If you could describe the Lutheran church in one word, it would be GRACE – the fact that we are saved by Christ’s death on the cross, a gift that we cannot accomplish on our own. We strongly emphasize God’s mercy and forgiveness. We strive to live faithfully in response to the love we have already received from God. While not a uniquely Lutheran concept, we are careful to focus on this gift of grace because it is key to our historical beginnings. In the 1500s, Dr. Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk, challenged the selling of indulgences and practice of the sacraments as ways to earn salvation. He stressed that we are unequivocally saved by grace, received through faith in Jesus Christ – not through human rites, goodness, or works of the law.
While he hoped to reform the church he loved, his teachings proved to be such a departure from the Catholic church of that time, a new denomination was formed. Lutheranism grew from its German base northward to Scandinavia.
American Lutheranism was born out of the great waves of immigration, which populated our country in the 1800 and 1900s. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (our denomination at Christ the Lord) is the result of years of church mergers, the most recent of which took place in 1988. The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod is a more conservative style of Lutheranism and remains a separate denomination.
First and foremost we are Christians – from a Lutheran perspective! What does this mean? We emphasize:
- GRACE – We cannot earn God’s love, it is a freely given gift
- FAITH – A faith relationship with Jesus Christ assures us of God’s forgiveness
- WORSHIP – When we worship, when we receive Holy Communion, we are strengthened for daily faith and life
- WELCOME – All of God’s diverse children are welcome here
- GROWTH – In response to God’s love, we strive to grow in faith and trust
- SERVICE – We are called to use our resources to care for the needs of others
- MINISTRY OF ALL – In baptism, we are all made ministers of Christ, a calling expressed in daily life.
Dr. Martin Luther lived in Germany during the 1500’s. Frustrated with the teachings of the Roman Catholic church of his day, Luther emphasized the gift of salvation received through faith in Jesus Christ. While we certainly do not worship Luther, we do appreciate his teachings about Christianity and accept some of his writings as formal doctrine.
Luther and Lutheranism
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Martin Luther was eight years old when Christopher Columbus set sail from Europe and landed in the Western Hemisphere. Luther was a young monk and priest when Michaelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel in Rome. A few years later, he was a junior faculty member at a new university in small-town Germany, intently studying the Scriptures, “captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans.”
In these days Luther was tormented by the demand for righteousness before God. “I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God.” Then, in the midst of that struggle with God, the message of the Scriptures became clear, like a long-shut door opening wide. When he realized that a “merciful God justifies us by faith … I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”
What Luther discovered is the freedom of Christians trusting God’s mercy in Christ. As he later wrote, “Faith is God’s work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God. This faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that believers would stake their lives on it a thousand times.”
This discovery set Luther’s life on a new course —both his own life and his public service as a preacher and teacher. When a church-endorsed sales team came to the Wittenberg area in October, 1517, Luther was concerned that the promotion and sale of indulgences undermined the promise of God’s unreserved mercy in Jesus and the faith that trusts that promise. His 95 Theses or Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences became the first of a life-long stream of books, sermons, letters, essays, even hymns in which he expressed his confidence in this life-giving promise from God, the Gospel, and its liberating implications for all of life in church and society. More
For more information on the Lutheran church visit ELCA website.
Statements of Belief
Lutherans believe in the Triune God. God created and loves all of creation — the earth and the seas and all of the world’s inhabitants. We believe that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, transforms lives through his death on the cross and his new life, and we trust that God’s Spirit is active in the world.
We are part of God’s unfolding plan. When we gather for worship, we connect with believers everywhere. When we study the Bible or hear God’s word in worship, we are drawn more deeply into God’s own saving story.
The convictions shared by Christians from many different traditions are expressed in statements of belief called creeds.
These ecumenical creeds that Lutherans affirm and use in worship confess the faith of the church through the ages and around the world.
The Confession of Faith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is part of our founding constitution. The ELCA accepts the Apostles’ & Nicene creeds as true declarations of the faith of this church.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead.*
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son,* who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
For more information about Lutheranism, please see the ELCA website