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If you’re like most people, what you know about Lutheran is probably from Garrison Keillor’s radio show Prairie Home Companion. That’s because his show comes from Minnesota, where you can swing a cat and pretty much be sure of hitting a Lutheran. But, really, we’re everywhere. A long time ago, we were all divided up among various immigrant groups — Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, Finns, and Germans. The original Lutheran, Martin Luther, was a German monk born in 1483. Once his ideas caught on, they spread northward into Scandinavia.
In the early 1980s, most of us agreed to get along and merged into one big Lutheran group called the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and that’s the group that Advent Lutheran Church in Rindge, New Hampshire belongs to. Rumor has it that there are about 70 million Christians who call themselves Lutherans throughout the world today. At Advent Lutheran we’re often confused locally with the Apostolic Lutherans in nearby New Ipswich and the Missouri-Synod Lutherans, who have congregations nearby in Peterborough, Troy, and Keene.
In reality, many of our members do not come from Lutheran backgrounds. They come to us from all kinds of Christian backgrounds, or no prior church experience at all. What we share are the basic principles of faith.
Come by Advent Lutheran Church some time and see what we’re all about. You can be assured of a welcoming smile and a good cup of coffee!
Martin Luther posted his “Ninety-Five Theses” in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517, and the resulting debate about Christian teaching and practice led to changes that have shaped the course of Western Christianity for almost 500 years. At the heart of these wide-reaching changes was a deep conviction that God’s mercy or grace in Jesus is given freely to all. When Luther and others learned to trust God’s mercy with “a living, daring confidence,” they discovered in that faith the freedom to give themselves generously, lovingly in all of life’s undertakings with everyone they met.
The changes began with a critical look at confession and forgiveness, preaching and the sacraments — what Luther called the “means of grace.” The sale of indulgences, the practice of penance, the content of preaching, the administration of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper — all the restrictions that impeded the message of God’s mercy from being heard and received fully by all came under close scrutiny. Repeatedly, Luther made changes and took initiatives to give full and free expression to the gospel, the message of God’s liberating mercy in Jesus Christ. He translated the Scriptures into German so that ordinary believers could hear the Word of God in their everyday language. He composed many hymns including “A Mighty Fortress” (based on Psalm 46) that put the Word of God to music, the language of the heart. He preached for the people in Wittenberg in simple, everyday terms, and he used those sermons as the basis for teaching resources that parents and local pastors could use — his Small and Large Catechisms.
The Lutheran Reformation offers to Christian communities everywhere a liberating way of listening to and speaking the Scriptures. The Reformation teaching that Christ’s life flows through faith into a life of service to the neighbor is especially liberating in our culture today.
The evangelical Lutheran Reformation offers the promise of God’s love that makes possible a life of “living, daring confidence in God’s grace.”
The Reformation teaching that faith is the work of God’s Holy Spirit is especially liberating in a culture that assumes a faith relationship with God is an act of human “free will.”
Many, both within Christian communities and beyond, are held captive by ideologies that limit the full scope of God’s mercy in Christ to demographic groups defined sociologically by certain beliefs, behaviors or experiences. The Reformation teaching that Christ’s life flows through faith into a life of service to the neighbor is especially liberating in a culture that makes religious life into a demonstration of one’s own worthiness and privilege to the disadvantage of others.
"I must still read and study the catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and a pupil of the catechism, and I do it gladly."
~ Martin Luther in his preface to the Large Catechism
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