and councils
- being a polling place, and ...
A faith without such expressions is not very faithful.
Who is Welcome?
Worship is the coming together of God and people, a way of showing worth.
Our modern English word worship comes from the Old English word “worth-ship”. Through worship there is a demonstration of what is valued.
Surprisingly, we believe that the primary revelation in worship is that God shows how much God values the world: through creating, through Jesus, through the Spirit.
In response, we offer our worship of God. Such a God is worthy of praise, time, discipleship, and witness. Worship is a dialogue between God and world.
Worship at St Luke centers on Word and Sacraments. God’s Word is God’scommunication, both challenging demand and comforting promise.
Worship at St. Luke centers on God’s grace in Jesus. We are worthy by God’s gift of grace, not by what we do. ALL voices are important, welcome, and expected.
Perhaps the most important part of the liturgy is the last word spoken in the service, “Go in Peace; Serve the Lord”. We are not so much dismissed from the gathering as we are commissioned for the scattering as God’s people, sharing God’s love for the world, engaging the world in places and times of pain, injustice, loneliness, doubt, and perceived and felt unworthy.
Some Additional Beliefs and Practices
I.e., -- what do we do and why do we do that?
Why do we do what we do?
That is a difficult question to answer briefly, in a sound byte – or at all. We do what we do based on some beliefs and practices. For instance,
We believe that a sacrament is a touch point with God, a way or means God provides a gracious, loving and gentle touch.
Do we believe God can and does ‘touch’ people beyond the sacraments? Absolutely. We cannot confine God to working only through the sacraments.
Do we believe God is present in, with, under and through the sacraments? Absolutely That is God’s promise that we can trust.
Christians in the Lutheran heritage celebrate two (2) sacraments: Baptism andCommunion. Luther’s favorite term for communion was The Lord’s Supper.
Both sacraments are offered as free and gracious gifts.
Baptism is a sacrament of birthing, or being born, into the family of God.
We believe and practice that baptism not a declaration of faith by the individual but rather a sacrament of grace by God’s love.
We believe baptism can occur at any age.
We belong our biological families by the loving action of parents. We believe we belong to the family of God by God’s loving action.
As we grow in biological families, we learn more about what it means to be a part of that family. Similarly, as we grow in God’s family, we come to have our maturing part in the family.
Martin Luther taught that when we wash our face in the morning and in the evening, we are to remind ourselves, “I am baptized”. Not “I was baptized, but “I am”, today in God’s heart, family, and care.
The Lord’s Supper
On the night before his crucifixion and death, Jesus gathered his disciples to be together for a ritual meal, probably the Passover Seder. At the end of that meal, he did something unexpected. He transformed that meal into this Meal: The Lord’s Supper.
Through this Meal, we believe that same Jesus is really present with us. We cannot say exactly how, but we trust his promise that he is. We re-member him as we gather around the Table he provides for our nurture, forgiveness, and encouragement.
All are welcome at the Table. Children not yet prepared to receive this sacrament are given a blessing.
We prepare children to receive communion at the beginning of their 2nd or 3rd grade , through a series of 5-6 classes. They receive communion for the first time on All Saints Sunday (the first Sunday in November) as an expression of being at the Table with all God’s saints.
The Bible is the way we receive God’s word of communication. We believe it is the ‘rule and norm’ of faith
We take the Bible seriously but not always literally.
The Bible is a library, multiple volumes or books sharing God’s encounter with people.
A creed (from the Latin ‘credo’ – I believe) is a statement both of faith (I/we believe ‘in -- ie, I/we trust) and of some beliefs (some things we think ‘about’ God). A creed is a guideline to the basics of the Christian faith.
We say the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed in our regular worship services.
In addition to scripture, sacraments, and creeds, Christians in the Lutheran heritage also have a set of historic statements written in the 16th century as attempts to explain to others what they believed and practiced.
These statements are usually known as “The Confessions”. They are not intended to say “we are sorry for” but rather “we stand for” .