Mt. Olive is a church that embraces the rich traditions of the historic Christian faith. We celebrate communion each Sunday as we participate in the Divine Service. We invite you to learn more about us and to come worship the Triune God with us.
With the universal Christian Church, Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, teaches and responds to the love of the Triune God: the Father, creator of all that exists; Jesus Christ, the Son, who became human to suffer and die for the sins of all human beings and to rise to life again in the ultimate victory over death and Satan; and the Holy Spirit, who creates faith through God's Word and Sacraments. The three persons of the Trinity are coequal and coeternal, one God.
Being "Lutheran," our congregations accept and teach Bible-based teachings of Martin Luther that inspired the reformation of the Christian Church in the 16th century. The teaching of Luther and the reformers can be summarized in three short phrases: Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone.
God loves the people of the world, even though they are sinful, rebel against Him and do not deserve His love. He sent Jesus, His Son, to love the unlovable and save the ungodly.
By His suffering and death as the substitute for all people of all time, Jesus purchased and won forgiveness and eternal life for them. Those who hear this Good News and believe it have the eternal life that it offers. God creates faith in Christ and gives people forgiveness through Him.
The Bible is God's inerrant and infallible Word, in which He reveals His Law and His Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is the sole rule and norm for Christian doctrine.
Learn More about what it means to be a Lutheran.
Although God is present and operates everywhere throughout all creation and the whole earth is therefore full of the temporal bounties and blessings of God, Col. 1:17; Acts 17:28; 14:17, still we hold with Scripture that God offers and communicates to men the spiritual blessings purchased by Christ, namely, the forgiveness of sins and the treasures and gifts connected therewith, only through the external means of grace ordained by Him. These means of grace are the Word of the Gospel, in every form in which it is brought to man, and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and of the Lord's Supper. The Word of the gospel promises and applies the grace of God, works faith and thus regenerates man, and gives the Holy Ghost, Acts 20:24; Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23; Gal. 3:2. Baptism, too, is applied for the remission of sins and is therefore a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5. Likewise the object of the Lord's Supper, that is, of the ministration of the body and blood of Christ, is none other than the communication and sealing of the forgiveness of sins, as the words declare: "Given for you," and: "Shed for you for the remission of sins," Luke 22:19, 20; Matt. 26:28, and "This cup is the New Testament in My blood," 1 Cor. 11:23; Jer. 31:31-34 ("New Covenant").
Learn more about the Means of Grace.
While there are a variety of ways one could answer this question, one very important answer is simply this, "A Lutheran is a person who believes, teaches and confesses the truths of God's Word as they are summarized and confessed in the Book of Concord." The Book of Concord contains the Lutheran confessions of faith.
Perhaps you have attended an ordination of a pastor and heard him promise that he will perform the duties of his office in accord with the Lutheran Confessions. When people are received into membership into a Lutheran congregation through confirmation they are asked if they confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, as they have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true.
These solemn promises indicate to us just how important the Lutheran Confessions are for our church. Let's take a look at the various items contained in the Book of Concord and then we will talk about why the Lutheran Confessions are so important for being a Lutheran.
The three ecumenical creeds in the Book of Concord are the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. They are described as "ecumenical" [universal] because they are accepted by Christians worldwide as correct expressions of what God's Word teaches.
In the year 1530, the Lutherans were required to present their confession of faith before the emperor in Augsburg, Germany. Philip Melanchthon wrote the Augsburg Confession and it was read before the imperial court on June 30, 1530. One year later, the Lutherans presented their defense of the Augsburg Confession, which is what "apology" here means. It too was written by Philip Melanchthon. The largest document in the Book of Concord, its longest chapter, is devoted to the most important truth of the Christian faith: the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Martin Luther realized early on how desperately ignorant the laity and clergy of his day were when it came to even the most basic truths of the Christian faith. Around 1530, he produced two small handbooks to help pastors and the heads of families teach the faith.
The Small Catechism and the Large Catechism are organized around six topics: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, Holy Baptism, Confession, and the Sacrament of the Altar. So universally accepted were these magnificent doctrinal summaries by Luther, that they were included as part of the Book of Concord.
What are the Smalcald Articles and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope?
In 1537, Martin Luther was asked to prepare a statement of Lutheran belief for use at a church council, if it was called. Luther's bold and vigorous confession of faith was later incorporated into the Book of Concord. It was presented to a group of Lutheran rulers meeting in the town of Smalcald. Philip Melanchthon was asked to expand on the subject of the Roman pope and did so in his treatise, which also was included in the Book of Concord.
