In 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the university church in Wittenberg, Germany. He called for the reform of errors found in the medieval church in light of scripture. This act unintentionally began what is called the Reformation, and what many now know as Protestantism was born. Lutherans are Christians. We understand ourselves to be created and called by God the Father, followers of Jesus Christ, and a Spirit led people. We worship the Triune God alone. The sacred texts found in the Bible guide us and inform all we do. We also ascribe to many of Martin Luther’s theological teachings where they are consistent with scripture, as well as historic documents found in our book of confessions. Regarding eternal salvation, we believe that scripture reveals a person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not one’s own purity or actions. As part of Christ’s family, we become his saints; not perfect, but a priesthood of believers who serve as his ambassadors to the world. We invite you to join us in our shared life and ministry!
Lutherans are just one family of faith within the wider Christian body. Among Lutheran denominations, Messiah is part of the Virginia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). As such, we are also members of an international communion of Lutheran faith communities called the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
Locally, we gather to worship God and build one another up through the love that is shared in our assembly. We go forth into the world to spread the Good News of God’s love, to serve others, and to call and baptize new believers into Christ’s family of faith. Holy Baptism and Holy Communion (the Lord’s Supper) are the two sacraments – special means of grace – that Lutherans celebrate. Together, God uses us to usher his kingdom into the world and prepare for Christ’s promised return. We understand our ministry as “God’s Work – Our Hands.” Please visit the ELCA’s website to learn more about our shared faith.
Some distinctively Lutheran teachings include…
Law & Gospel: God communicates to people through Scripture by both the Law and the Gospel. The Law is anything that convicts us, shows us our shortcomings and sins, drives us towards God’s mercy. The Gospel is anything that frees us, shows us God’s grace, and drives us out into the world with thanksgiving to love and serve our neighbors.
Freedom of a Christian: The short version of this essay by Martin Luther is that we are freed from and freed for. Freed from: trying to earn God’s love or our own salvation. Freed for: being “little Christs” to our neighbors in love and service.
Vocation: Every Christian has multiple vocations, or callings: they can be our jobs, our roles within our families, our hobbies, our citizenship. Every vocation is an opportunity to live out our faith, share God’s love, and use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us.
Canon within the canon: Scripture can be difficult to understand. So, within the “canon” of Scripture (the 66 books that make up the Bible), we turn to the books and passages that most clearly communicate the gospel and use those to help us understand or interpret the other parts.
Priesthood of All Believers: Everyone is a “priest” in the sense that we have direct access to God through prayer, and also in the sense that each of us has the responsibility and the joy to serve others and all of creation in God’s name, according to the example set by Jesus, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Simultaneously Saints and Sinners: Lutherans like “both-ands” more than “either-ors.” Our most famous “both-and” is that we are simultaneously both saints and sinners. We are saints: set apart by God, called holy, given a ministry to carry out. We are sinners: making mistakes, falling short of the glory of God. Every day we remember our baptisms, where God named and claimed us, as we die to sin and are raised to new life. Every day God meets us where we are, the good and the bad, and works through us.
Theology of the Cross: This is a big one, but the simple version is that God shows up in unexpected places. Not in the places “the world” would consider powerful – wealth, status, success – but rather at the foot of the cross. This teaching helps us to especially orient our service and love and presence to the least of these (Matthew 25): those on the margins, the outcasts, the hopeless. That’s where Christ already is.