One of Many Denominations
If you haven’t grown up with some contact to churches, then you might wonder why there are so many types of churches. The Christian Church is made up of many denominations. You might think of them as different brands or different flavours. There are even several different denominations of Lutheran churches.
All Christian Churches agree on the same core doctrines about God, the divinity of Jesus, and the bible. Denominations vary slightly in their specific beliefs and practice. Usually those differences have to do with certain parts of scripture that are emphasized over others. They may have to do with adherence to certain traditions or writings that help shed light on the biblical message. And some denominations follow a tradition going back its founder.
That is the case with the Lutheran Church. We follow (in order): God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit; the bible; the ecumenical creeds; and a collection of writings of Martin Luther and other reformers (known as the Book of Concord) as a summary and explanation of the bible and creeds.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) is known as the “Father of the Reformation”. He was an Augustinian monk, a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, and a Professor of Theology in Germany. In his effort to help reform the Roman Catholic Church he was excommunicated and many German churches became ‘protestant’, following Luther’s reforms.
All About Grace
Martin Luther’s teaching shows us that the God of the Holy Scriptures is a God of love and grace. The power and lure of sin is more than we can overcome, and so we need to rely on God’s grace alone to free us.
In the Lutheran church, you will not hear people tell you to “get right with God.” According to Lutheran belief, it is impossible for us to do that. Instead, we have faith that God is making us right and leading us into life-giving practices. Even when we don’t have faith, we trust that God will be the one to give us the faith we need.
You won’t hear anyone talking about their “personal relationship with Jesus.” We are communal people. God is in relationship with all of creation. According to the bible, Jesus is the saviour of the world, not just a few individuals. There is no special prayer that earns us a place in heaven. It is all God’s grace.
Lutherans also read the bible with a certain perspective. We believe that every part of scripture contains both ‘law’ and ‘gospel.’ The law helps to guide our actions (right/wrong) so that we can know what pleases God, but it also shows us the brokenness in the world and leads us to trust God above all else. The gospel is God’s promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation through Christ for all of us who could never otherwise prove worthy of God’s standard. The gospel (good news) is that Christ does make us worthy, perfect, and whole in God’s eyes.
Symbols of Lutheranism
One of the symbols that Luther used to convey his theology is the Luther Rose, or Luther’s Seal.
The black cross is at the centre to remind us of our own sinful nature, but that through the cross, Christ gives us new life.
The red heart is the symbol of that new life, but also that it is through a faithful and believing heart that Jesus saves us.
The white rose shows that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace in a way that wordly things cannot.
The rose sits in a sky-blue field so that we can see that the joy we have through the Holy Spirit and in faith is only the beginning of the heavenly joy that we hope for in the future.
The golden ring on the outside reminds us that the blessedness of heaven has no beginning or end and last forever. It’s gold because, like the valuable and precious metal, the life of faith is precious beyond all joy and material goods we could acquire.
(Paraphrased from Luther’s ‘Letter to Lazarus Spengler’ Coburg, July 8, 1530)