After Luther's death in 1546, significant controversies broke out in the Lutheran Church. After much debate and struggle, the Formula of Concord in 1577 put an end to these doctrinal controversies and the Lutheran Church was able to move ahead united in what it believed, taught and confessed. In 1580, all the confessional writings mentioned here were gathered into a single volume, the Book of Concord. Concord is a word that means, "harmony." The Formula of Concord was summarized in a version known as the "Epitome" of the Formula of Concord. This document too is included in the Book of Concord.
We confess that, "The Word of God is and should remain the sole rule and norm of all doctrine" (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 9). What the Bible asserts, God asserts. What the Bible commands, God commands. The authority of the Scriptures is complete, certain and final. The Scriptures are accepted by the Lutheran Confessions as the actual Word of God. The Lutheran Confessions urge us to believe the Scriptures for "they will not lie to you" (LC, V, 76) and cannot be "false and deceitful" (FC SD, VII, 96). The Bible is God's "pure, infallible, and unalterable Word" (Preface to the BOC).
The Lutheran Confessions are the "basis, rule, and norm indicating how all doctrines should be judged in conformity with the Word of God" (FC SD RN). Because the Confessions are in complete doctrinal agreement with the written Word of God, they serve as the standard in the Lutheran Church to determine what is faithful Biblical teaching, insofar as that teaching is addressed in the Confessions.
The Lutheran Reformation was not a "revolt," but rather began as a sincere expression of concern with the false and misleading teachings, which, unfortunately, even to this very day, obscure the glory and merit of Jesus Christ. What motivated Luther was a zealous concern about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is how the Lutheran Confessions explain what the Gospel is all about:
Human beings have not kept the law of God but have transgressed it. Their corrupted human nature, thoughts, words, and deeds battle against the law. For this reason they are subject to God's wrath, to death and all temporal afflictions, and to the punishment of the fires of hell. As a result, the Gospel, in its strict sense, teaches what people should believe, namely, that they receive from God the forgiveness of sins; that is, that the Son of God, our Lord Christ, has taken upon Himself the curse of the law and borne it, atoned and paid for all our sins; that through Him alone we are restored to God's grace, obtain the forgiveness of sins through faith and are delivered from death and all the punishments of our sins and are saved eternally. . . . It is good news, joyous news, that God does not want to punish sin but to forgive it for Christ's sake (FC SD, V, 20).
The word "confession" is used in a variety of ways, but when we speak of a "confessional" Lutheran we mean a Lutheran who declares to the world his faith and most deeply held belief and conviction, in harmony with the documents contained in the Book of Concord. You will catch the spirit of confessional Lutheranism in these, the last words written in the Book of Concord:
Therefore, it is our intent to give witness before God and all Christendom, among those who are alive today and those who will come after us, that the explanation here set forth regarding all the controversial articles of faith which we have addressed and explained–and no other explanation–is our teaching, faith, and confession. In it we shall appear before the judgment throne of Jesus Christ, by God's grace, with fearless hearts and thus give account of our faith, and we will neither secretly nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it. Instead, on the strength of God's grace, we intend to abide by this confession (FC SD, XII, 40).
Confessional Lutheran pastors are required to "subscribe" unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions because they are a pure exposition of the Word of God. This is the way our pastors, and every layman who confesses his belief in the Small Catechism, is able with great joy and without reservation or qualification to say what it is that he believes to be the truth of God's Word.
Dr. C. F. W. Walther, the Missouri Synod's first president, explained the meaning of an unconditional confessional subscription in words as clear and poignant today as they were then:
An unconditional subscription is the solemn declaration which the individual who wants to serve the church makes under oath that he accepts the doctrinal content of our Lutheran Confessions, because he recognizes the fact that they are in full agreement with Scripture and do not militate against Scripture in any point, whether the point be of major or minor importance; and that he therefore heartily believes in this divine truth and is determined to preach this doctrine.
Being a Lutheran is being a person who believes the truths of God's Word, the Holy Bible, as they are correctly explained and taught in the Book of Concord. To do so is to confess the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Genuine Lutherans, confessional Lutherans, dare to insist that "All doctrines should conform to the standards [the Lutheran Confessions] set forth above. Whatever is contrary to them should be rejected and condemned as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith" (FC Ep. RN, 6).
Such a statement may strike some as boastful. But it is not; rather, it is an expression of the Spirit-led confidence that moves us to speak of our faith before the world.
