A visual tour of ELCA congregations, people and events.
500 years of evangelical reformation
When Martin Luther posted on Oct. 31, 1517, his “Ninety-Five Theses” on the “castle church” in Wittenberg, no one expected the breadth of evangelical reforms in Christian teaching and practice that followed. The posting of the theses is considered the beginning of the Reformation. The 500th anniversary of the posting will take place in 2017, and ELCA members, congregations and synods are encouraged to observe the anniversary of this evangelical reformation in a variety of ways and alongside others, including ecumenical partners, member churches of The Lutheran World Federation and others.
Martin Luther translated the Bible into German.
The Luther Rose is a symbol for Lutheranism.
This statue of Martin Luther in Wittenberg, Germany, designed in 1821 by J.G. Schadow, was the first public monument of the reformer.
A statue of Martin Luther stands before the Dresden Frauenkirche, in Dresden, Germany. As a junior faculty member at a university in a small town in Germany, Luther was tormented by the demand for righteousness before God. In the midst of that struggle, he realized that a “merciful God justifies us by faith.”
These are the doors of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses or “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” which became the first of a life-long stream of books, sermons, letters, essays and even hymns.
Martin Luther wrote: “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that believers would stake their lives on it a thousand times.”
For all the saints
Do Lutherans recognize, remember and celebrate the lives of saints? Yes! We give thanks to God for those people throughout history and in our lives today who are faithful – yet not perfect – witnesses of God’s love and presence in the world. We can relate to their human weaknesses and imperfections while at the same time find inspiration and guidance for our lives and faith through their example. Lutherans do not pray to or with saints, since we believe that Christ alone is our advocate and mediator and that God hears and attends to our every prayer.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Nov. 17 – St. Elizabeth was born in Hungary in 1207. She was known for her acts of charity, service and generosity with the poor, care for people who were ill, and starting several hospitals.
St. Luke the Evangelist, Oct. 18 – St. Luke is credited with writing the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, as well as being a physician and a disciple of Paul. The Gospel of Luke pays special attention to Jesus’ concern for the poor and lost, and the healing justice that comes to us through faith in the life-giving Christ.
St. Thomas the Apostle, Oct. 6 – We know him better as “Doubting Thomas,” from the story in the Gospel of John. When Jesus appeared to the disciples, he said to Thomas: “‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!”’ (John 20:27-28)
St. Francis of Assisi, Oct. 4 – St. Francis was born into a wealthy family but eventually took a vow of poverty and committed his life to serving the poor, in the manner of Christ. He also believed that it is our responsibility, as stewards of God’s creation, to protect and enjoy nature and animals. Many congregations plan services for blessing pets and other animals on this day.
How many saints do we recognize and celebrate? By some counts, 800 to 10,000 or more. It all depends on how and whom you count, and whom you ask. As Lutheran Christians, our list of saints would be very long, since Luther taught that every Christian is simultaneously saint (just) and sinner. “Simul Iustus et Peccator” – as he put it in Latin.
All Saints Day, Nov. 1 – On this day we give thanks for the saints who have gone before us, for the saints still among us, and for the saints of God still to come – together forming the body of Christ. We remember people who strengthen and inspire our faith, give us hope, are generous and caring, teach and guide us, and witness to God’s love and presence in the world.
Helping to relieve hunger
More than 800 million people in our world are chronically hungry and cannot lead active daily lives. In the United States, more than 50 million people do not know where their next meal will come from. ELCA members, called to do God’s work in the world, respond to this need in many ways. By serving their neighbors near and far, ELCA members are helping to make a difference in the fight against hunger and poverty.
The Food Pantry at St. John Lutheran Church in Joliet, Ill., is a partner of the Northern Illinois Food Bank. At least 100 volunteers from St. John work at the mobile food pantry, which helped feed more than 20,000 people in 2013.
Hosanna’s Pantry is operated by Hosanna Lutheran Church in Rochester, Minn. The food pantry is open on the fourth Saturday of each month from 9 to 11:30 a.m. in the church’s gathering area. In 2013, the pantry helped meet the short-term food needs for almost 300 families.
On the third Saturday of every month, volunteers from Bethel Lutheran Church in Chicago participate in the Taste and See Ministry, a coalition of neighborhood congregations that provides weekly meals for neighbors in need. The ministry, started by a member of Bethel, was inspired by Psalm 34:8.
