We’re a Reformation Church
Lutherans are Christians whose faith is guided by the teachings of Martin Luther, one of the leaders of the Reformation of the church in the 1500’s. In the 1500’s, the church featured many different ways for Christians to earn the blessing of eternal life.
But Luther taught that in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we can see that God already loves us. We don’t have to do a thing to earn God’s love. That’s the Good News of God’s Grace! That’s the Gospel! When we realize or discover and begin to trust or have faith in that love, we are grateful to God and motivated to follow Jesus as he calls us to love each other, our neighbors, and make disciples of “all nations” (John 13:34-35, Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-31, Matthew 28:16-20).
Luther taught that faith is not something we’re born with. Faith is also not something we can “do” on our own. Otherwise, faith would be just another thing we could “do” to earn the blessing of eternal life. Luther taught that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who uses every word of the Gospel we hear (or see) to create faith in us.
Lutherans believe God’s Holy Spirit arrives in our lives in our Baptism and that the Holy Spirit never gives up trying to create faith in us. Lutherans believe Baptism is one of two sacraments. Sacraments are things Jesus specifically commanded us to do that are a visible way that our invisible God comes to us to bless us.
For Lutherans there are only two Sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion.
Saints and Sinners
We hear the Gospel most clearly in worship, especially in the sermon, but also in the words of confession and forgiveness at the beginning of our service and the liturgical music* and hymns we sing throughout the service. Lutherans believe we need to keep on hearing the Gospel, because Lutherans believe we are always both saints and sinners, always loved by God but at the same time, always not perfect, always in need for forgiveness from God for our sins, our failures, our doubts.
*Liturgical music: words sung in worship in different ways for the last 2,000 years. These words are mostly from the Bible; some of them were used in worship in the days of the Old Testament! Learn more about Worship at Grace.
What is sin? For many Lutherans, sin is at least partly defined by Jesus’ interpretation of the Ten Commandments. When we fail to obey the Ten Commandments as Jesus taught them, we are failing to obey God. Matthew 5:21-48 is one place where Jesus taught how to understand and obey the Ten Commandments. Jesus also thought all of God’s commandments can be summed up in just two: love God and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. Failure to love God and neighbor is sin. Luther’s teachings about the Ten Commandments in the Small Catechism are another excellent restatement of how Jesus taught the Ten Commandments. Here’s how Luther understands the fifth commandment against murder:
“We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs.”
Evangelical Lutheran Worship, “The Small Catechism of Martin Luther”
According to Luther, in other words, the fifth commandment is not just about murder. It’s about helping and supporting our neighbors in all their needs. All these teachings show us that it’s impossible for us be perfect in God’s sight. We’re always saints and sinners.
As we share bread and the fruit of the vine together during Holy Communion, Lutherans believe Jesus is truly present to offer us forgiveness of sin. At Grace we celebrate Holy Communion at every regularly scheduled worship service. Why every week? Because every week, we’re saints and sinners! Every week we’re always welcome to supper with our Lord Jesus. And with love and forgiveness in his heart, Jesus is glad to see us!
Lutherans believe the Nicene and Apostolic Creeds correctly define who God is, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Jesus of Nazareth was a human being in whom God was fully present to welcome the whole world into his family. Religious people and governmental officials arranged to have Jesus executed. In this way, Jesus died trying to offer us the Gospel, trying to offer us the welcome, forgiveness, and healing we need from God. Jesus’ disciples believed Jesus was raised from the dead to lead them to continue to bring the Gospel to the whole world. Jesus’ disciples believed that the Holy Spirit came to them on Pentecost Day to give them the power they needed to accomplish this tremendous mission! Learn more about the Creeds at Worship at Grace.
Lutherans gratefully believe that Jesus’ sacrifice is what gave them a place in God’s family. We can’t earn the blessing of being called God’s daughter or son. It’s a gift of God’s love and grace in Jesus that makes us so. Gratitude for this gift motivates us to try to live obedient to the Ten Commandments as Jesus and Luther taught them and to try to follow Jesus by bringing the Gospel to the whole world.