To be a confessional Lutheran is to be one who honors the Word of God. That word makes it clear that it is God's desire for His church to be in agreement about doctrine, and to be of one mind, living at peace with one another (1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11). It is for that reason that we so treasure the precious confession of Christian truth that we have in the Book of Concord. For Confessional Lutherans, there is no other collection of documents, or statements or books that so clearly, accurately and comfortingly presents the teachings of God's Word and reveals the Biblical Gospel as does our Book of Concord.
Hand-in-hand with our commitment to pure teaching and confession of the faith, is, and always must be, our equally strong commitment to reaching out boldly with the Gospel and speaking God's truth to the world. That is what "confession" of the faith is all about, in the final analysis. Indeed, "It is written: I believed; therefore I have spoken.' With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak" (2 Cor. 4:13). This is what it means to be a Lutheran.
Robert Preus, Getting into the Theology of Concord: A Study of the Book of Concord (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1977).
David Scaer, Getting into the Story of Concord: A History of the Book of Concord (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1977).
Since it is only through the external means ordained by Him that God has promised to communicate the grace and salvation purchased by Christ, the Christian Church must not remain at home with the means of grace entrusted to it, but go into the whole world with the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16. For the same reason also the churches at home should never forget that there is no other way of winning souls for the Church and keeping them with it than the faithful and diligent use of the divinely ordained means of grace. Whatever activities do not either directly apply the Word of God or subserve such application we condemn as "new methods," unchurchly activities, which do not build, but harm the Church.
We reject as a dangerous error the doctrine, which disrupted the Church of the Reformation, that the grace and the Spirit of God are communicated not through the external means ordained by Him, but by an immediate operation of grace. This erroneous doctrine bases the forgiveness of sins, or justification, upon a fictitious "infused grace," that is, upon a quality of man, and thus again establishes the work-doctrine of the papists.
You will notice that our worship at Mt. Olive is liturgical. That means that we follow an order of worship drawn largely from God's holy Word, the Bible. Elements of the liturgies used in our church can be traced back to the ancient Hebrews and the order of worship they used in temple and synagogue. Following the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Hebrew liturgies were revised and adapted by the early Church. This was in order to focus the attention of the worshiper upon God's mercy, grace and forgiveness found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Lutherans we at Mt. Olive believe that the primary actor in worship is the Triune God. In the liturgy He serves His redeemed people with the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation for Jesus' sake. In Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Godhead became true Man so He could do all things necessary for sinners to be saved. The incarnate Son of God won this salvation for the whole world by His holy life, His innocent sufferings and death on the Cross, and His bodily resurrection on the third day. Now, in worship, God extends to us the saving benefits of Jesus' life and death through Word and Sacrament.
As orthodox Lutherans, we at Mt. Olive believe the entirety of the Bible is God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. In the Bible, God speaks two words to us: His Word of Law, which exposes and condemns the sins of all people; and His Word of Gospel, the Good News that God freely, graciously forgives sinners for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Every Sunday, at the beginning of our services of worship, we confess before God that we are indeed sinners, deserving of His wrath and punishment. But then we confess that because of Jesus, God has forgiven our sins, made us His children, and given us eternal life and the promise of our own resurrection when Jesus returns for His Church on the last day.
Jesus Christ and the salvation He won for all mankind are at the heart and center of the Scriptures. Sermons at Mt. Olive point us to Jesus and the fact that God saves us by grace alone, through faith alone, for Christ's sake alone. God's reconciliation of sinners to Himself is the chief article of the Christian Faith. This is summarized by the confessional writings in the Book of Concord, a collection of Reformation era documents to which all orthodox Lutherans subscribe. The Book of Concord is a statement of the central teachings of the Christian Faith found in the Bible. The most familiar document in the Book of Concord is Martin Luther's Small Catechism, a concise handbook of what Lutherans believe. Along with the Bible, the Small Catechism is used at Mt. Olive to instruct people who are interested in communicant membership in our church.
The Scriptures teach that there are two Sacraments through which God the Holy Spirit works to brings sinners to faith in Jesus and keep them in that saving faith.
The first of these Sacraments is Holy Baptism. The Scripture describes Baptism as a "washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). In Baptism our sins are forgiven, we are incorporated into Christ, and given salvation and eternal life for Jesus' sake.
Learn more about the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
In accordance with the ancient practice of the Christian Church, we baptize infants at Mt. Olive, for the Savior who said, "let the little children come unto Me," died and was raised again for infants too.
