Should You Go to a Lutheran Church This Good Friday?

Should You Go to a Lutheran Church This Good Friday? April 17, 2019
Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace…

 

Post by Nathan Rinne

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You should definitely consider it. If you go to an LC-MS, WELS, or ELS Lutheran Church, for example*, you will quite likely be impressed with the service.

The Good Friday service is one of the things these “confessional Lutherans” do best. Even if certain congregations from these church bodies, sadly, might not be riveted on the heart of the Christian faith each and every Sunday, chances are very good that on Good Friday they will get things right.

This is one of the reasons, I think, that a Facebook friend of mine, Pastor Andrew Preus, posted the following yesterday.

Often when parents or friends or pastors try to convince someone who has been despising the means of grace to come to church, they will make a renewed attempt around big holidays like Christmas or Easter. I have done this for years. We say things like, “But it’s EASTER! Of all Sundays, you can’t skip church on this day!”

But we should be careful not to persuade people to come to church by means of mere sentimental appeals to nostalgic feelings of Easter breakfasts followed by a service. Instead, keep in mind the Alleluia verse for Easter taken from 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Let us keep the feast of the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” So here is my advice for those faithful Christians who might have loved ones, neighbors, friends, relatives, or someone else who is either not familiar with the gospel or has been despising it for months or years. If you want to invite them to church during Easter, bring them instead to Good Friday service. Then ask them what they think of what they heard. Talk about our Lord’s death, the cost and payment of our sins, and the deep love of God to make atonement for them. Have a solemn assembly, so to speak.

Review the Ten Commandments, especially the third (and most likely the fourth and sixth as well!), learn to repent, and learn to take comfort in the death of Christ. Then, if this comforts you and if you are truly sorry for your sins, join us to celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection in sincerity and truth!

Pastor Preus’ message was hard, but rooted in great truths. I deeply appreciate the serious way he looks at things.

One of the things his message made me think about was how years ago my family reluctantly stopped attending the Lutheran Church we were attending. Why? Because every other Sunday wasn’t enough like Good Friday…

The blood that covers sinners is for you to. “The cross is our theology,” said Martin Luther.

 

I am not saying that there is not time in the church for an all out Easter celebration, for Resurrection. Indeed, let the trumpets blare with a joyful noise! The point is that without Good Friday, the true meaning and joy of Easter cannot begin to be grasped: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!

In the letter I wrote to my pastor, explaining why we were leaving, I said the following:

“…Speaking for myself here, I used to ask regarding worship, “Why shouldn’t the Holy of Holies become the Friendly of Friendlies?” (Ft. Wayne theologian David Scaer’s phrase).  Was not Jesus kind to all?

This is the answer that has gradually formed in my mind over the last several years due to my reading of God’s Word, listening to many Bible teachers and commentators, and my own reflection:  Jesus, though ever-kind, only shows His “friendliness” to those who take Him seriously (fear of God)—to His own, or to those looking to become His own (if one will argue against this, at the very least could we not agree that [seriousness is at issue] when it comes to the Divine Service, to Eucharistic worship?—see Hebrews 12:22-29 for example). On the other hand, to those who do not take Him seriously—His enemies—He simply dies for them in all seriousness, with a heart of true love, which is an unpretentious, no-nonsense love, and is pure unsentimental unwavering kindness. This he does whispering “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. There is nothing that could ever possibly be construed as “cheesy” or “gimmicky” with Jesus. In short, “the Passion of the Christ” [Note: the movie had recently been released] is our theology, or we have no true theology. It alone is to be the centerpiece of our worship. And in all honesty, it’s the only way that the books of Leviticus and Revelation even start to make sense to me.

What of the lost? Well, certainly we are to be about the same business of Jesus, who came to seek and to save them. The Divine Worship, however, is serious business, and is meant for the people of God—though all seekers and even rank unbelievers may come into the presence of this wrathful and yet kind lamb—if they dare. This is the kind of worship—more—the kind of Catechesis, in which [my wife] and I desire to raise our children.

I don’t really sense much of this approach [here]….

Focus.

 

I ended up in a much more serious church – a church where the Good Friday message was always in the background. A church where solemnity and joy went hand in hand, all the time

What is that kind of a church like? Are you not sure about this? The LC-MS church of Dr. Eric Phillips (Concordia Lutheran Nashville), who has also written for this blog in the past, has produced some absolutely standout videos (which are also short). They demonstrate, I think, the best of what the churches of the Lutheran confession have to offer.

My favorite video is this first one, which I can’t recommend highly enough. Here, Dr. Eric Phillips explains “the value of church attendance and the dangers of not regularly hearing and receiving God’s word through the gifts He has provided to nurture faith”:

 

So, what is in the other videos? In this second one, Pastor Phillips explains the nature of the Lutheran worship service as a whole, or as we like to say, “Divine Service”:

 

And here he “explains the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper from the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions.” (this is the final part of a four-part series on the Eucharist):

 

What about baptism? Is the Lutheran view biblical? Here, the good pastor “explains the sacrament of baptism from the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions” (this is the final part of a five-part series on baptism):

 

Finally, don’t those Lutheran pastors say “*I* forgive you your sins”? “How in the world can they do that!?” you might ask. This short video “discusses why absolution works”:

 

Again, if you don’t watch any of the other videos above, at least consider watching that first one! (and maybe the last one as well : ) )

I think it sums up well the heartbeat of Christ’s church.

For He is the Friend of Sinners.

I hope and pray that you will consider going to a confessional Lutheran church this Sunday. You may be able to find a good one here using this site (it works according to zip code). If, perchance, you will be in the northwest parts of Wisconsin, I will be leading a service in a small country church there.

Have a blessed Holy Week!

FIN

 

*Or perhaps, for example, an AALC or CLC church (these are even smaller, but very confessional, Lutheran congregations).

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