Written by Pastor Adam Ruschau
Christianity is the world’s largest religion and is marked by a faith in the one true God made known in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth (roughly 4 BC to 30 AD). Unlike other religions which are man’s attempt to reach God, Christianity is about God’s attempt to reach humanity. Fundamentally Christianity is about the efforts of God to save us from sin and its consequences.
Christians believe that God created all of creation and that creation was good. However, out of God’s infinite love for his creation (us), God also gave us free will so that we can chose to do the right thing. But what we chose to do was to put ourselves and our interests above all others. This is original sin—the human desire to go our own way and do our own things the way we want, the human desire to be our own god. That original Sin which infects each of us expresses itself in various words, thoughts, and actions that we call sins. Our Sin has the disastrous cost of separating us from our creator, hurting God, and eventually leading us to our own doom. Since God is our creator, God is our only source of hope for life beyond this existence, but because of sin, humans have broken that necessary relationship with God, meaning we are all lost.
The good news of this is that in spite of our sinfulness, in spite of our selfishness, God loves us, his creation so much that God mends that relationship that we broke. God does this through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus is God incarnate (God made flesh). To save humanity God became human in the person of Jesus, to live in solidarity with us and to die for our sake. Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. In Roman ruled Palestine, Jesus preached a message of repentance and a message of God’s love for all people. His ideas so upset the authorities that they put him to death, a death not deserved by him, but deserved by all of humanity. After three days he rose from the dead, proving his power over death and defeating death for us all. Jesus through his death and resurrection reconciled humanity with God and gave us all hope for the future. After his resurrection he ascended into heaven but with the promise that he will come again.
The Trinity is our understanding of who God is based on what we know about who Jesus is, what Jesus does for us, and all that is revealed to us about the identity of God in the Bible. We understand through tradition, experience, and scripture that there is only one God. Yet we see God in action in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we understand God as being one in three and three in one. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a math problem to be solved; rather it is a revelation to us of a God who exists in relationship. If God exists in relationship, this means that God can also be in relationship with us. Thus the Trinity is ultimately part of the good news of Christianity. We have a God who may be mysterious and not fully understood, but a God who is capable of being in relationship with us.
The Bible is the authoritative source and norm of the Christian faith. It is a library of books written over a long period (over 1200 years) about people’s experiences of God that, taken collectively, tells the story of God and God’s people throughout history, particularly God’s efforts to save humanity from ourselves. Christians believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, that is a collection of books written by humans but whose content is inspired by God. Therefore the Bible tells us what God wants it to tell us. This does not mean that the Bible does not contain factual errors, for anything written by humans will have flaws, but it does mean that the Bible does not fail in what it sets out to do: show forth the love of God for humanity that receives its ultimate expression in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The Church contrary to the popular use of the word, is not the building where Christians worship, neither is it an individual congregation. The Church is “nothing else than the assembly of all believers and saints.” In other words, the Church is the people who believe in and follow Jesus—all of them, no matter how righteous or sinful. The building may be the place where a portion of the Church gathers to worship and carry out its mission, but the Church itself is the people.
Put most simply, the mission of the Church is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to all the earth. Christians are caretakers of tremendous good news and it is our responsibility to share that good news with the world. Sharing this good news involves many things. It involves gathering to worship and learn to equip individual Christians for this wonderful yet challenging mission. It involves showing the love of Christ to others through works of service and acts of charity and love. It involves telling others about what Jesus means for us and for the entire world. Therefore Christianity is inherently a proselytizing faith, because the entire reason the Church exists is to spread the good news to everyone.
Worship is our response to God’s saving action. Worship is our way of giving thanks and praise to God. Often worship has the added benefit of giving an individual Christian spiritual comfort and encouragement for the days and weeks to come, but this is not the purpose of Christian worship. Worship is not about what a Christian gets out of it, but what a Christian puts into it. It is a recognition that God is God and serves to remind us of both our duty as people of God and the good news of what God has done for us in spite of our sin.
Christian worship can take many forms and have many different expressions, but it is not and should never be confused with Christian entertainment. Liturgical churches, like the Lutheran Church, follow a time honored worship tradition that extends back to the form of worship of the early church. The use of the liturgy (the pattern of prayers, readings, and songs used in worship) helps to ground our worship in the words of scripture and to unite us with all those other followers of Jesus—past, present, and future.
Differing Christian denominations may differ over what constitutes a sacrament or whether to call certain rites sacraments, but for those Christians who celebrate sacraments they are the most important of Christian rituals. Whether they are defined as means of grace, touchable presence of Christ, or simply very meaningful rituals, sacraments are a central part of Christian faith and life.
While some Christian traditions prefer not to call it a sacrament, the sacrament most universally recognized among Christians is the sacrament of Holy Baptism. This is, one could say, the single most important ritual of the Christian faith. In baptism, people are washed with water and become Children of God and inheritors of eternal life. Baptism is the first sacrament any Christian receives and is the mark by which Christians are identified. While it is possible for a person to later reject their baptism, baptism is the sacrament that makes one a Christian. Differing denominations disagree over whether infants and young children should be baptized or not.
Much greater disagreement surrounds the existence and practices of other sacraments but some of these possible sacraments include Holy Communion, Marriage, Confirmation, Confession, Ordination, or Anointing of the Sick. Check with the church you attend to learn more about how they define sacraments and why.
Humanity is inherently sinful and in the process of trying to follow God and Jesus we often disagree with one another on the best way of doing this. Disagreements over cultural expressions, biblical interpretation, church leadership and administration, theological disputes, and more have split the church over the course of its two thousand year history. While these divisions are often regrettable, they can also be helpful in challenging our own assumptions about the Christian faith. This is not to say that choosing a Christian denomination is merely a matter of personal taste, like which type of ice cream one prefers. (And be advised that churches that call themselves “non-denominational” are in reality just as much a denomination, with a particular theological outlook and practice, as those churches who recognize themselves as such.) Finding the right denomination is much more like trying to find the best account of a historical event. No written history can ever completely capture the past it is written about and no Christian denomination can ever completely capture “true” Christianity, but some are closer to the truth than others. It is the task of the seeker to determine through scripture, experience, and tradition which denomination gets closest to the truth, but regardless of this we are all still Christians together.
Most simply one becomes a Christian by believing and confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord and being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For Adults and older youth this may involve a series of conversations or classes with a pastor to prepare for baptism or the affirmation of baptism (if you were baptized as an infant but fell away from the faith.) For younger youth, (depending on the denomination) this may simply involve baptism with parents and sponsors vowing to raise the child in the church. If you have any specific questions about the Christian faith at all, or are even merely curious, talk to the pastor. He/she would love to meet you and discuss any questions you might have.
Redeemer Lutheran Church
140 E 32nd St
Jasper, IN 47546
Pastor:Rev. Adam Ruschau
Secretary: Kristine Harris
(Holy Communion is typically celebrated at all weekend worship services)
(durring the school year)