July 11, 2020

 

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  What is the ELCA?

Find out about the

Evangelical Lutheran Church

in America and what

we believe on our page

 What is the ELCA?.

 

 

Lutherans 101

What are Lutherans?

Martin Luther has been called "the father of the Reformation."

 

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was an Augustinian monk and the priest of a Roman Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  He wrestled with his faith; no matter what he did he always felt that it wasn't enough to please God.  At the time, the Holy Roman Catholic Church was teaching that you could earn entrance to heaven through good deeds, and potentially purchase the salvation of your relatives by buying pieces of paper called "indulgences" which promised papal forgiveness of sins.  Luther cried out to God for help and found himself in the loving embrace of God's only Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Luther was transformed by a great passion for God, who saves us from ourselves, from sin and death.  He realized through reading the Bible that we are saved, not by our good works, but by the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The core of Luther's teaching became this knowledge; we are saved by grace.

 

He never intended to separate from the Roman Catholic Church, but to reform it.  He nailed a list of 95 statements (the 95 Theses) on the door of the Church where he served and the Protestant Reformation was born.   With the help of the printing press and like-minded thinkers, Luther's messages calling for church reformation spread like wildfire.   Luther also translated the Bible from Latin into German, the language of the people, so that the Word of God could be available to all.   People could read the Word of God for themselves, and ask questions, and study and think about the Scriptures.  The Roman Catholic Church called those who followed his teaching "Lutherans" as a derogatory term, but Luther wanted this Church to be called the Evangelical Catholic Church. 

 

What do Lutherans Believe?

Lutherans believe God is One, but we see or experience relationship with God in 3 ways:

God is the Creator of the universe.

We are bon children of a broken and sinful humanity.  Humanity's original and perpetual sin was our desire to BE God.  This sin creates a chasm between God and us.  The price of our sin is death.  Jesus is God's only Son who came and died for us to pay the price for our sin and bridge that chasm.  His resurrection to life after 3 days in the tomb was the victory over that death that separates us from an eternity with our Holy Father.  Only Jesus, who was fully God (and therefore without sin) and fully human (and therefore capable of dying) could be the perfect sacrifice.  Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is what brings forgiveness of sin and opens up eternal life to us.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God who calls, gathers, enlightens and sustains us.  The Holy Spirit is God's gift to us in our Baptism and through the Holy Spirit we are intimately connected to God with every breath we take and thought we have.  The Holy Spirit dwells within us and guides us, comforts us, and calls us to reach out in love to a hurting world.

 

Lutherans believe we are born sinful.  Sin is the condition of all humans.  To be sinful is to violate the 10 commandments, but it is also to be prejudiced, self-absorbed, thoughtless... and more.  It is, in essence to be human. In Jesus, though, we are made right, free, and whole.  This freedom is grace, and it comes to us through faith.  Lutherans are big on grace; grace has been said to be God's Riches at Christ's Expense.

 

Lutherans believe the Bible is God's word to us and for us. We are to study it, question it, learn from it, discuss it with each other, and study it some more as we will find new meaning with each exploration as our lives change.

 

Luther taught that a sacrament had to meet 3 standards.  1) it must be commanded by Jesus Christ  2) it must use an element of the earth (i.e. bread and wine/grape juice for Holy Communion, water for Baptism) and 3) it must be a means of God's grace.  Therefore, there are only two sacraments in the Lutheran Church; Baptism and Holy Communion.  We do begin most worship services reading together a confession, and oil is used for anointing the ill, the dying, and the newly Baptized.  We celebrate Confirmation.  We celebrate weddings.  These are signs that point to God, and not sacraments.

 

Saint Andrew is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.The ELCA was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches.  The ELCA is the largest Lutheran Church body in America, with more than 3.7 million members.  It is a member of Lutheran World Federation which has 74 million members in 98 countries.

 

 

 


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