We Lutherans

I don’t know what feelings that word “church” stirs up for you. For me, church is a very important part of life. I know that churches get some bad press from time to time, and I must admit that I have seen church people at their worst.

But I have also seen church people at their best. and their best is far more significant than what you may have heard about church people at their worst.

For me the biggest bonus of being an active member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (the ELCIC) is the constant reminders I get that I am not alone. Sometimes I get really discouraged. I begin to think that maybe life is a crazy crap shoot after all and that we are all a bunch of losers who are kidding ourselves.

That’s when I need to be part of the church. Sooner or later, someone in the church reminds me that love and hope are still alive; that God is still in charge.

A healthy and healing Lutheran congregation is formed by people who are about important things like that. They believe that life has a purpose and that God has something to say about how life is lived. In their congregation, they are actively learning, serving, sharing and providing needed support in a variety of ways.

One of the best ways to learn about Lutherans is to attend one of our worship services. Our way of worshiping can be a bit bewildering for a visitor. Getting used to the way we do things takes some time and practice.

If you stick with it, our way of worship can be a rewarding experience, especially if you make worship attendance a regular and routine part of your life. More than one person, caught in a moment of crisis, has discovered comfort and healing through the familiar routine of worship and the words learned and remembered through repetition.

Even in the smallest of our congregations, Sunday morning worship is usually only the start of a busy week of activities. For those who get involved, some of the best things in their lives happen through their congregation.

We are welcoming many new members these days. Many parents are rethinking what their children are learning about right and wrong and what life is really all about. Married and single adults are also discovering that Sunday School is not just for kids and people with kids. A growing number of congregations have adult classes which explore a whole range of interesting subjects.

A number of women enrich their lives through Evangelical Lutheran Women (ELW). ELW provides an opportunity for women to gather to study God’s Word, develop leadership skills, share talents and creativity and express their faith through action.

Many of our congregations offer rewarding experiences for youth as well. Every two years, one ELCIC event attracts more ELCIC people than any other. This is the Canadian Lutheran Youth Gathering (CLYG). Lutheran teens travel from every part of the country to meet for several exciting days. For some, it is a time that will forever change their lives.

Local congregations are not the only place where you find the Lutheran church in action. Our chaplains serve in most of the places you would expect to find chaplains – on campuses, in street ministries, food banks and shelters, in hospitals, prisons and the military.

Young people and adults have expanded their horizons by attending one of the ELCIC’s educational institutions. We have two schools: Luther College High School in Regina, and Luther College at the University of Regina; Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute in Outlook, Saskatchewan as well as campus ministries at the University of Alberta – Augustana Campus, University of Alberta – main campus, University of Calgary and University of Lethbridge. We also operate two seminaries: Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, Waterloo, Ontario.

Lutheran church camps are scattered across Canada. While many of them concentrate on children’s programs, several camps also offer camping opportunities for adults and families.

A growing number of congregations regularly sponsor retreats. Our camps are one of the places used for these retreats. Usually a retreat is an opportunity for a group of people to get away for a day or two to take time to get a little closer to God and to each other.

Background
Lutherans have been in Canada throughout the country’s history, but the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada was only organized in 1986.

Lutherans, active and inactive, form about 2.4% of the population of Canada. The 1991 Census reported that there were 636,505 of us. The ELCIC claims loyalty from about 206,000. These people are organized in 656 congregations from Halifax to Victoria and many places in between.

We are a multicultural group of people. While most of our congregations use English, some still use the languages we brought to Canada with us – Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Icelandic, German, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian and Swedish. We are also reaching out to other newcomers, and so we sometimes use Spanish, Vietnamese and the major Chinese dialects. In Montreal we’ve begun to use French a bit. We’ll probably add a few more languages along the way.

Canada has another major Lutheran group, the Lutheran Church-Canada, formed in 1989. While we share many things in common and work together in such efforts as Canadian Lutheran World Relief, we have some differences which prevent us from being one group. For example, you will find women serving as pastors in the ELCIC but not in the Lutheran Church-Canada.

While there are only a few of us in Canada, Lutherans are among the largest groups of Christians in the world. Most of the Lutheran churches in the various countries around the world belong to the Lutheran World Federation. This helps us to keep in touch with each other, but we still each make our own decisions about how we will live out our Lutheranism.

In Canada, we work in partnership with many of Canada’s other churches through the Canadian Council of Churches. This is particularly true when we try to sort through the various social issues that face Canadians.

Our Faith
We call ourselves Lutherans because we base our beliefs on the teachings of Martin Luther, a German priest in the Roman Catholic Church whose ideas played an important role in the Th century reformation of European Christianity.

What we believe is not very different from what the majority of other Christians in Canada believe, but we put a stronger emphasis on God’s grace than some do. While we are convinced of God’s goodness, we also regularly remind ourselves that our own goodness is marred by sin.

You may have heard someone talk about “being saved” or “salvation”. Salvation is church talk used to describe the ideal situation when we are completely healthy and whole in body, mind, soul and spirit, and in our relationships with God and humanity. While we can learn to live in healthy and healing ways, when we really learn to be honest with ourselves, we have to face the fact that our efforts are never enough. Our salvation really depends on God.

Martin Luther developed a saying that we Lutherans believe is the heart of Christianity: “justification by grace through faith.” What that means is that the way our lives turn out for here and eternity has nothing to do with how much we try to be good and do good, or how badly we fail. God accepts us because God loves us, even when we are not very lovable.

Salvation is not something that we earn. It is a gift given to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus was “God in the flesh.” Jesus was God’s way of saying and proving that nothing we do can ever stop God from loving us, not even if we killed him on a cross.

All God asks us to do is to have faith. Faith is simply another way of saying, “Trust God.” God is in charge of our lives. God accepts us. God loves us.

So we Lutherans try to live in faith, and we try to love as Jesus loved. It’s not easy, and our lives are not always filled with sunshine. But it helps to know that God shares in our struggles and our joys. And it helps to have other believers share our journey through life with us. That’s why I am an active member of a congregation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

– Written by Pastor Kenn Ward for a 1994 Special Edition of the “Canada Lutheran”

The Luther Rose, also known as the Luther Seal, is easily the most recognized symbol for Lutheranism, and for good reason. Martin Luther personally oversaw the creation of this symbol. It provides a beautiful summary of his faith, a faith that is common to all Christians, of every place and every time. Here is how Luther explained the meaning of his seal:

The Luther Rose, also known as the Luther Seal, is easily the most recognized symbol for Lutheranism, and for good reason. Martin Luther personally oversaw the creation of this symbol. It provides a beautiful summary of his faith, a faith that is common to all Christians, of every place and every time. Here is how Luther explained the meaning of his seal:
“Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. For one who believes from the heart will be justified” (Rom. 10:10). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17) but by faith in the crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; John 20:12). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal.This is my compendium theoligae [summary of theology]. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.” *

How to use these graphics
Here you will find four different versions of the Luther Rose. Each one may be downloaded in a variety of formats, in various resolutions. The intention is to provide a high-quality version of the Luther Rose, for no charge, for use in all manners of applications, from web sites, to congregational publications, to books, magazines and other applications. Therefore, there is no copyright on these images. We ask only that they not be sold, in any manner, for whatever reason, but distributed freely.