What are Faith Talks?

 

Trinity Lutheran Church has a faith worth spreading. Faith Talks are are series of succinct presentations, no longer than 18 minutes, each exploring an aspect of the Christian faith. They are provided free of charge as a service to the New Haven community.

Faith Talks are designed to present the teachings of the Christian Church, as they are drawn from Holy Scripture and with a Lutheran understanding. At some Faith Talks you might discover something completely new that you never were aware of before. At others you might see something you already know from a completely new point of view. At all of them you will grow in a depth of knowledge of the Christian faith.

At Faith Talks, Jesus Christ takes center stage. He is the reason why we talk about faith in the first place. He is the object of our faith.

Following each presentation, our congregation will provide refreshments and conversation for our guests. Because the Christian faith isn’t simply the content of a lecture, but a lively conversation. Guests will also receive a free gift for attending.

The Sacraments & Order in the Church

The Sacraments in the Lutheran Church are highly regarded. We believe and teach that “the Sacraments were ordained by God not only as marks of profession among men, but even more, to be signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us” (Augsburg Confession, Article XIII). The Sacraments are not signs in the sense that they are merely metaphors, or symbolic of a spiritual reality, but they “were instituted to awaken and confirm faith in those who use them.”

The Sacraments include Holy Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, and the preaching of the Gospel (or, Absolution). Although the Sacraments all involve external acts (washing with water, eating bread and wine, speaking and hearing), the Lutheran Church also teaches that the Sacraments do not justify simply by doing the external act. The faith that is awakened and confirmed by the Sacraments rests not on the outward act, but the promise of the forgiveness of sins that God attaches to the outward act.

Our churches also teach that “no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call” (Augsburg Confession, Article XIV). A preacher does not create his own authority by which to preach and teach the Scriptures. The call of the Church through a local Christian congregation gives a preacher the authority to preach and distribute the Sacraments.

The ministry receives all of its power from the Gospel

Many people think that Article V of the Preaching Office deals only with the Gospel-functions, not with the Gospel-proclaiming office. But this is a mistake. What is divinely instituted here is the one office of “ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments” (Latin). The office exists for the Gospel. That is its sole purpose. This is the glorious evangelical distinctiveness of the church of the Augsburg Confession. In both Rome and Geneva [Reformed churches], the ministry is heavily Law-dominated. By contrast, it is typical of Jesus the friend of sinners—come to seek and to save the lost. This means that the Gospel (including the sacraments) does not receive its power or validity from the office holders, from church bureaucracies, or from proper transmission and ordination rites. Quite the contrary—the ministry receives all its power from the Gospel itself, which alone in the power of God for salvation.

-Rev. Kurt Marquart, “The Gospel Ministry—In the Lutheran Confessions” in We Believe: Essays on the Catechism.

Repentance

What happens when a Christian, who has been converted by the Holy Spirit through Baptism and the Word of God, falls into sin once again? Our Lutheran Churches teach that there is forgiveness for those who have fallen after Baptism and conversion for those who return in repentance.

What do we mean by repentance? We consider repentance in two parts. First is contrition, or the sorrows of the conscience because of the knowledge of sin. The second part is faith, which is born of the Gospel—or the Absolution—and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven. The Gospel gives comfort to a terrified conscience and produces the fruits of repentance, that is, good works. However, the forgiveness of God is always a free gift, and never depends on these works as if they make satisfaction for our sins.

Some Christians believe that since they have been converted they no longer sin, or at least do not commit grave sins. But neither Scripture nor common experience can support this belief. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8-10). And even King David lost the Holy Spirit when he committed the grave sins of adultery and murder. Yet he returned to the Lord in repentance, and so received the forgiveness of sins (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51).

Two foci of the Lutheran Church

Justification for Christ’s sake, sola gratia et sola fide, is for Lutherans as for St. Paul, the article by which the church stands or falls. it is the centerpiece, which holds all the other articles of the Gospel together. And it more than anything else defines the Lutheran confession vis a vis Rome.