Learn more about infant Baptism.
The second Sacrament administered at Mt. Olive is Holy Communion, or the Sacrament of the Altar. We take the words of our Lord Jesus Christ very seriously, and believe that He literally meant what He said when He told His disciples: "This is My Body, given for you. . . This is My Blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins."
Learn more about the Sacrament of the Altar.
Suppose for a moment that there was a doctor who had such incredible talent that he could prevent people from dying, and bring those who had died back to life, never to die again. Just imagine how people would do whatever they could to be treated by this doctor! Now consider that in Holy Baptism, God actually does give us the gift of eternal life! Let's learn more about this marvelous blessing.
Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's Word. What's so special about a handful of simple water? Nothing, until God connects His Word to it! In Baptism, that is exactly what God is doing. He combines His life-creating and life-giving Word with the waters of Holy Baptism, and thereby we are born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).
Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew (28:19):
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing themin the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord commands Baptism. It is not optional, nor is it simply a nice "extra." God's Word takes on many forms, according to His good and gracious will. The Word is preached, taught, and proclaimed. It is read, studied and meditated on. It is shared by Christians, with non-Christian and fellow believer, alike. And it is that Word of God, His promise, that makes Baptism what it is. God Himself is present as His name is joined to the water, with all His power and all His blessings of forgiveness, life and salvation. Christ consecrates the water of Baptism with His Word, so as we in Baptism stand with Christ in the water, the Father calls us His beloved children, the Holy Spirit is given to us, and heaven is opened to us. Those who receive Baptism after they have been brought to faith by the preaching or teaching of the Word also receive all the blessings God has attached to Baptism.
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. Which are these words and promises of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark (16:16):
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
In and through Baptism, God cleanses us from all of our sins, snatches us from the power of Satan, and gives us everlasting life. It is all God's doing as He gives us His blessing. It is His promise. In Baptism, our Triune God imparts to each of us personally the gifts the Lord Jesus Christ won for the world through His life, suffering, death, and resurrection. Please see especially Gal.3:27, Col.1:13-14, 1 Peter 3:21, Titus 3:5-7, and 1 Cor.6:11.
Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God's Word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three (3:5 - 8):
He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.
Of course, simple water can't do such great things, but the water of Baptism is not simple water! Baptism is one very special way God delivers to us the blessings Christ won for us. Baptism is not something we do, but something God does. Therefore, it is far more than a symbol. It is a sacred act in which God Himself is at work forgiving sins, giving new life in Christ and bestowing on us the Holy Spirit with all of His gifts. Baptism gives us the faith through which we receive these gifts. God the Holy Spirit works faith in the promises attached to Baptism.
It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Where is this written? St.Paul writes in Romans chapter six (6:4):
We were therefore buried with Him through Baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
In Baptism we are buried with Christ, and in Baptism we are raised with Christ. His death and resurrection are made our own, and because of that fact, through our entire life, we are able to say, "I am baptized!" Having been buried with Christ into His death we do not have to be afraid of the tomb in which we will rest one day. Christ has already been there. In Holy Baptism we have passed through His grave into His resurrection. As Luther says in his Large Catechism:
If I am baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body. …No greater jewel can adorn our body and soul than Baptism….Baptism is a treasure which God gives us and faith grasps, just as the Lord Christ upon the cross is not a human work, but a treasure comprehended and offered to us in the Word and received by faith.
Everything! Our entire life is a life lived trusting in the promises of God, given to us in and through Holy Baptism. We are constantly returning to Baptism. In moments of temptation and suffering in our lives, when all seems to be crashing down on us, and in particular in those moments when our sin and the guilt of those sins haunt us, we are able, as Luther says, to "Pull out our Baptism and wave it under the devil's nose and say, 'I am baptized….I have God's bath' It is Christ's own blood. It is a bath blessed and mixed with the blood of Christ." We can't return to the cross of Christ, nor should we attempt to imagine ourselves back there. No, we turn instead to the "here and now" reality of God's work in our lives. We return to our Baptism. For it was there and then that God buried us with Christ and raised us with Him to a new life.
In his Large Catechism, Luther says:
Every Christian has enough to study and to practice all his life. He always has enough to do to believe firmly what Baptism promises and brings -- victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sins, God's grace, the entire Christ, and the Holy Spirit with His gifts.
