What is a Lutheran Church?

See also the story of Lutheranism according to the ELCA

The name Lutheran was first used as an insult against the associates of Martin Luther (16th century), as in “you’re no Christian, you’re Lutheran.”

But the so-called Lutherans weren’t trying to start a new religion or even sect; they were trying to call the Church back to its root: the gospel as actual good news for all people.

Many of us at FLC don’t consider ourselves Lutheran, and some of us aren’t sure they’re Christian. We don’t go to church because we’ve got things figured out, but because we don’t. And that’s kind of a Lutheran way of thinking.  We’re always beginning.

Lutheran Protestants trace their origins to the early church and through the Reformation in Europe.  They are now prominent in the US, Tanzania, Indonesia and many other places.

What makes us worthy?

Lutheranism as a confession of faith deals with Paul’s word “justification.” What justifies me being me?   Why should I have a future?

What makes people worthy?  Isn’t it our work?  Accomplishments?  So we hear.  Respect goes to those who excel, who get lots of likes on their posts and successfully accept themselves and stay out of trouble: “it’s on you to measure up and get right with God.”

But the story of Jesus shows us that God’s love for us isn’t determined by how well we perform, nor is it just for those born into privilege.  God already rejoiced in us before we were born. God promises us justice and a future that we can’t attain otherwise.  It’s all grace.

We don’t often think of religious types as liberated people.  But if we don’t have to be constantly fretting about measuring up or proving ourselves to God and everyone else, we’re free to focus on helping people around us-

Free to notice the needs of our neighbor.  Liberty lives as love (see Galatians 5-6).  Lutheran efforts in fighting poverty and disaster relief are important on a global scale.

God comes down to meet us just where we are. (Image: from an FLC hiking trip).

A few more things about Lutheran Christianity …

Our denomination’s name uses the word “Evangelical” (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), but what “Evangelical” has come to mean in American society is very different from what Europeans originally meant by it.  For us it’s not bible-belt, born-again and politically conservative; but centered on the liberating message of grace!

Emphasis on the message has meant always trying to use the vernacular, rather than any sacred religious talk.  It’s about “speaking my language.”  Also, music conveys the message in a fitting way:  Luther urged congregations to sing when they were used to being audiences.  Music gives voice to the joy of good news.

We don’t ascend; God descends. God taking on real human, suffering flesh in Jesus Christ is central to our spirituality, so some of us tend to be earthy and like to joke around.  Lutheran ethics isn’t about ideals so much as realism and the use of reason.  We have a long tradition of valuing scholarship and science.

Well known historical Lutheran include J.S. Bach (and many other famous musicians), Soren Kierkegaard and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.