With the universal Christian church, 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. As a member of this synod, Pilgrim Ev. Lutheran Church accepts and preaches the Bible-based teachings of Martin Luther that inspired the reformation of the Christian Church in the 16th century. These teachings can be summarized in three phrases: grace alone, faith alone, and 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 forgives sinners 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.
Confirmation is a time of thorough instruction in the Christian faith. Another word for teaching the Christian faith is “catechesis,” and traditionally the church uses a “catechism” – a handbook of the faith – to do this teaching. The Lutheran Church is blessed to have one of the finest catechisms ever written: Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. This handbook is a summary and guide to the Scriptures. It includes six chief parts: 1. The Ten Commandments, 2. The Apostle’s Creed, 3. The Lord’s Prayer, 4. Holy Baptism, 5. Confession and Absolution, and 6. The Lord’s Supper. In each of these chief parts, Luther begins with the text of Scripture and then explains its meaning with simple questions and answers. At the end of the book, he offers simple prayers for daily life. Together with Luther’s Catechism, we use the Bible itself, the church’s liturgy and hymns, and other resources to teach the faith. Our goal is not just to impart knowledge of God, but to help the baptized grow in their relationship with God and to lead them into a full Christian life of regular worship, prayer, and service to others.
The Lutheran Church is a sacramental church. We confess that God works not only through the preached Word, but also through common things like water, bread, and wine in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are the instruments of His Word to bring us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We do not believe, however, as some churches do, that Confirmation is a sacrament that completes Baptism. We believe, as Scripture teaches, that Baptism is a washing of water and the Holy Spirit by which a person is cleansed of his or her sins and reborn to new life in Christ (Matthew, 3.16, John 3.5, Acts 2.38–39, 1 Corinthians 6.11, 12.13, Titus 3.5–6). Baptism is complete in making us Christians. Confirmation does not complete Baptism, but is a public rite that includes a confession of faith by the confirmand, the laying on of hands, words of Scripture, and the prayer of the church. These things are not instituted by God, but are helpful in confirming, that is, strengthening, the faith of the baptized. In harmony with the historic practice of the Christian Church, Lutherans baptize infants. Through God’s action in Holy Baptism we become God’s children. He forgives our sins, grants the Holy Spirit, and gives faith in Christ. Following Christ’s own command (Matthew 28.16–20), we believe it is essential that this new faith be strengthened through the teaching of God’s Word, and it is this teaching, rather than the actual rite, that is the main thing in Confirmation. While Baptism is not a prerequisite for instruction in the faith, Baptism is the means by which a person enters into the Christian Church. For that reason, the Confirmation rite itself does not take place before a person is baptized.
One of the most important goals of Confirmation instruction is preparation to receive Christ’s Body and Blood worthily. Following the words of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 10–11), we believe that the Lord’s Supper can be received to one’s good or one’s harm. To receive it rightly it is important to be able to examine oneself and confess one’s sins, to know and trust what is given in the Sacrament. Since the Lord’s Supper is the church’s most intimate fellowship, and the greatest expression of our unity in Christ, it is also important that each communicant know and confess fully the Christian faith as taught in the Lutheran Church. This is why we ordinarily commune only those who are confirmed.
Traditionally, Confirmation instruction is for children, beginning around sixth grade and lasting for about three years. No specific age is given by Scripture, however, and some children may be ready earlier, some later. The pastor, parents, and child work through this decision together. Adults are also invited to enter instruction designed specifically for them: either a course of instruction before receiving Baptism and the Lord’s Supper for the first time or appropriate instruction before communing in and joining the Lutheran Church. Please contact Pastor Rusnak for further conversation.
For more information about who we are and what we believe, teach, and confess, please visit www.lcms.org, the website of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.