Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Worship Note Questions -- with Some Answers

I'm getting ready to teach our youth tonight and part of that is getting feedback to them on their work. I ask that they complete "confirmation worship notes" based on some prepared by Pastor Steve King of Maple Lake, MN. I ask them to write a question or comment on the back.

Tonight I'll give these answers back to the kids. They are from questions the kids asked just this fall! It's good to get in the habit of asking questions and seeking answers. Too many of us just cruise along not thinking at all. What questions do you have? Perhaps you don't like some of my answers... let's talk! Email me at or comment below.


September 20 - MN Teen Challenge presentation during worship
What is the range of ages in Teen Challenge?
Ages 13 through adult. Teen Challenge started out as a program for just teenagers but has expanded to adults too.
September 27
Questions about Baptism:
So, by baptism, is it welcoming a newborn into God's life? Some people are baptized as children, some are baptized when they are older. When parents bring their children for baptism they are wanting to share a special gift of God's love with their child. The gift they want to share is (1) forgiveness of sins, (2) freedom from death and the devil, and (3) eternal life. The gift is given by God's Word and our trust in God's Word. God's Word tells us to be baptized. God's Word connects baptism with gifts (1), (2) and (3), so, by bringing their children for baptism parents want to give God's life to them. But that's not the whole story. "God's life" is something that needs to be given to us over and over again, so, as Matthew 28:19-20 says, there is both baptism and "teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded." So, actually, everything we do in connection with the church is a continual welcome into God's life.

If you weren't baptized can you still be just as close to God? After Jesus died and rose again, he went back to God in his body. Then, 50 days later, the Holy Spirit came. The Holy Spirit is the power and love of God in our lives. The Holy Spirit gave Jesus' followers the ability to do all kinds of amazing things, but, especially, the Holy Spirit helped Jesus' followers to bring other people to Jesus by preaching and telling other people about him. The very first time that happened, and every time after that, the command from God was that, if you had come to believe and trust Jesus, that you would then go and be baptized. In Acts 2:37-39 it says this: Now when they heard this [preaching], they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” So, from that passage and others, we understand that Jesus wants us to be baptized, and if we don't do that, we are being disobedient to God. And, when we are disobedient, we can't be as close to God. (I hope all of this makes sense.)

Or is baptism giving yourself to God? When an older young person or an adult asks to be baptized, I think there is a sense that is what we are doing... but what we "give" to God is our broken lives and our sins...

Is there a difference between being baptized as a newborn or at age 2? Parents bring their children to get baptized at different ages for many reasons. It's clear to me from the Bible that God doesn't love baptized children more than he loves un-baptized children. So, I guess the answer is no... but many Christian parents want to share God's gifts (1, 2 & 3 above) in this special way as soon as they can.