If you live in repentance, therefore, you are walking in Baptism, which not only announces this new life, but also produces, begins and promotes it. In Baptism we are given the grace, Spirit and power to suppress the old man, so that the new man may come forth and grow strong. Therefore, Baptism remains forever. …Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism.
"We see what a great and excellent thing Baptism is, which snatches us from the jaws of the devil and makes God our own, overcomes and takes away sin and daily strengthens the new man. It always remains until we pass from this present misery to eternal glory" (Large Catechism).
The meaning, power and promise of Holy Baptism rest entirely on the One who lived perfectly in our place and who suffered and died as the sacrificial ransom for the sins of the world. He rose victorious over death and the grave. In Holy Baptism, we receive all the blessings of Christ's atoning sacrifice. Thank God for His gift of Holy Baptism!
-- Dr. A.L. Barry
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
They are baptized for the same reason adults are baptized. Because of the command and promise of God. What is promised in Baptism is given to all who receive it; therefore, infants and young children also have the promise of God. They, too, are made children of God. They, too, are included in the wor 4;al 34;.& nbsp;(Matt.28:19).
Jesus specifically invites little children to come to Him (Luke 18:15-17). But most important, as sinners, infants need what Baptism gives. By His word, God created all that is seen and unseen. By His word, our Lord Christ called a dead man from the tomb (John 11:43-44). The unborn child, John the Baptist, leaped in his mother's womb when he heard the word of God (Luke 1:41-44). Why is there any doubt that in and through the Word and the promise of Baptism, God works a similar gift of faith in the infant? If we misunderstand Baptism to be our work, then we will always cast doubt on it. When we recognize that it is not our work, but God's gracious promise and work, we realize that infants are to be baptized and receive the treasures offered in and through Baptism.
Sadly, there are individuals and church bodies that deny Baptism to young children and infants. They do not believe that these little ones need what Holy Baptism gives. They do not believe what the Bible teaches so clearly, namely, that God saves us through Baptism. As a result of these false teachings, they deny both to themselves and to others the power, blessing and comfort of Holy Baptism. That is tragic, for it is a most serious offense against God to deny what He plainly declares in His Word: "The promise is for you and your children" (Acts 2:39) and "Baptism now saves you". (1 Peter 3:21).
Learn about the dangers of delaying Baptism.
And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. [John 3:5] (Fragment 34 [A.D. 190]).
Infants are not baptized because they believe. They are baptized because of the clear Word, command and promise of God. They are baptized on account of God's grace, not on account of their faith. Martin Luther writes, "For my faith does not constitute Baptism but receives it" (Tappert: p. 443).
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you may not do the things which you have a mind to do.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
1 Peter 2:2
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.
In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in Baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
1 Peter 3:20-21
in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it a few people, eight in all, were saved through water -- and this water symbolizes Baptism that now saves you also.
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home.
1 Corinthians 1:16
Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas.
And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.
For he [John the Baptist] will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb.
And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."
Dr. Martin Chemnitz
"Although we can neither understand nor explain in words what may be the nature of that action or operation of the Holy Spirit in infants who are baptized, nevertheless the Word of God leaves no doubt that such action and operation does occur. This which the Holy Spirit produces in infants we call faith and say that infants believe."
Dr. Johann Gerhard
"Even though we do not understand what all takes place with faith in the tiny, little children, yet we should hold the Word of God in such reverence that we do not deny what it so clearly witnesses to regarding the faith of little children."
Dr. David Scaer
"Surely, if infant brains can process human language and make sense out of their environment, they can process the divine language which proceeds from the mouth of God and calls to faith. It would be strange to assert that the words of the Holy Spirit lack the efficaciousness which human language has with infants."
Dr. William Arndt
"If the question is asked how an infant, unconscious of what is happening around it and unable to understand the meaning of Baptism, can believe, the answer is that not we but the Holy Spirit creates faith in the child receiving Holy Baptism and that He can perform that miracle and take up His dwelling in children as well as in people who are grown up."
Dr. Robert Kolb
"The Word of God is powerful enough, when uttered, to change even a godless heart, which is no less responsive and helpless than any infant."
Dr. Lowell Green
"God does not need human cooperation. In fact, faith is the setting aside of our own activity in order that God may work in us."
(AE, 38:97 - 99)
It seems to me to be the result of God's special counsel and providence that we baptize infants in all of Christendom throughout the world and do not wait until they grow up and reach the age of discretion. If we were now to baptize them as grownups and older persons, I am certain that a tenth of them would not let themselves be baptized, Indeed, if it were up to us, we would surely long, long ago have become nothing but Turks. For those who were not baptized would not go to church and would despise all its doctrine and practice because the church seeks to make them holy, godly people. In fact, this is what they are doing now, although they have been baptized and claim to be Christians. If such an unbaptized multitude would gain the upper hand, what could the result be but a Turkish kingdom or heathenism? Even though there would be a few among them who would go to church, they would nevertheless postpone baptism until the hour of death, as is done now with respect to repentance and amendment of life.
Indeed, I am willing to make a substantial wager that the devil through the activity of the factious spirits and the Anabaptists has all this in mind so that he might put an end to infant baptism. And would want only adults to be baptized. His ideas are surely these: If I could do away with infant baptism, then I could probably deal with the adults in such a way that they would delay and postpone baptism until they had had their fling or until the hour of death. In addition to (encouraging) such postponement I would discreetly keep them from going to church so that they would neither learn about Christ and baptism nor value them in any way. So I would hold up before the great masses in the world powerful examples like the Turks, Persians, Tartars, Jews, and heathens so that finally people would become indifferent and say: Why bother with baptism? Why become Christians?
I, too, want to belong to the majority. Do you think that God will condemn the entire world for the sake of three of four Christians? Why should I live among those few despised beggars and miserable persons? St. Augustine writes concerning himself that his mother and other good friends delayed his baptism and did not want him to be baptized in his youth so that he might not thereafter fall into sin; they wanted to wait until he had left his youthful years behind and might adhere to his baptism more securely. The result of this good intention was that the longer St. Augustine waited the further away from baptism and the gospel he came to be, until he fell prey to the Manichaean heresy and made a mockery of both Christ and his baptism up to his thirtieth year. It was only with extreme difficulty that he returned from heresy to Christ. His mother shed many a bitter tear over this matter and in this way had to atone for the good intention and devotion by which she had aided in delaying her son's baptism.
The devil indeed observes that even without such a delay people are so coarse and godless that a tenth of them do not inquire about the meaning of baptism; they simply never think about it nor thank God that they have been baptized. Much less do they care about their baptism and live according to it by their worthy conduct. What would happen if they would not be baptized at all and would not go to church? As it is, it is difficult to be and remain a Christian even thought we daily teach, pray, and practice baptism.
However, such baptism and teaching constitute a great advantage and a strong admonition which ultimately ought to cause some to exercise greater foresight than an unbaptized heathen. Anyone can readily observe and understand all of this when he sees how people now regard the holy sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord so lightly and assume an attitude toward it as if there were nothing on earth which they needed less than just this sacrament; and yet they want to be called Christians. They imagine, because they have now become free from papal coercion, that they are no longer obligated to use this sacrament but may well do without it and freely despise it without sinning at all. And if this sacrament were never used or were lost, it would not matter to them. In this way they indicate and acknowledge by their deeds with what great devotion and love they previously partook of this sacrament when they were compelled to do so by the pope and what fine Christians they had been. We also learn from this in what a refined way people can be forced to become Christians and pious folk. This is what the pope presumed to do with his laws; as a result only false hypocrites, unwilling and coerced Christians were produced. A person, compelled to be a Christian, however, is a very joyous, acceptable guest in the kingdom of heaven. God is especially pleased with him and will certainly place him at the head of the angels in the deepest part of hell!
I am uneasy and am convinced that a large part of all this is the fault of those of us who are preachers, clergymen, bishops, and spiritual advisers. For we have allowed the people to go their own merry way without amending and changing their lives. We do not admonish, do not urge, no not preserver, even as our office demands. Rather, we snore and sleep as securely as they do, and do not reflect on the matter any more than this: whoever comes to the Lord's Table will come; whoever does not come, let him stay away. Thus we deal with both kinds of Christians, although better things should be expected of us. We know that the abominable Satan and prince of this world does not take a vacation but roams about day and night with his angels and assails both us and the people, detains, hinders, and makes us lazy and sluggish for every kind of worship. Where he is unable to suppress them completely, he tries at least to weaken baptism, the sacrament, the gospel, and all divine order. Since we are familiar with these tactics we should remember that we are the angels and watchmen of our Lord Christ who should daily guard the people against such angels of the devil.
By means of unceasing activity, teaching, admonitions, inducements, and enticements, as St. Paul commands his dear Timothy [1Tim. 4:13 ; 2Tim. 4:2], let us fight boldly so that the devil cannot exercise his mischief so securely and without resistance among Christians.
