Saturday, November 18, 2017

Shaken Beliefs

There have been many times I have had my beliefs shaken. But until recently, I have been able to go back to the fundamentals of the Lutheran faith. And that is the point of this post - not to teach these fundamentals to anyone else, but to talk through them with God, in a format where I feel most connected with God - through prayerfully writing.

Luther's Small Catechism: 

When I look at Luther's Small Catechism - a guide to the Lutheran faith - I am able to speak with God.I am able to hear him speak. Obviously, this catechism is not the only or even primary guide to my faith. This is written by Martin Luther, utilizing the Word of God.

The 10 Commandments - the law in which we were given by God. A law which none of us can follow all the time, but should still strive to follow. Every commandment is from God to us personally. "You shall have no other gods." "You shall not murder." "You shall not covet." These are all rules directly for us. Or, as is summarized in Matthew 22:36-40 (NRSV):

36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

No where does it say my neighbor shall not do these things. No where does it say my neighbor must love God and love others. God is speaking directly to me. He is commanding me. He is not giving me persmission to be judge, jury, or accuser of another.

The Apostle's Creed - a statement of what belief in who God is and what he does. "I believe in God the Father almighty..." "I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only son..."  "I believe in the Holy Spirit..." Again, these are personal statements of belief. This is God reminding me who he is, and me affirming that belief. 

The Lord's Prayer - the prayer Jesus taught us, which has so many pieces to it. This is one in which we do use the term "our", because we are all children of God. But each petition is also a personal prayer to God, praising him and asking his forgiveness and help in forgiving. No where do we say "Allow us to take revenge into our own hands." No where does it say to allow us to choose who to forgive and whom not to forgive.

Baptism -  an individual's new birth, bringing us to God as one of his children through the Holy Spirit and water, and also bringing us in as members of the body of Christ. While done generally as a community event, it is also a personal event.

Confession and forgiveness. The Lord's Supper. Done generally between pastor and individual or pastor and congregation - but both still very personal and important in our faith and individual relationship with God.


Basically, what I believe all of this to say in a very abbreviated nutshell - Christianity... our faith... is a very personal relationship with God, but is one in which the love and support of a community of other Christians is important. It is ME turning to God through the faith he's blessed me with, and God working within ME. It is God guiding me on how I can best support those who are struggling, with his help. It is God guiding and supporting me in my struggles. It is God showing his love and mercy to me so that I can go out and show that love and mercy to others.


Affirmation of Baptism: 

This personal and yet community concept is further shown in the affirmation of our baptism. While we often call this "Confirmation", it can be done at any time in the life of a baptized member of the body of Christ. This affirmation is done publicly, in front of the congregation; or as a unified assembly all affirming their baptisms together.

It has each of us individually profess our faith and reject sin, which we each do so individually, asking God to help and guide us.

But just as importantly, the whole assembly promises to support the individual and pray for him or her.

There are times throughout the church year when we do an affirmation of the whole congregation. In there, the pastor has asked all members "Do you promise to support and pray for one another in your life in Christ?" to which I have always responded with other members that I do and ask God to help and guide me.


"Merciful God, I confess that I have sinned in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done and by what I have left undone." (Luther's Small Catechism, Individual Confession and Forgiveness)

I confess that I have not kept this promise. I confess that I have been selfish and have not supported others. I have allowed the thought that "if I have to follow these commandments and live what other's deem a Christian life, than they should have to do the same, and live what I deem a Christian life." I confess that I have allowed hurt and anger into my heart and keep me from encouraging and supporting other members of the body of Christ.

"I repent of all my sins, known and unknown. I am truly sorry, and I pray for forgiveness. I firmly intent to amend my life, and to seek help in mending what is broken. I ask for strength to turn from sin and to serve you in newness of life."  (Luther's Small Catechism, Individual Confession and Forgiveness)

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