But the Wittenberg Reformation cannot be defined by reference only to the Roman Catholic alternative. The demarcation line against Geneva is just as constitutive for the Lutheran confession. And there everything comes to a head in the mystery of the true presence of the Lord’s body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. This Calvin denied as much as Zwingli. It is a profound untruth of modern “ecumenical” propaganda, that the difference between Calvinism and Lutheranism is purely over the “mode” of Christ’s sacramental presence, not over the fact. No, it is that fact which the Lutheran confession affirms, and the Calvinist denies, as the Formula of Concord amply demonstrates in its seventh article…

In sum, the two constitutive foci for the Church of the Augsburg Confession are justification and the Holy Supper. These stand at the center of her confession, and without them, she ceases to be.

We have already noted the deep links between justification and the Resurrection. There is a similar link between the Resurrection and the Supper. Oscar Cullman has pointed out that the apostolic church understood the Sacrament as a continuation of the Lord’s Resurrection appearances [Oscar Cullman, Early Christian Worship, tr. A. Todd and J. Torrance (Chicago: Regnery, 1953), pp. 14-20)], but now invisibly. Christianity’s Founding Fact is celebrated every “first” or “Lord’s Day” in the Lord’s Supper. As the Apology puts it (X, 4): “We are talking about the presence of the living Christ, knowing that ‘death no longer has dominion over him.'”

-Kurt Marquart, “The Church in the Twenty-First Century:Will There Be a Lutheran One?” in All Theology Is Christology.

Confession

“Our churches teach that private Absolution should be retained in the churches,” reads the eleventh article of the Lutheran Church’s Augsburg Confession. The power of the Keys, that is, the power to forgive and retain sins here on earth, was instituted by Christ (Matthew 16:19; John 20:23) and was given to the Church for the sake of troubled consciences.

However, we Lutherans also recognize that the Absolution, which is the announcement of forgiveness, is a gift of God’s grace and not a new law to be obeyed. Therefore, just as we do not abolish private confession, neither do we require it. Furthermore, the ritual of confession is recognized among Lutherans to be of human right only and is not to be imposed upon a Christian, which would only serve to burden a conscience already burdened with sin. “Nevertheless, because of the great benefit of Absolution, and because it is otherwise useful to the conscience, Confession is retained among us” (Augsburg Confession, article XXV).

Because the Absolution is a gift and Confession is not a law to be obeyed, it is not necessary to list every sin while confessing. The Absolution is given for those sins that you know and feel in your heart.

Because our Lutheran Church treasures the gift of Absolution, nearly every Sunday service begins with a service of corporate Confession and Absolution, where our members confess aloud before God and each other, their sinfulness, and together rejoice in God’s free gift of forgiveness.

The Lord’s Supper

We confess in the Lutheran Church that the bread and wine served in the Lord’s Supper is truly the body and blood of Jesus. In our churches, we do not try to explain this philosophically (transubstantiation; consubstantiation), nor do we interpret our Lord’s Word’s spiritually or allegorically (the bread merely represents Christ’s body). The plain meaning of Christ’s words regarding the Sacrament are: “This is My body; this is My blood.” The Word of Jesus makes it so.

The body and blood of Jesus are received by all who partake of the Lord’s Supper. The body and blood of Jesus depend on the word and promise of Jesus, not on the faith of the person who receives. Faith is what receives the body and blood of Jesus with the benefit of forgiveness, life, and salvation. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there also are life and salvation.

On the other hand, if a person receives the body and blood of Jesus without faith, that is, rejecting the words of Christ and not discerning the body, that person receives the Sacrament to their great harm (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Therefore, because of these words of Jesus, the practice of the Lutheran Church is to admit people to the Sacrament only after they have been taught to examine themselves and have confessed their faith in the words of Christ.

The Resurrection publishes justification

The Lord’s Resurrection and the Supper of His body and blood, these are the two solemnly specified focal points of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as preached by St. Paul. But is not justification the crux of Paul’s preaching? Yes, but for St. Paul is was precisely the Resurrection in which the justification earned on the Cross was “objectively” and officially published to the world, to be individually appropriated by faith alone: He “was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). See also 1 Tim. 3:16, about Christ being “justified in the spirit.” As Lamb of God who went to the Cross bearing all the world’s sins, Christ could be “justified” only of the world’s sins, for He had none of His own!

-Kurt Marquart, “The Church in the Twenty-first Century: Will There Be a Lutheran One?” in All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer.