Are you wondering about worship? Do you have questions about something you've experienced during a worship service? If you have a question that you don't see answered here, please e-mail Alice Woodard, Lord of Life's Director of Worship. Alice will post the question and answer on this page. Thanks!
Q. Why do the pastors wear different colored stoles, and why are the decorations in the church different colors in different seasons?
A: We are following the tradition of the church year, which is a representation of the life of Christ. It is arranged around two principle events, Christ’s birth and resurrection .Each of these events is part of a larger season, Advent through Epiphany (called the Christmas Cycle) and Lent through Pentecost (called the Easter Cycle). (see more about the Christmas and Easter Cycles at the bottom of the page)
Q: Inside some of our offering plates are the letters “IHS”. What do these stand for?
A: The letters “IHS” form a Christogram, an abbreviation or monogram for the name of Jesus Christ. These letters derive from the first three letters of the Greek name of “Jesus”, Iota-Eta-Sigma. Another Christogram you may have seen is formed by superimposing the first two letters of “Christ” in Greek – Chi and Rho (C and P). The most common Christogram is simply the letter X, the Greek letter Chi, as in the abbreviation Xmas, for “Christmas”.
Q: When I was a child growing up in the Catholic church, we had seven sacraments. How many does the Lutheran church have and what are they?
A: Lutherans define a sacrament as an act that is commanded by Christ, uses a material or earthly element, and through connection with the Word is the bearer of God’s promise. Using these criteria, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are the sacraments practiced in the Lutheran church.
Q: What does the Lutheran church believe about Holy Baptism?
A: Holy Baptism was commanded by Christ when he came to his disciples following the resurrection. As we read in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 that I have commanded you.’”
Q: How is this sacrament celebrated at Lord of Life?
A: At Lord of Life, individuals may be baptized at any age. Many parents bring their infants for baptism, but children of all ages, as well as adults, are welcome to receive this sacrament. Baptisms may be scheduled after the Saturday 5:30 pm service or the Sunday 11 am service any week of the month. They may also be scheduled during any service on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Sundays of the month.
Q: What does the Lutheran church believe about Holy Communion?
A: Holy Communion has its scriptural basis in Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, as told in Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:14-20. These are the words as we hear them in our service of Holy Communion: “In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me. Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
Q: How is this sacrament celebrated at Lord of Life?
A: At Lord of Life, fifth graders receive instruction in Holy Communion at the First Communion Festival, which is held every spring. First Communion is celebrated with these fifth graders at all services the weekend following Easter. Holy Communion is celebrated at every Saturday evening service, at all services on the first and third Sundays of each month, and on Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
All who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are invited to come and receive the Sacrament. The communion server will place a wafer in your hand and you may dip it in the chalice. Ceramic chalices hold grape juice; gold chalices hold wine. Gluten-free wafers are available at the station nearest the piano. At any time during the distribution of communion, you are invited to go to the east side of the church and request personal prayers of intercession. Please fill out a prayer card in your pew when you come up for prayer, so that the pastors might continue to hold you in prayer.
Q: I noticed that we said the Nicene Creed on Christmas Eve, but we usually say the Apostles’ Creed. What is the difference?
A: Both the Apostles’ and the Nicene Creeds (and, incidentally the lengthier Athanasian Creed, which you can find on page 54 of Lutheran Book of Worship) are statements of our beliefs as a church. Each of the creeds addresses what we believe about the nature of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles’ Creed has been in use since early in the 3rd century. It has had a place throughout history in the baptism liturgy, and is always recited during the service of Holy Baptism, as well as in the service of Holy Communion on most occasions. (When a baptism is held during a worship service, the creed is said here instead of later in the service.)
The Nicene Creed is usually said on festivals such as Christmas Eve and Easter. This creed was forumlated in the year 325. At this time the church felt a need to clarify certain of its beliefs, so the baptismal creed (Apostles’ Creed) was expanded to include additional statements about the nature of God.
The Athanasian Creed, written during the 5th century, is more of an expanded comment on particular theological issues and is not generally said in the context of worship.
Q: Why do Lutherans say we believe in “the holy catholic Church”?
A: Most Reformation and post-Reformation Churches use the term catholic to refer to the belief that all Christians are part of one universal Church, regardless of denominational divisions. It is in line with this interpretation, which applies the word "catholic"/"universal" to no one denomination, that we understand the phrase "holy catholic church" in the Apostles’ Creed, “one holy catholic and apostolic church” in the Nicene Creed, and the phrase “the catholic faith” in the Athanasian Creed.
Q: Where can I find out more about the sacraments and the creeds?
A: Martin Luther wrote an explanation of The Ten Commandments, The Apostles’ Creed, The Lord’s Prayer and the sacraments and the Lord’s Prayer in The Small Catechism, which can be found online at www.bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.html.
Q. So what is the Christmas Cycle?
A: The Christmas Cycle begins with Advent, the four weeks before Christmas. Advent is meant to be a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. It is a season of hope, emphasized by the use of the color blue. The church season of Christmas begins with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For these days and the weeks following, white is used in the worship space, symbolizing joy, purity and the light of Christ. Christmas continues until Epiphany, the time when Jesus was baptized and was visited by the Magi, representatives of the nations who came to worship Jesus. In the Lutheran church, this is often a time of emphasis on world missions. The color green, symbolic of growth in the Christian life, is used during the Time after Epiphany, except for the special days of the Baptism of our Lord and the Transfiguration of Our Lord, when white is used.
Q: And what is the Easter Cycle?
A: The season of Lent begins the Easter Cycle. Purple is used during this season as a symbol if penitence. During Holy Week, the week before Easter, red is used on Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday to symbolize the passion of Christ. Gold is used on Easter to indicate the prominence of this single most important event in the year. In the weeks following Easter, white is once again used. The Easter cycle concludes with Pentecost, when red is used to represent the fire of the Holy Spirit. The time after Pentecost begins with Holy Trinity. White is again used as a symbol of Christ’s light. Green is the color seen inside the church during the long season following Holy Trinity and lasting until Advent. Some churches call this “ordinary time”, meaning not mundane or common but ordinal, or counted time, as in “the seventh week after Pentecost.” In the church, green reminds us that just as there is natural growth, there is spiritual growth in our lives, as well. While our lawns and gardens grow and “green up”, we are growing spiritually as we send our roots down deep into the soil of God’s love. Lutherans interrupt the Time after Pentecost to celebrate the Reformation, and the color red is used for this major church occasion. White is then used for the last week before Advent, Christ the King, when we celebrate the kingship and sovereignty of Christ.
More information about our beliefs and practices as Lutherans can be found at www.elca.org/What-We-Believe.aspx.