Donations to ELCA World Hunger help lift people out of poverty and hunger through sustainable development projects like these gardens at the Lutheran church in El Jardin, Costa Rica. Thanks to ELCA World Hunger, Nehemias Rivera Medina and his neighbors learn about crop rotation, soil fertility and plants.
Members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa, tend to their Faith Garden, located at the home of their pastor, Bob Spiers. The food they raise is donated to the Des Moines Area Religious Council Food Warehouse. As of September, the St. John’s garden volunteers had delivered more than 400 pounds of produce to help feed those who are hungry.
A new pastor in Jerusalem
Carrie Ballenger Smith, an ELCA pastor, was installed in September 2014 as pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem, an English-speaking congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Prior to Redeemer, Carrie served as pastor at Living Waters Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Crystal Lake, Ill. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land has been a member of The Lutheran World Federation since 1974. The denomination maintains a companion relationship with the ELCA. The Lutheran World Federation is a global communion of 144 member churches representing more than 72 million Christians. The ELCA is the communion’s only member church from the United States.
Carrie has served in rural, suburban and urban congregations in the Chicago area. She and Robert Smith are parents of two teenage sons.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land is called to serve all who are in need regardless of race, gender or political affiliation. The church empowers children, youth, women and men, encouraging all the baptized to be the people of God in service and witness.
While in Illinois, Carrie was active with a local interfaith consortium and was on the Global Mission Committee of the ELCA Northern Illinois Synod. In addition to being pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Carrie will be special assistant to Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
Carrie is the recipient of the 2013 Brave Preacher Award from the Beatitudes Society for her sermon on gun violence, written after the 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
The bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Munib Younan, standing directly behind Carrie, is also president of The Lutheran World Federation. Carrie's husband, Robert Smith (right), is also a pastor and is special advisor to Bishop Younan in the bishop's capacity as president of The Lutheran World Federation.
The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is a diverse congregation. People with a variety of backgrounds and nationalities gather in community.
Blessing all God’s creatures
The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi is observed on Oct. 4. St. Francis was an Italian friar who took a vow of poverty and cared for the poor. He also believed nature – including its creatures – was the mirror of God. He preached that it is our duty to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God's creation and as creatures ourselves. In 1979, Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis to be the Patron of Ecology.
Many ELCA congregations celebrate the wonders of God’s creation and the legacy of St. Francis by holding pet-blessing services and activities for the community around this time of the year. It is a time to remember how God’s creatures – of all sizes, shapes and species – bless our lives and are essential to the environment that sustains all living things, including humankind. We commit ourselves to caring for their wellbeing in the world whether they be service animals, pets, domesticated animals, wild animals, pets in shelters, bugs or creatures that fly, crawl, run or swim.
“When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Genesis 9:14-15). (Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas)
“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark’” (Genesis 9:8-10). (First Lutheran Church & School, Torrance, Calif.)
“Four things on earth are small, yet they are exceedingly wise … the lizard can be grasped in the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces” (Proverbs 30:24, 28). (First Lutheran Church & School, Torrance, Calif.)
“God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth’” (Genesis 1:22). (Karl Gronberg, pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas)
“And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky’” (Genesis 1:20). (William Hurst, pastor of First Lutheran Church & School, Torrance, Calif.)
“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalm 104:24). (First Lutheran Church & School, Torrance, Calif.)
'Gods work. Our hands.' Sunday, #2
ELCA members work every day to serve their neighbors and make the world a better place. “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday provides a unique opportunity for the nearly 10,000 congregations of the ELCA to join together for a dedicated day of service in communities across the country. From packing groceries to planting gardens, ELCA members put their faith in action during the Sept. 7 day of service, doing God’s work of restoring and reconciling communities in Jesus’ name throughout the world.
Members of Wilmington Lutheran Church in Arnegard, N.D., brought produce from their gardens and filled 39 grocery bags, which included a welcome note and an invitation to worship. The bags were delivered to oil-field workers and their families who live in campers.
In the rain, members of Grace Lutheran Church in Washington, N.C., helped take down and haul away an old playground that had caused several injuries over the summer. A safer replacement is being sought.
Small hands from Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in Rochester Hills, Mich., were a big help as the congregation harvested vegetables for a local food pantry and mulched trails and weeded wild-flower gardens in a nature preserve.
Members of Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, N.M., cleared and weeded garden beds and planted seeds at Lynn Middle School. The congregation also worked with La Semilla Food Center, a local program that builds awareness about food issues.
Members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lebanon Ind., painted the soccer shed for the Lebanon Area Boys and Girls Club. The shed was built by the congregation during the 2013 day of service.