We, at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, extend the same word of welcome, which God shares with us through our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. We believe that Jesus' death and resurrection is for us, so that nothing can ever separate us from God's word of welcome for us. We are sinners who, for Christ's sake, God now declares to be saints and beloved children. We are saints, not because of our conduct, but because of Jesus' death on the cross, "where he forgave us all, erasing the record that stood against us and set it aside, nailing it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14)
The word of welcome is a gift of love which we call grace. We invite you to join in our community of faith as we celebrate the gift of God's welcoming grace.
The Lutheran Church celebrates the teachings of Martin Luther as they witness to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Luther became an Augustinian monk in 1505, and was ordained a priest in 1507. While continuing his studies in pursuit of a Doctor of Theology degree, he discovered significant differences between what he read in the Bible and the theology and practices then in use by the church. On October 31, 1517, he posted a challenge on the church door at Wittenberg University to debate 95 theological issues. Luther's hope was that the church would reform its practice and preaching to be more consistent with the Word of God as contained in the Bible.
What started as an academic debate escalated to a religious war, fueled by fiery temperaments and violent language on both sides. As a result, there was not a reformation of the church but a separation. "Lutheran" was a name applied to Luther and his followers as an insult but adopted as a badge of honor by them instead.
Lutherans still celebrate the Reformation on October 31 and still hold to the basic principles of theology and practice espoused by Luther, such as Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Sola Scriptura:
- We are saved by the grace of God alone -- not by anything we do;
- Our salvation is through faith alone -- we only need to believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who died to redeem us;
- The Bible is the only norm of doctrine and life -- the only true standard by which teachings and doctrines are to be judged.
Another of Luther's principles was that Scriptures and worship need to be in the language of the people. Before that only Latin was used and only the most highly educated could read it or understand Latin when it was spoken.Many Lutherans still consider themselves as a reforming movement within the Church catholic, rather than a separatist movement, and Lutherans have engaged in ecumenical dialogue with other church bodies for decades. In fact, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has entered into cooperative "full communion" agreements with several other Protestant denominations.
Luther's Small Catechism, which contains teachings on the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, Holy Communion and Morning and Evening Prayers, is still used to introduce people to the Lutheran faith, as is the Augsburg Confession.
"Do Lutherans believe theirs is the only true religion?" This question was once put to the late Dr. Elson Ruff, editor of The Lutheran. His answer was, "Yes, but Lutherans don't believe they are the only ones who have it. There are true Christian believers in a vast majority of the churches, perhaps in all." The ELCA Confession of Faith says "This church confesses Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior and the Gospel as the power of God for the salvation of all who believe ..."
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.
The New Testament is the first-hand proclamation of those who lived through the events of Jesus' life, death, and Resurrection. As such, it 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 history.
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 males and females 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.
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 his 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.
Lutherans accept two Sacraments as God-given means for penetrating the lives of people with his grace. Although they are not the only means of God's self-revelation, Baptism and Holy Communion are visible acts of God's love.
In Baptism, and it can be seen more clearly in infant Baptism, God freely offers his grace and lovingly establishes a new community. It is in Baptism that people become members of Christ's Body on earth, the Church. In Holy Communion -- often called the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist -- those who come to the table receive in bread and wine the body and blood of their Lord. This gift is itself the real presence of God's forgiveness and mercy, nourishing believers in union with their Lord and with each other.