Holy Word and Sacraments
God’s grace is His undeserved love. Grace motivates what God has done and promised for mankind. It was God’s love, or grace, that brought Jesus to His cross and led Him to suffer and die as the redeemer of sinful man. His cross and death exist in the past, far away from the places where most of us live. So to provide the benefits of Jesus’ death to us, He has established certain means through which God’s grace is brought to humanity. Through these means the Holy Spirit creates and strengthens the faith that receives His forgiveness and salvation. These divinely-appointed Means of Grace are the Word of God and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. God has connected these permanently to the salvation won through the death and resurrection of God’s Son.
The Word of God is applied in several ways. The most common way is when the Word is preached every week on Sunday. The application of the Word centers on the message of God’s forgiveness. This provides us so much more than an opportunity to be in God’s favor. It bestows God’s favor! When a sinner hears the preaching of the gospel (“good news,”) and trusts that it is true, God regards that sinner as righteous. The sins are forgiven! God accomplishes this through the Means of Grace.
God has given Holy Baptism to His Church as another Means of Grace. “It is nothing else than a divine water, not that the water in itself is nobler than other water, but that God’s Word and Command are added to it” (Large Catechism). Those who wish to be baptized or to have their children baptized are asking to be made members of the body of Christ, which finds its nourishment and life also in the Gospel and the Lord’s Supper. Arrangements for the Baptism of children or adults can be made with our pastor. In Baptism, God washes away our sins and receives us into fellowship with Himself.
Jesus Christ established the mystery of Holy Communion before He was arrested on the night He was betrayed. This very simple meal combines outward, visible elements with the power of the God’s Word, according to His command. It belongs to Jesus, not to us. Therefore at Lakewood Lutheran, we respect the teaching of Jesus and His apostles about this precious sacrament and we follow the biblical practice of pastoral care for the good of those who approach the holy altar to receive this blessing.
A word about “Closed” or “close” communion
St. Paul warns that receiving Holy Communion is spiritually dangerous — even deadly — for those who are not prepared to receive it. To prevent harm to our guests, we believe that participation in the Lord’s Supper should be preceded by a course of instruction in the teachings of Scripture concerning this sacrament and other important articles of faith. We also believe that such participation serves as a public testimony of unity in faith among those who are communing together. It is the pastor’s divine calling to watch out for the good of our Lord’s flock. Out of respect for our Lord Jesus, who arranged this responsibility and care, we ask our guests to wait for the pastor’s direct and personal invitation before you approach the Lord’s table to receive this powerful medicine. None of us would judge the validity or sincerity of your faith, for we know that there is already a Judge in heaven. Rather than judging you, we prefer that communion provide the safe blessing you need instead of condemnation before your heavenly Judge. We also prefer that you join in our public testimony of the doctrine of the Christian faith after you know it with certainty.
This practice may seem strange to some Christians who have never been taught the scriptural warnings and guidance that God has provided concerning Holy Communion. In some churches, the impression is given that since Holy Communion is a personal thing, participation is a private decision for each Christian to make. This ignores the public nature of the meal. Some may think that receiving Holy Communion is a “right” belonging to every Christian, so that “closed communion” is automatically a judgment about the faith of others. This is a twisted understanding of reality. God has certainly included everyone in salvation. But that does not mean everyone is automatically ready to receive it in every way that God provides it. It also does not mean that God leaves it up to the individual person to decide for himself what kind of spiritual care he needs. From Creation until now, God’s Church has relied upon His Word. There He teaches an ordering for His Church and specific arrangements for our salvation. Therefore, we may delight with joyful hearts in the ways that God has provided our spiritual food and ongoing care. That care includes careful instruction in the Christian faith and life and, at the proper time, full participation in the holy of holies, the Sacrament of the Altar, or Holy Communion.