“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Our Real. Present. God. promises to be a very present help in times of trouble. This statement creates a tension by putting opposing thoughts side-by-side: help and trouble, hope and grief, the presence of God and the presence of trouble. This tension that we encounter in Psalm 46:1 is just one of many, many tensions throughout Scripture.

This study, What Does it Mean to be Lutheran?, explores how the Lutheran tradition delights in the tensions of Scripture, even if it is a challenge to hold these tensions together. These four sessions will help students begin to understand the unique aspects of the Lutheran tradition. Participants will learn how the Lutheran tradition confesses that Jesus is at the center of our salvation, faith, and life. Additionally, this study explores key parts of the Christian life including God’s Word, Baptism, Holy Communion, prayer, and worship.

The session topics include:

  • Holy Tensions: In Jesus All Things Hold Together: The Bible is full of contrasting truths that could be called “holy tensions.” These holy tensions are present in the Psalms as well as the life and ministry of Jesus.
  • Holy Tensions: Dead and Alive, Sinner and Saint: Based on Scripture, the Lutheran tradition teaches and confesses the tensions of “Law and Gospel” and “Sinner and Saint.” The Psalms depict these particular tensions and allow us to see what these biblical truths look like in our own lives.
  • Holy Tensions: God’s Glocal Presence: God’s Word and Sacraments are a holy tension with the creator of the universe being locally present. The Psalms show us how God is transcendentally beyond this world and also present in real ways.
  • Holy Tensions: Living in Holy Tension: Worship, devotional life, prayer, and Christian love are fraught with holy tensions. The Psalms depict God’s people as always living within these various holy tensions.

Lutherans are serious about keeping Jesus front-and-center in our lives, our faith, and our churches. And the Lutheran tradition is serious about maintaining the tensions of our Real. Present. God. We believe that messy biblical tensions are not meant to be cleaned up and shoved into tidy little boxes. Rather, these holy tensions are to be celebrated and confessed!

Download the Leader Notes.
Download the Participant Handouts.

Related Resources:

The following resources are available on youthESource.com. Some may provide helpful information as you prepare to lead this study, while others are Bible studies and other resources you can use following this study that go more in-depth on certain topics.

A Law and Gospel Primer – A resource for the Bible study leader (helpful for session 2)

Learning for Life: Encouraging Teens to Experience the Bible – A resource for the Bible study leader (helpful for session 4)

Bible Study: In Everything – A Bible study on prayer

Bible Study: Living Worship – A Bible study on worship