What We Believe
We believe that God is revealed in the Church through the Word (Bible) and Sacraments
Martin Luther wrote, “The Bible is the manger in which Christ, the Word of God, is laid.” Because the Bible is God’s Word, it has
- eternal relevance
- testimony to the nature of God
We claim these truths by faith; we cannot grasp the meaning of Scripture simply through investigation or proof-texting.
Because the Bible is in human words, it has
- historical and cultural particularity
- features of human creativity
- concerns common with human existence today
These can be investigated with various tools; this is the starting point of studying Scripture.
The Bible is living Word of God, because it speaks to each of us differently and can speak to the same person differently at various times in their life.
While Lutherans recognize differences in the way the Bible should be studied and interpreted, it is accepted as the primary and authoritative witness to the church’s faith. Written and transcribed by many authors over many centuries, the Bible bears remarkable testimony to the mighty acts of God in the lives of people and nations. In the Old Testament is the found the vivid account of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. IN the New Testament is found the story of God’s new covenant with all of creation in Jesus Christ.
The New Testament is the first-hand proclamation of those who lived through the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. As such, it is the authority for Christian faith and practice. The Bible is thus not a definitive record of history or science. Rather, it is the record of the drama of God’s saving care for creation throughout the course of history. (from www.elca.org)
For Lutherans, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the “lens” though which we view all of Scripture. Any teaching that contradicts the Good News of redemption brought through the life, death and resurrection is superseded by the Good News.
A sacrament is a sacred obligation or oath – literally a “holy act.” The Lutheran church recognizes two sacraments as having been established by Jesus Christ: Baptism and Communion. We define a sacrament as that which contains the promise of Christ, is commanded by Christ, and involves an earthly element. The sacraments are visible, tangible signs of God’s love for us, which we receive by faith.
Jesus commands baptism in Matthew 28:19-20:
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 all that I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.
We baptize because Jesus commanded us to do so. The promise is that that he will be with us always. The earthly element is water.
Lutherans recognize one baptism as being sufficient, and so we honor the baptisms conducted in other traditions as true, provided they were done in the name of the Father, and the of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We do not practice re-baptism.
Affirmation of baptism is made periodically by the congregation at worship. At that time, believers are asked to recommit themselves to the faith and the baptismal promises previously made. Asperges (sprinkling of the congregation with water, from the Latin ” to sprinkle”) may be done as a physical reminder of the waters of baptism. Worshipers may also be offered the opportunity to dip their fingers into the water of the baptismal font in remembrance of their baptism. When the name of the Triune God is invoked, believers are always welcome to make the sign of the cross in remembrance of their baptism.
Martin Luther taught that baptism is a once-in-a-lifetime event, but also a daily event. Each day we have the opportunity to live as the baptized or to reject or deny our baptismal promises. Luther recommended beginning and ending each day by remembering our baptism by making the sign of the cross and invoking the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Paul speaks of Holy Communion in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
We share in Holy Communion because Jesus commanded us to do so. He has promised that this supper embodies the new covenant between God and God’s people. The earthly elements are bread and wine.
As with baptism, our theology about communion is rich and includes numerous images from Scripture that are expressed in our worship practices (liturgy). Holy Communion is also known as the Eucharist (you-car-ist, meaning thanksgiving), the Holy Supper, the Lord’s Supper, and the Sacrament of the Altar.
Since the days of the early Church, Holy Communion has been a central act of worship. Martin Luther affirmed the centrality of this sacrament and urged believers to eat of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday and every holy day. At Olivet, we practice “open communion” which means that all who desire to experience God’s grace and forgiveness are welcome, no matter what their age or their previous church participation. We offer frequent opportunities for instruction about the meaning of Holy Communion, all the while knowing that we receive the gifts Holy Communion conveys by faith, rather than by special knowledge.
In addition to offering Holy Communion at all services each week, Olivet members take Holy Communion from the table to homebound and ill persons so that they too can share in the meal celebrated by the congregation.
We believe that the Apostles and Nicene Creeds are faithful expressions of our faith in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We believe that all people can and were created and redeemed to serve God’s purposes in any place and at any time.
We all have a vocation – a holy calling – to serve God in the environments in which we live our lives.