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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

26 October 2008

Questions on My Faith and Life

I have some questions that I was hoping that you could answer for me for a school report.

Yours TrulyQ1: How has religion shaped your life?

A1: It leads me to look outside myself, to see the need for forgiveness and salvation, and to find it in Jesus Christ. It also norms my attitudes about other people, leading me away from prejudice. Indeed, it provides the entire framework for my values, challenges me to look for opportunities to show God’s love for others, and encourages me with the knowledge that God is always with me and that I will have eternal peace and joy in the Resurrection.

Q2: What obstacles, if any, have you had to overcome to be Lutheran?

A2: I’ve never given much thought to this question. Since I was born into a Lutheran family, especially as a pastor’s son, the Lutheran Church has always been a central part of my life. I suppose that some of the greatest challenges (outside those common to all who seek to live as Christians in a sinful world) came when I was pastor in Southeast Texas. There, Lutherans were an unfamiliar minority — almost a cult in some folks’ minds. In a largely Protestant town, explaining liturgical worship, observing the Church calendar, and emphasizing grace over human works kept me from completely fitting in with the community.

However, even in places with more Lutherans, I sometimes appear a bit different. Unlike some contemporary Lutherans, I see value in much that we inherited from Catholicism and sometimes disagree with those who want to make the Lutheran Church look “more Protestant” or “less Catholic.” For example, I agree with Rome on baptismal regeneration and the necessity of baptism for infants. Although we have different interpretations of how it happens, I agree with Catholics that in Holy Communion I actually receive the body and blood of Jesus. With Rome (and with many other Lutherans and others) I would gladly move to increasing the frequency of offering Holy Communion to every Sunday and major feast day. I accept the Scriptures that tell us that Christ calls men into the pastorate and through them forgives the sins of penitent sinners.

Also, with many Lutherans and with Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and other Christians, I think that we should continue the rites of Christian worship in solemnity and awe, recognizing that at its heart, worship shouldn’t look, sound, or smell like the world around us, since its essence is otherworldly. I believe that in the service, heaven enters earth in order to lead us away from worldliness and into new lives here before we finally receive a far greater life in the world to come. In fact, I’m convinced that remaining truly Lutheran means remaining “counter-cultural,” and that continuing a tradition of liturgical worship helps us follow Paul’s admonition: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.... (Romans 12:2)”

Q3: Did you choose your religion? Is there any other that you have considered?

A3: Obviously, my parents made the initial choice. However, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in Lutheranism and among other Christian and nonchristian bodies. While I’ve been tempted to doubt, the Lord always pulls me back and convinces me more thoroughly from Scripture that forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ is the most important message I need to hear and that no Church speaks this message more plainly or correctly than does the Lutheran Church.

Luther RoseQ4: Are all of your family members Lutheran?

A4: Mom and Dad both died as Lutherans, my wife, daughters, son-in-law, and all but one of my siblings are Lutheran, as are most of the other relatives on my side.

Q5: At what occasions does communion take place?

A5: At our congregation, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first two Sundays of the month, on Christmas Day, Easter, and on certain other festival days. There is no great uniformity in this practice among American Lutherans, although our founding fathers emphasized that they continued the practice of the ancient Church, offering the Sacrament “every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals ... to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved.”

Q6: Can anyone take communion?

A6: Again, the practice varies among those who title themselves Lutheran. Our congregation, in keeping with traditional practice and in line with the teaching of The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, recognizes the necessity of the communicants being able to properly examine themselves in preparation to receive the Sacrament. We also believe and teach that communing together implies and demonstrates doctrinal unity among the communicants, so we commune only those who have been instructed and who confess the same faith in its particulars.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Newspaper column #566:2


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