Do you use holy water? Some people use holy water, but is it just water? What's "holy" about it? Do they just believe it's holy water or think that? It's just plain water. Any water will do, even Cokato city water! :-) There is no such thing as "holy water" in the Bible, so I don't believe it exists. Water is just water. Or, if it's mixed with flavoring and sugar, it's koolaid! :-)
So words are mistranslated in the Bible?
If you ever learn another language, you will learn how hard it is to translate things exactly, to get the same meaning and the same emotion into the new language. Yes, sometimes things are translated in Bible versions a way that I think is a mistake. For example, this coming Sunday (Nov. 8) has a verse that says that a poor widow put "everything she had to live on" in the offering. But the original word in Mark 12:44 means more like she put her whole LIFE (bios) in the offering, that she was giving her whole SELF. Maybe someday you will learn Greek or Hebrew and be able to understand God's Word even better without always relying on someone like me to tell you about it. I know it's hard to understand sometimes. The Bible was written a long time ago and it needs to be understood carefully so we don't get the wrong idea about what it is saying. But don't despair, though it's challenging, we can learn a lot from reading the Bible as it has been translated into English. It's good to have study notes, though, and that's why we recommend that people use the Concordia Study Bible or something like that with good notes at the bottom in our church.
Why do you wear your robe at first service and not second?
At our church we try to make one worship hour more formal and more like people at this church have been used to for a long time, and the people here have been used to pastors wearing robes. At the second worship hour we are more informal and relaxed. Personally, I like to not have pastors dressed different than the other people. I do tend to wear a "clergy shirt" with the funny collar so people know I work here as a pastor, but I wouldn't need to do that either. It's all optional.
Why is the Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness close to the beginning?
At the traditional hour of worship (8:30) we follow the Lutheran Book of Worship. So the short answer is because that's where it is in the book--at the beginning of worship. I don't think it's always best to have it at the beginning. Sometimes I think it would be better to have confession and forgiveness after the preaching (sermon) because sometimes we learn about things in the sermon that we realize are wrong in our lives and need to ask forgiveness for!
October 4
Why does God hate divorce so much?
God is a promise keeper and he wants us to keep our promises too. Also, when mothers and fathers don't get along the children get so hurt. The best thing is when husbands and wives take their promises seriously and get help to make things better when they get hard.
October 11
Why in the gospel does God want us to sell our possessions?
Jesus saw that the man in Mark 10:17-31 thought that he was a perfect person who didn't need a savior. He thought he had kept all the commandments. But Jesus knew that he was too attached to his possessions and money so he told him that he needed to fully obey God by loving his poor neighbors as much as he loved himself. That's why he said: "Sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." The man chose to leave instead of obey and follow... so sad... When it comes to you and me the question God asks us is "are you willing to love me above everything else and to love others as much as you love yourself"? I have to admit that I fall way short of this command and, even as I keep learning to obey more and more, I reach out to Jesus who welcomes sinners. If the man would have just admitted that he was a sinner he could have been with the Lord! So, do we need to always sell every possession to follow Jesus? No, but we need to know that God could ask us to give things up so we can help others at any time.
Why would it be hard to get into heaven when you're rich?
Our possessions can be substitutes for God. We can think we've got all we need without God if we've got lots of wealth. It's good to know that, really, deep down, we're poor and need God desperately every day!
October 18
Why are you a pastor?
Someone had to do this job! Seriously... When I was about 24 years old I came to believe God was calling me to do this. This was even though the Lutheran church is far from perfect and there are parts of me that really don't like "church" (though I totally love Jesus and the people He wants me to serve). It's a wonderful life!
Why does Jesus in the gospel ask if his followers are able to drink "the cup that I drink" or "be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with"?
The "cup" is picture/poetry language for Jesus' suffering and the "baptism" is picture/poetry language for Jesus death. His followers are thinking that following Jesus is going to make them important and powerful. Jesus reminds them that the man reason he came to earth was to suffer and die for our sins. He asks he they are ready to suffer and die too. The thing is, that they do suffer and die also... later on... as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Every follower of Jesus today finds out that being his follower means that we will suffer in some ways and maybe even die for him. But it's okay because Jesus rose from the dead we will too!
October 26 - Reformation Sunday
What does the word "Reformation" mean?
The Reformation was the time when people like Martin Luther rebelled against false teachings in the Catholic church. The Reformation was the time when the Lutheran church began You can learn more by reading about Martin Luther or watching the "Luther" movie that we have in our church library.
Will you be lighting candles for All Saints Day next Sunday?
Yes--except I won't--someone else will! :-) We work as a team.
Why do we do 2 readings instead of one?
We read two or more readings from the Bible because we need to what the Bible has to say to us and have others hear too! The Bible is really important and God uses its message to come into our hearts.
November 1 - All Saints Sunday
Why do we do All Saints Sunday?
I think for 3 reasons. One: its a good way for us to remember that those who have died are really alive with God, partly because that gives us courage when death comes near for us and those we love. Two: It's good to remember those who have gone before us because we can learn from good things in their lives. Three: It's a tradition--something the church has done for hundreds of years.
Why are there 21 candles and not more or less?
There were about 12 candles for each of the members of our church who died since last All Saints Sunday plus about nine others for other people whose loved ones let us know they wanted to add. The candles are symbols that, because of Jesus, life doesn't end when we die trusting Jesus but we are simply moved to heaven.
How do you choose what color to wear?
Are you asking about the cloth I wear around my shoulders at 8:30 worship? There are "seasons" in the church year and each "season," plus some special days, have colors assigned to them. I don't need to think very hard about that because there's a committee at our church that puts colors on the altar and I just match it! The colors have meanings. Right now, for example, we're in the "green" season and green means "growth." Last week it was red for "Holy Spirit" and this week was white for "heaven" or "God" or "pure." If you're asking what color shirt I wear otherwise, well, it's just the color that I find in my closet that day!
What is your favorite Bible verse?
One verse that has been important to me is from Romans 12:1-2. I learned this at the Houston Texas "All Lutheran Youth Gathering" in 1973 from the Phillips Translation of the Bible: "With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity."
Who do you call to have prayer ministry?
Our prayer ministry leader is Becky Sorenson. I'll give you her phone number if you ask.
So Muslims think that Christians don't really follow Jesus, or follow him just when it's easy?
That's one of the things Pastor John Spaulding of Christians Meeting Muslims said! He said that many Christians just want Jesus to forgive their sins but that they aren't very interested in really learning about him and copying him with their lives. You can listen to part of Pastor John's sermon by clicking here. Do you agree?

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