Originally the name Lutheran was a label stuck on those who joined the reforming movement in the Christian Church in the early 1500's that was first set in motion in Germany by Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther. Luther himself would have been quite unhappy to think a whole Christian denomination had taken on his name, and there are some today in our Lutheran Churches who feel that If we could easily do so after 500 years of history, we may change our name.
That said, the label Lutheran stands for strong and distinctive teachings, based on the central authority for all Christian thinking and living, the Bible. Luther attempted to bring the focus of Christian life and faith back onto the central message of the Bible.
Despite the name Lutheran being attached to Luther, who was just another imperefect human being like the rest of us, it has come to stand for the key truths which Luther rediscovered in the Bible, and for the rich tradition of authentic, Christ centred Spirituality and Worship found in the Lutheran movement throughout the world still today.
Lutherans are not actually pessimists, but realistically, we all know that life confronts each of us with many difficulties and uncertainties and that we all struggle with our own deep-seated flaws and faults. These are encountered on various levels - the personal, the physical, the spiritual, the individual and the communal. Experience in life soon teaches us that we are victims of our own deep self-centredness and the resulting wrong choices we make, and also victims of one another's wrong attitudes and actions. This reality is sin. It is serious and it threatens our lives, effecting every aspect of our wellbeing. It is both deeply personal and global in its deadly effects. Ultimately we are powerless to change this or to make good what is wrong.
This deep struggle is shared with us by God himself in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son, who came to this world. In and through his life, death and resurrection here on earth with us, Jesus took on the responsibility of paying for and cancelling the sin of all humankind, and opening the way to eternal life with God, for which we were all originally created. He has saved us. He brought each of us forgiveness and a new beginning. The cross on which he suffered and died is a symbol of his compassionate sharing in our human suffering and his buying back (redeeming) our lives. We do not deserve and cannot earn this loving intervention by Jesus. It is pure grace, which we receive as a free gift. This grace is the key, central and distinctive theme in Lutheran life, doctrine and practice.
To live as Christians is to live into this new "graced" future we have because of Jesus. It is a life of freedom from guilt over past wrongs, a life of hope beyond death in this world, a life empowered by God's own Spirit to love others in a new and Christ-like way.
More about Lutherans fron the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) website:
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