What we believe
We believe that God’s love is for each and every person. We believe that nothing can separate us from that love (Romans 8:31-39). We believe that doubts and questions are part of a healthy faith life. We believe that our unity in Christ is bigger than our political or cultural differences. We believe that we are all on equal footing before God. We believe in the radical welcome of Christ. We believe that our salvation comes through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection.
Saint John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA confesses the Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In our preaching and teaching the ELCA trusts the Gospel as the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.
ELCA teaching or theology serves the proclamation and ministry of this faith. It does not have an answer for all questions, not even all religious questions. Teaching or theology prepares members to be witnesses in speech and in action of God’s rich mercy in Jesus Christ. See more at ELCA.org.
Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine, the incarnation of God in the world.
The man, Jesus of Nazareth, lived and died in Palestine during the governorship of the Roman administrator Pontius Pilate; we believe him to be the Messiah to show God’s love for the world. He is God, yet with all the limitations of being human. For the sake of a sinful world, Jesus endured death on the cross.
But death could not contain him. On the third day after his execution, the day Christians observe as Easter, Jesus appeared among his followers as the risen, living Lord. By this great victory God has declared the Good News:God and humanity have been reconciled. Thus, Christ lives today wherever there are people who faithfully believe in him and wherever the Good News of reconciliation is preached and the Sacraments administered.
What is the Church?
The Christian church is made up of those who have been baptized and seek to follow Jesus. Sometimes it is referred to as “the Body of Christ.” Lutherans believe that they are a part of a community of faith that began with the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence with his people, on the day of Pentecost. The church, regardless of the external form it takes, is the fellowship of those who have been restored to God by Christ. Indeed, to be called into fellowship with Christ is also to be called into community with other believers.
The church is essential to Christian life and growth. Its members are all sinners in need of God’s grace. It has no claim on human perfection. The church exists solely for the hearing and doing of God’s Word. It can justify its existence only when it proclaims the living Word of Christ, administers the Sacraments and gives itself to the world in deeds of service and love. At Saint John’s, we recognize a wider fellowship of churches and are eager to work alongside them in ecumenical ministries and projects.
How Do We Understand the Bible?
To borrow a phrase from Luther, the Bible is “the manger in which the Word of God is laid.” While Lutherans recognize differences in the way the Bible should be studied and interpreted, it is accepted as the primary and authoritative witness to the church’s faith. Written and transcribed by many authors over a period of many centuries, the Bible bears remarkable testimony to the mighty acts of God in the lives of people and nations. In the Old Testament is found the vivid account of God’s covenant relationship to Israel. In the New Testament is found the story of God’s new covenant with all of creation in Jesus.
Scripture is the authority for Christian faith and practice. The Bible is thus not a definitive record of history or science. Rather, it is the record of the drama of God’s saving care for creation throughout the course of humanity’s existence.
What Do Lutherans Believe About Creation?
Lutherans believe that God is Creator of the universe. Its dimensions of space and time are not something God made once and then left alone. God is, rather, continually creating, calling into being each moment of each day.
Human beings have a unique position in the order of creation. As people created in God’s image, we are given the capacity and freedom to know and respond to our creator. Freedom implies that we can choose to respond to God either positively or negatively.
“Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice,” an ELCA Statement on caring for God’s creation, is available from the ELCA Distribution Service (800/328-4648) free (+ postage and handling). Order Code: 67-1185.
Where Do Lutherans Stand on the Question of Sin?
Lutherans believe that all people live in a condition which is the result of misused freedom. “Sin” describes not so much individual acts of wrongdoing as fractured relationships between the people of creation and God. Our every attempt to please God falls short of the mark. By the standard of the Law, of which the Ten Commandments are a classic summary, God expresses just and loving expectations for creation, and our failure to live up to those expectations reveals only our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness.
What Sacraments Do Lutherans Accept?
Lutherans accept two Sacraments as God-given means of grace. Although they are not the only means of God’s self-revelation, Baptism and Holy Communion are visible acts of God’s love.
InBaptism, we are claimed and named as children of God and joined into the Body of Christ. In Holy Communion, we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus to sustain us throughout the rest of our lives.
Do Lutherans Believe in Life After Death?
While there is much we do not and cannot know about life beyond the grave, Lutherans do believe that life with God persists even after death. This, of course, is a great mystery, and no description of what life may be like in any dimension beyond history is possible.
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. - See more at: ELCA.org