The Sacrament of the Altar occupies a position of great importance in our life and worship at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church . Twice a month, and on various festivals during the Church Year, we celebrate Holy Communion. In this Sacrament we receive in the bread and wine exactly what our Lord promises -- His true Body and Blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. What a wonderful gift this is! Partaking in faith, recognizing the Real Presence of Jesus' Body and Blood in the elements of the Sacrament, we receive God's forgiveness for all our transgressions against His commandments. Our faith in Christ is strengthened. And we are assured of God's love for us in our Savior Jesus Christ.
But if the Sacrament of the Altar is such a wonderful gift, delivering so many good things, then why can't everyone who attends services at Mt. Olive commune with us? Why are we so particular about who approaches our Altar? Are we perhaps guilty of spiritual elitism in not admitting to the Sacrament everyone who desires to commune here?
I'm sure these are questions that some of you have asked. They're good, honest questions, if asked with the desire to grow in understanding of the Sacrament. They deserve an honest answer.
These questions can best be answered in two parts. The first deals with what the Sacrament gives. The second deals with the Sacrament as a demonstration of the unity of Faith which our Lord commands be shared by those who commune together around our Altar.
So, what does the Sacrament give? As Lutherans we believe our Lord Jesus Christ when He says, "Take, eat. This is My Body given for you. Take, drink. This is My Blood of the New Testament, shed for the remission of sins." These are our Lord's words, His last will and testament to His Church, spoken on the night He instituted the Sacrament. We don't explain them away. Unlike some churches, we don't say that "is" really means "represents" or "symbolizes." As Lutherans who believe the Bible to be God's Word, without error of any kind, we take what Jesus says at face value. "Is" means "is." As the Small Catechism says, the Sacrament of the Altar "is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and drink."
Since the Sacrament is our Lord's true Body and Blood, all who partake of the Sacrament, therefore, receive into their mouths the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. However, the Scriptures make it very plain that to commune in an unworthy manner, not recognizing Christ's Real Presence (His Body and Blood) in the bread and wine, brings harm, not forgiveness. In fact, 1st Corinthians 11:27 - 29 says that those who commune unworthily bring judgment upon themselves. The Sacrament which Christ intends for blessing, becomes for those who commune unworthily a source of injury and harm.
The reality of American Christianity is that most Christian denominations don't believe that Christ is truly present in His Body and Blood under the elements of the Sacrament. Many Christians in this country believe that the Sacrament is to be understood symbolically. As a matter of love and pastoral concern, therefore, we at Mt. Olive want to be certain that those who commune at our Altar understand what is given in the Sacrament, and why. To ensure this we give instruction to those who wish to come to the Sacrament. That way they can commune and receive the blessing that Christ intends, and not harm.
That brings us to the second thing we need to consider: How is the Sacrament of the Altar a demonstration of the unity of Faith among those who commune together? To answer that question, consider the word "Communion." If you break that word down, you have the word "union" plus the prefix "com", which means "with." The word "communion," therefore, literally means "with union."
This is a reminder that those who commune together are to be united in one confession of faith. Such unity, the Scriptures tell us, is commanded by God. It is to be a unity in the truth that the Holy Spirit reveals in the Bible, as we who commune together confess the same things about sin, grace, salvation, God, the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the nature and purpose of the Sacraments.
Consider these questions: Is the Bible the Word of God in its entirety, fully authoritative today? Do God's Commandments stand, or have they been set aside by sociological studies, prevailing cultural norms, or mere human opinion? Are we saved by grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, or do we have to do something to earn salvation? Is Jesus really God in the flesh, or just a gifted teacher with a special relationship with God? Did He really die for the sins of the world, and was He really, bodily raised from the dead? Is Baptism really a washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, intended not just for adults but for children too? In the Sacrament, does our Lord really give us His Body and Blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of our sins?
Sadly, in our day, many churches don't believe the same things about these matters. There are churches (even Lutheran churches) which deny the truths of Scripture we learned to know when we went through confirmation instruction. People should be aware of what the church body in which they hold membership teaches. To belong to a congregation of a particular denomination is to make a public confession that you believe what that denomination teaches. You are in communion with that denomination. It's self-contradictory, therefore, for Christians who are not united in their public confession of faith to give the impression of unity by communing together at the same altar. For example, what legitimate unity can there be between those who belong to a denomination that confesses the Bible is the Word of God in its entirety and those who are members of a denomination that teaches something entirely different about the Bible?
