1. What is the purpose of Lutheran worship?
Every worship service is an encounter with Jesus.
He has promised to be wherever people gather in his name (Matt 18:20). Worship enacts God’s story from creation to redemption to new creation. In our worship, we remember and celebrate God’s redemptive acts in the past, we receive His gifts through His Son Jesus Christ in the present, and we anticipate the future culmination of His redemption at the end of the age. The chief service among Lutherans is the service of Holy Communion, which we call the Divine Service. It is called the Divine Service because in it, God serves us first. Here, heaven touches earth as we join in the praises of the angels and the saints who have gone before us. We gather to receive the gifts Christ won for us by dying and rising again: forgiveness, life, and salvation. In serving us, God enables us to serve one another.
2. What style are the services at St. Paul?
We avoid using labels which can be potentially divisive or misleading. Every Sunday we celebrate the Divine Service. Most of our services follow the orders of worship found in our hymnal (the Lutheran Service Book) and are accompanied on our pipe organ. Because God does not require a particular style of music, we do sometimes include a greater variety of musical forms. Whether it is the organ or other instruments, the substance and structure of the service is always the same. At every service, you can expect to participate in the ancient pattern of Christian worship, which centers around Word and Sacrament. This pattern was evident among Christians in the New Testament, who devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42).
3. Who should receive Holy Communion?
St. Paul is a member church of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). The LCMS, in accord with Scripture and historic Christianity practices closed communion. This means appropriate communicants are those who (1) are a baptized Christians, (2) have received instruction in the teachings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, (3) belong to a church that is in full agreement with the LCMS, and (4) have examined themselves. If you would like to learn more about becoming a communicant member or have any other questions, please ask the pastor. Those not receiving Holy Communion may still come forward with arms folded across the chest to receive a pastoral blessing.
4. Why do we practice closed communion?
There are two basic reasons: (1) Concern for the spiritual well-being of our guests and visitors. St. Paul teaches that anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:29). We do not want our guests to unwittingly bring harm upon themselves! Prior instruction is therefore necessary to receive the sacrament to one’s benefit. (2) Participation in the Lord’s Table both creates and expresses complete unity in the faith (1 Cor 10:17). When you commune at any church your actions communicate, “I believe the same thing as the other people at this altar.” Since the Eucharist is an expression of our oneness in the faith, true unity should exist before we share in this mystery together. Sadly, there is much disunity in the Christian Church but we continue to pray for full visible unity among all believers. For a fuller explanation, see Admission to the Lord’s Supper, published by the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
5. What should I wear?
Whether formal or casual, however you would like to dress for church is entirely acceptable. We have some members who like to don their “Sunday best” and others who like to dress more comfortably. Christ and our members welcome you warmly regardless of what you are wearing.
6. Why do some Lutherans make the sign of the cross?
The sign of the cross is a gesture with a long history in Christianity. When we make the sign of the cross, we call upon God with the words used at our baptism, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). It is a reminder that God has marked us with His name. Christians should be taught and encouraged to remember their baptism often. The sign of the cross is one way to do this using a combination of word and movement. Never done it before? Give it a try!