What We Believe
Ascension Lutheran Church Purpose Statement:
To know, to live, to share God's love.
We are loved by a gracious God.
We are rooted in the Word.
We are nurtured in Worship.
Everyone has gifts to share.
We act with justice and compassion.
Romans 8:1-4 (The Message)
The solution is life on God's terms
With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.
The law always ended up being used as a band-aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.
A Bit About 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.
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.
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. We share many things in common and work together in such efforts as Canadian Lutheran World Relief.
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.
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 15th 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" and reprinted with permission.