Questions are good; here's a few answers to some of the more common ones in connection to the worship & atmosphere at Peace Lutheran:
Peace.Evangelical.Lutheran.Church. 4 names?
Four names sounds a bit identity-crisis-y. It's not. In reality, it's just the opposite. Here's a brief synopsis of why those four words are used to help others know who we are:
- CHURCH: At it's simplest, "church" is just an assembly/gathering; in our culture, the word leans more toward a physical & tangible building. Both are true. At our physical property (church) on 28th & Jay, we assemble as individuals (church) to have our hearts refreshed by God's good Word and to encourage one another as we go about our days.
- LUTHERAN: we don't worship Martin Luther; we do stand with him on the importance of proclaiming all that Scripture teaches and we rejoice with him that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The Lutheran Confessions do not create our doctrine; the Bible does; the Lutheran Confessions simply reflect Scripture's light.
- EVANGELICAL: massively misunderstood in our culture, the word evangelical has its roots in the Greek word for gospel. To evangelize simply means to proclaim the good news about something. So, when we say we're an evangelical congregation, it simply means we exist to proclaim the good news of Christ crucified, died, & risen to forgive us and to give us heaven.
- PEACE: If you will, that's our official church name that sets us apart from other churches in the area. Why Peace? Because, according to the Gospel, we're blessed to be at peace with God and with one another.
Why Call worship a "service" ?
"Service" is a beautifully fitting word for our time together in worship; but technically, two types of service take place as we gather for worship. The first is God's service to us as he takes care of us, provides for us, and feeds us through the proclamation of his Word & celebration of his Sacraments (Baptism & the Lord's Supper). The second service, then, is that of believers toward God; while God serves us with his Word, we serve him with our prayers & praises. That in mind, observe the rhythm of our service: God first gives us his Word, then we respond with thanks (a beautiful conversation!) all the while, the emphasis falls on God for us!
Why the random standing & sporadic singing?
Even in our culture, it's common to stand out of respect (consider what we do at a ballgame or parade for our flag, or in a court for the Judge). During our service we stand a number of different times out of respect for God & his Word. We'll do so as we ask him for (and receive!) his forgiveness, as we approach his throne in prayer, as we hear the message of the Savior in the Gospel, & as we state with confidence our common faith in the words of the Creed. When you see us stand (or when you stand with us!), think respect of & confidence in the God who saved us.
And the singing? Let's remember that music is an elegant gift from a loving God & singing is a beautiful way to ascribe him worth (worship/praise). So, just like Moses, David, the Psalm-writers, Mary, Simeon, and so many others in Scripture, we lift up our voices in song, too. The songs (hymns) we sing all center on the Savior & portray truths well defined by Scripture (that's an important note: the emphasis of our songs & the reason we sing stems from what God has already fully & freely done for us ). Our songs, then, are prayers that echo God's truth and that are sung in response to God's undeserved, patient, & so-faithful love for us.
Why do you take Baptism so seriously?
It's not uncommon in our culture to hear baptism referred to as a dedication; but let's make sure the focus is where it should be if/when/where that word is used. In baptism, through mere water connected to God's Word, God graciously & powerfully displays his dedication to sinners. Far more than a hollow symbol or empty shell, baptism is a means by which the Holy Spirit creates faith, gives forgiveness, robes us in the righteousness he demands, and makes sinners heirs of the heaven the Savior has won (I Peter 3:18-22 [esp. vv. 21] & Titus 3:3-8). First and foremost, baptism displays God's dedication to us and that's why we celebrate it, cherish it, and baptize young & old alike (Mark 10:13-16 & Matthew 28:18-20).
Why do you celebrate "member communion" only?
At Peace, we stand on what the Bible says & we strive for clarity in our statement of faith (church words: creed & confession) concerning it. That stance approaches the Lord's Supper (Holy Communion) in loving respect for the Savior who instituted it & in loving respect for all people who wish to partake of it - we force no one to take the stand & make the confession that we do. For those reasons of clarity, though, we simply ask that, before anyone come to the Lord's Supper at Peace, we would take the opportunity to study it together, to cherish its blessings (Matthew 26:26-28), to heed its warnings (I Corinthians 11:27-32), and to examine the visible confession made as individuals gather at the Lord's table (I Corinthians 10:15-17).
Does that mean that if someone doesn't come to the Lord's table, they are somehow less forgiven than those who do? No. The truth of forgiveness & the joy of salvation (the Gospel) are meant for all (John 3:!6, Romans 1:16, 17). That said, even if we don't gather together at the Lord's table, do smile at the fact that, in Jesus, your sins are fully & freely forgiven!
Why's The Pastor wearing a white robe?
Generally, our pastor wears a white robe (but not always). The robe's purpose is not to be culturally stylish, comfortable or to cover up a stain on our pastor's tie. Instead, the robe serves as a reminder - to the our pastor and to our people - that this individual has been set apart for service in church. True, our pastor is no different than anyone else; the robe reminds us of his special calling as one set apart to share God's Word & to be a pastor to God's people.
why are there lit candles on the altar?
Placed in focus on the altar, our candles aren't meant to be mood-lighting or to serve as simple decorations. Instead, candles carry a rich symbolism that touches all the way back to Old Testament times. In the Bible, fire reminded God's people of God's presence (remember the burning bush from Exodus 3, the pillar of fire that guided Israel in Exodus 13, & the tongues of fire that rested on the heads of the disciples on Pentecost in Acts 2?). Same for us. When we light our candles, the flames of fire remind us that God is present with his people.
But that's not all. Remember how Jesus called himself the Light of the world (John 8:12)? When we celebrate the Lord Supper (Holy Communion), we light two, single candles in addition to our normal candles to remind us that Jesus is both human and divine (the "dual nature of Christ" means Jesus is both True God and True Man). These two candles serve as a special reminder that Jesus himself, in a very special way, meets with us in this Supper.