We don't deny that members of other denominations who have genuine faith in Christ are Christians. We do, however, recognize with sadness that not all churches and denominations are united in what they teach. God would have us work for this unity, and once it's a reality it can be demonstrated by our communing together. But until then, we show love for others and for the revealed truth of God's Word in two ways. First, by making sure that those who commune with us understand what the Sacrament gives, and second, that they are really united with us by believing what the Scriptures teach. We sincerely want others who are not part of our fellowship to join us someday at the Altar for Holy Communion. But we want it be a genuine union as, receiving Christ's Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins, we are truly united in one confession of faith.
In the fall of 1892, Dr. George Romoser of Concordia College in Conover was invited by a small group of Lutheran families to hold preaching services at the old Setzer Schoolhouse, which stood about 400 yards behind the present site of the old church and preschool building. These first services were held in a grove of trees, with slab benches serving as seating. None of the hardy souls attending those first services could have foreseen what the next century would hold.
The Mt. Olive Congregation was formally organized in 1895, with a membership of 50 souls. The congregation went to build a sanctuary (shown left) on land donated by Mrs. George Moose and Mr. J. Noah Setzer. The men of the congregation cut the timber, had the logs sawn, and erected the building themselves, dedicating it in the fall of 1895. Rev. George Luecke was called to serve the congregation, doing so for one year before being called to faculty position at Concordia College. Rev. George E. Long was called in 1896, serving until 1909. In that year, Rev. Sidney Keisler became the congregation's third minister, serving Mt. Olive until 1912.
In 1912, Rev. George Long returned to Mt. Olive, remaining here until his death in 1936. During his pastorate, the congregation's growth dictated the need for a larger sanctuary. Despite the fact that the Great Depression held the nation in its grip, the Mt. Olive family was determined to move ahead. In 1932, the original wooden structure was torn down and a larger brick church building was erected, with part of the work being done by members of the congregation.
Mt. Olive's second house of worship (shown right) was dedicated to the glory of God in November 1932, only three months after the groundbreaking ceremony and exactly 37 years after the dedication of the first building. On that day, the Mt. Olive congregation numbered some 120 souls.
During the 1930′s there was much excitement in the congregation when the church's first pipe organ was built, installed and dedicated. This organ provided years of beautiful music before being dismantled and moved to the third sanctuary in 1968.
During Rev. Long's final illness, the congregation had been faithfully served by Rev. O.W.H. Lindemeyer, a professor at Concordia College. He accepted the congregation's call following the death of Pastor Long. Rev. Lindemeyer served until 1952, during which time the spiritual community of Mt. Olive continued to grow and prosper.
In 1953, Rev. Margold W. Harman accepted the call to Mt. Olive. His pastorate was especially noted for the fact that the congregation grew too large to be accommodated by the existing facility. The congregation took on the challenge of planning and constructing a new building (shown below right). Led by Pastor Harman, the congregation built a beautiful modern facility on land obtained from Rev. and Mrs. Brandon, a site located directly across the highway from the 1932 building. This building was designed to serve not only the congregation existing at that time, but also to expand for future growth. Dedicated to God's glory in 1968, this third sanctuary still stand and serves as a testimony to the faith and determination of a congregation and its pastor.
Rev. Harman retired in 1974, having seen Mt. Olive grow and flourish. In November of that year, Rev. Carl E. Scaer was installed as pastor. Under his gentle guidance, Mt. Olive continued to grow in number and in faith. In September of 1978, the church family mourned the death of Pastor Scaer, our sadness tempered by the hope and joy our faith provides us.
In June of 1979, Rev. Richard A. Mazak was installed as pastor. During his pastorate, the congregation, in 1985, established a preschool, which provided loving Christian care for 65 children and had a staff of 7. The continued growth of the congregation made further expansion of the facility necessary. Additional classrooms, church offices, and a fellowship hall were added in 1986. To enhance the beauty of worship services, a magnificent new pipe organ was built for the church and dedicated in January of 1989 Rev. Mazak resigned in June of 1991, and the congregation was served from September of that year until June of 1992 by Rev. David Rubke as interim pastor. On June 14, 1992, Rev. Gerald E. Todd was installed as pastor of Mt. Olive and left to serve First Lutheran Church in Towson Maryland in July 1999.
From July 1999 until August 2001 Rev. Delbert R. Roth, retired pastor from St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Conover, served as interim Pastor for the congregation.
On August 19, 2001, the Rev. Ralph A. Abernethy III was installed to serve the congregation in accordance with the Confessions and practices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.