What We Believe
God is by definition bigger than us. Maybe that’s why there are so many guesses about who God is. New religions are springing up all the time, and no one needs religion to have a God. Because of our relationship to Jesus, much of our guessing is over: He told us who God is. Jesus said He was sent by the Father, and that He and the Father together would send the Holy Spirit. So God is known in three persons: the Father and creator, the Son and Savior, the Spirit and comforter. Each of the persons is equal to one another so that there are not three Gods, just one. The actions of that one God define for us Love and Justice, and we have found that as we learn to receive that love everything else falls into place.
After it’s all said and done, it all comes back, very simply, to one Israelite man in the Middle East at a pivotal point in history. So much has been written and even more said about that man. He has been the justification for wars and motivation for peace, fuel for anger and love. He has been the talk of popes and televangelists, corner prophets and cult leaders, country preachers, and mega-church pastors—Jesus and His message can seem ubiquitous. But for us it is simple. We find ourselves believing the story about Him that has been passed down to us. People who knew Him wrote of their time with Him and the effect it had on their communities. From that record, we have learned who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life and bore the punishment for all sin of all time by dying on a cross. His death and resurrection have purchased us a whole new sort of life, one that we pursue together.
Talk about controversy. From bible thumpers to politicians, everybody uses the Bible for their own purposes. That’s the problem with being the bestselling book of all time; everybody wants it on their side. People respond differently to that controversy; some dismiss it completely while others cling to a literal translation. For us, because we are followers of Jesus, the most important is remembering His relationship to it. He treated the Old Testament as authoritative, and the New Testament tells His life and message. For that reason, the Bible is our authority. Neither a rule book nor a guidebook, the Bible is the story of God dealing with people. Preserved through centuries and handed down to us, we try to understand it in the spirit it was written. Our reading is colored by our knowledge of the original context, the overall story, and the interpretations of the generations that have gone before us. We receive it as from God, and we are always trying to learn more about it.
Following Jesus is all about relationship. Living in a relationship with a person that you cannot see is not always easy. But the compelling thing about Jesus is how consistently He takes the initiative with us. A pastor during the first century once wrote that Jesus loved us before we were able to love Him. That is how we understand baptism, Jesus taking the initiative: loving us before we are able to love Him. Using water, we baptize people of all ages in God’s name just as he told us; realizing that it is always Jesus who takes the initiative to establish relationship.
Jesus was a radical. He spent his life invigorating Israelite customs and reinterpreting their laws. At the final meal before His death, He did it again. At a traditional Passover, Jesus told His followers that the wine was His blood and the bread His body. It sounds crazy on the surface, but they believed it because they knew Him. His followers have continued the practice of that meal up to today. Following Jesus is not easy, it never has been, but when we share that meal we call Communion we are tied to Jesus and one another in a way unlike any other. Through His body and blood, we receive forgiveness and strength to persevere. It may be a lot to swallow that simple bread and wine could do all that, but we believe it because we know Him.
For us, prayer is not empty empathy. It is not wishful thinking or happy thoughts sent out to the universe; prayer is a conversation with God. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, we have become the daughters and sons of God. God not only loves us, but God also listens to us. God acts on our behalf. So we pray a lot, for everything, and we look to Him for answers.
Worship can happen in almost any context to almost anything. Throughout the history of the world, people have found lots of ways to worship lots of things. Jesus encouraged His followers to worship God and serve Him only. When we talk about it, we are most concerned with the attitude or posture of our hearts. Worship is simply calling God who He is. This can happen alone in our closets or together in our worship center. With our hearts, minds, mouths, and bodies we proclaim that Jesus is king, the Father is good, and the Spirit is our counselor.
Most people, especially in the United States, have had some experience with a church. Whether you belong to that group or not, it is important to realize what the church is. The church is not all about teachings, buildings, or denominations; the church is simply people following Jesus. We come together in buildings and study scripture because it is difficult to follow Jesus, especially alone. We share our lives by committing to the same things and asking similar questions. We do that not only because it makes life easier, but also because it’s who Jesus was. He lived in a team and we try to as well. It may not be perfect, but it’s who we are: committed to Jesus, our communities, and one another.
theCross Mount Dora is a part of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). The LCMS is a Lutheran denomination that dates back to the 1860s and was begun by a group of German immigrants. While we work with this larger group to train our pastors and teachers and send missionaries overseas, we are still completely autonomous; we select our pastors and own our land and buildings. Any authority that the Synod has is strictly advisory to the congregation. By joining with the other 6000+ congregations that make up the Synod, we have the opportunities and privileges of a much larger group while maintaining the close family atmosphere that allows us to care for each other.