The Lutheran sacraments are "sacred acts of divine institution". Lutherans believe that, whenever they are properly administered by the use of the physical component commanded by God along with the divine words of institution, God is, in a way specific to each sacrament, present with the Word and physical component. They teach that God earnestly offers to all who receive the sacrament forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. They teach that God also works in the recipients to get them to accept these blessings and to increase the assurance of their possession.
In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, sacraments are defined as:
If we define the sacraments as rites, which have the command of God and to which the promise of grace has been added, it is easy to determine what the sacraments are, properly speaking. For humanly instituted rites are not sacraments, properly seen because human beings do not have the authority to promise grace. Therefore signs instituted without the command of God are not sure signs of grace, even though they perhaps serve to teach or admonish the common folk.
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which one is initiated into the Christian faith. Lutherans teach that at baptism, people receive regeneration and God's promise of salvation. At the same time, they receive the faith they need to be open to God's grace. Lutherans baptize by sprinkling or pouring water on the head of the person (or infant) as the Trinitarian formula is spoken. Lutherans teach baptism to be necessary, but not absolutely necessary, for salvation. That means that although baptism is indeed necessary for salvation, it is, as Luther said, contempt for the sacraments that condemns, not lack of the sacraments. Therefore, one is not denied salvation merely because one may have never had the opportunity to be baptized. This is what is meant by saying that baptism is necessary--but not absolutely necessary--to salvation. Martin Luther discussed baptism in detail in his 1520 work called, "The Babylonian Captivity of the Church."
The Sacrament of the Eucharist (also called the Sacrament of the Altar, the Mass, the Lord's Supper, the Lord's Table, (Holy) Communion, the Breaking of the Bread, and the Blessed Sacrament) is where communicants eat and drink the true Body and Blood of Christ Himself, "in, with and under the forms" of the consecrated bread and wine. This Eucharistic theology is known as the Sacramental Union. (It has been called "consubstantiation", but most Lutheran theologians reject the use of this term, as it creates confusion with an earlier doctrine of the same name.)
In historic Lutheran practice, Holy Absolution is held every Saturday, which is the evening before the offering of the Holy Mass on the Lord's Day; additionally, Holy Absolution is expected before one's First Communion. Shrove Tuesday is a popular day for Holy Absolution as the following day (Ash Wednesday) begins the Christian season of repentance, Lent.
The rite for General Confession, as well as Holy Absolution, are contained in the Lutheran hymnals.
The Lutheran Churches affirm the seal of the confessional, which mandates that a priest can not disclose the contents of a confession to any third party as he is acting in persona Christi. Many countries have laws that respect this priest-penitent privilege.
Confirmation is a public profession of faith prepared for by long and careful instruction. In English, it is known as the "affirmation of baptism", and is a mature and public profession of the faith which "marks the completion of the congregation's program of confirmation ministry". The German language uses for Lutheran confirmation a different word (Konfirmation) from the word used for the same Sacrament in the Catholic Church (Firmung). Confirmation teaches Baptized Christians about Martin Luther's doctrine on the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the three Lutheran sacraments: the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, the Sacrament of Holy Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. An average catechism class lasts about two years.
Holy Matrimony is a union between a man and woman, acknowledging the grace of God in their life.
Although the Lutheran Confessions do not deny that Holy Orders may be considered Sacramental (See "Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII," paragraphs 11-12: "But if ordination be understood as applying to the ministry of the Word, we are not unwilling to call ordination a sacrament. For the ministry of the Word has God's command and glorious promises, Rom. 1:16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Likewise, Is. 55:11: So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please. 12] If ordination be understood in this way, neither will we refuse to call the imposition of hands a sacrament."), Lutherans, on the whole, reject the Roman Catholic teaching of Holy Orders because they do not think sacerdotalism is supported by the Bible. Martin Luther taught that each individual was expected to fulfill his God-appointed task in everyday life. The modern usage of the term vocation as a life-task was first employed by Martin Luther. In Luther's Small Catechism, the holy orders include, but are not limited to the following: bishops, pastors, preachers, governmental offices, citizens, husbands, wives, children, employees, employers, young people, and widows.
The Lutheran Church, like others, use James 5:14-15 as biblical reference for Anointing of the Sick. The process of this rite consists of laying on of hands and/or anointing with oil; while the form consists of prayers.
We confess our sins on Shrove Tuesday as a way of getting ready for Lent. Once the distractions of sin are cleared from our lives we are prepared to focus solely on the merits of Christ's passion for the forty days of Lent.