December Community Building Goal

December Community Building Goal

During the month of December, our community building goal is to increase our presence at community meetings: Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, Evans Churchill Neighborhood Association, Hance Park Conservancy, and Townsend Park Community. These meetings take place at various times, including weeknights and weekdays. If you are interested in attending, please talk with Pastor Sarah. Look for particular times in upcoming bulletins. 

Sermon: 12/3/17

Sermon: 12/3/17

O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!  

An apt prayer from the prophet Isaiah for this first Sunday of Advent.  For Advent is a season of emptiness.  Emptiness because the One for whom we wait—Jesus—is not yet here.  Emptiness because the presence of God may not be readily apparent in our world.  Emptiness in our Advent practice of meditation, silence instead of incessant Christmas music.  For me, the emptiness of Advent is a relief

Sermon: 11/12/17

Sermon: 11/12/17

Each November, Christians who follow the Revised Common Lectionary, that is, the series of biblical readings shared in worship each Sunday, find themselves in a bit of a mini-season.  

November is a mini-season of the end times, the season when we consider Jesus’ return, eschatology in the vocabulary of theologians.  Usually on the last Sunday in November or sometimes the second to last, we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, the very last day of the church year, when we look forward to the kingdom of God come in its fullness.  Today, we begin our mini-season with the tale of five wise and five foolish bridesmaids with their lamps who wait for the bridegroom that they might accompany him to the wedding banquet.

Sermon: 11/5/17

Sermon: 11/5/17

Far from a book of doom and gloom, fire and brimstone, fear and terror, the book of Revelation offers hope.  

Because Revelation is apocalyptic literature, it employs fantastic images and bizarre metaphors similar to the science fiction of today.  Biblical scholars now recognize that, as apocalyptic literature, Revelation is not meant to be read literally but to be understood through its metaphors to say something profound about its historical context: that of the Christian community during the Roman Empire.

Sermon: 10/1/17

Sermon: 10/1/17

I wanted to preach a sermon about doing the mission of God, not just talking about doing the mission of God. I thought a sermon about how we can change our minds in the process of determining what God is calling us to do would be interesting. I would have loved to talk about how Jesus deems tax collectors and prostitutes more worthy of the kingdom of God than the chief priests and elders and what that might mean in our context. I would have settled for a sermon about how everyone in the parable enters into the kingdom of God whether or not they actually do the will of God.  

Unfortunately, none of these lovely sermon ideas actually reflect the point of Jesus’ parable and encounter with the chief priests and elders.

Bishop Eaton's Leadership Initiative

Bishop Eaton's Leadership Initiative

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reminds us, “It’s not only the job of our seminaries and universities to identify and raise up leaders in the church. This is something that belongs to all of us.” The Leadership Initiative encourages all of us to seek out and inspire gifted people in our congregations and communities to consider a call to the ministry of the gospel. If you know someone who shows a gift for ministry, help mentor and foster them. Together – pastors, deacons, lay people – we can bring the word of God to the world. Find resources and testimonials to guide discussions and offer inspiration for becoming a leader within the ELCA.

50 things Luther taught that you may not know

As we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Living Lutheran is exploring 500 of its unique aspects, continuing the series this month with 50 Reformation things you may not know about the Reformation.

This list is not meant as an all-encompassing compendium of everything essential to the Reformation and its theology, but rather as a glimpse of the variety of ways the movement that Luther sparked in 1517 would influence the history of the world.


We know that Martin Luther considered justification by grace through faith the most important teaching of Christian faith—the one by which everything else we say and believe is judged (Luther’s Works, Vol. 21, page 59). But what we need to remember is that salvation is not something yet to come; justification is already complete (LW, Vol. 34, pages 152-153).


Every baptized Lutheran is a “born-again Christian.” And since that’s who we are, Luther said we are to start living that way—living our baptisms (Book of Concord, pages 359-360).


The righteousness of God is not something God is, but what he does to us—he makes us righteous (LW, Vol. 34, pages 336-337). Luther tells us that this insight is the essence of the spiritual experience that changed his life, the famed “Tower Experience.”


Luther often said justification involves a pronouncement by God, declaring us sinners righteous (LW, Vol. 25, page 46). But more frequently he compares justification to a marriage. We receive all that Christ has in the marriage, and having his love and righteousness qualifies us for salvation and makes us more loving in faith (LW, Vol. 44, pages 26-27).


Luther wanted us to be sure that Christ’s work is  “for us” (LW, Vol. 34). But the strength of one’s faith is not his hang-up. Even a weak faith saves, Luther said (LW, 12:262). In fact, when it comes to salvation, we’re passive—getters, not givers (LW, Vol. 52).


The reformer also taught that we can’t even believe on our own—it takes the Spirit, who gives us faith (The Small Catechism, II.III.6). Lutherans are, in fact, big on the Spirit, believing that the Spirit is active in every aspect of our lives. Every good idea we have is a work of the Spirit, who sets us on fire, Luther said (LW, Vol. 24, pages 130, 89; Complete Sermons, Vol. 3/1, page 188). 


But grace isn’t cheap for Luther! Christ’s love starts moving us to do good like a spouse’s love moves us to faithfulness to our marriage vows (LW, Vol. 44, pages 26-27). We’re so filled up with the goodness God pours into us that we can’t help but spill out to others (LW, Vol. 31, page 367).


Indeed, Luther said we’re so filled up with God’s goodness that it’s as if we were intoxicated with him, doing the bidding of God and the Spirit without being in control of ourselves (LW, Vol. 31, page 349).


Good works transpire without our willing them, like a good tree can’t help but produce good fruit (LW, Vol. 34, page 111). Faith is such a busy thing, Luther added, that it’s impossible for the faithful not to be doing good works (LW, Vol. 35, page 370).


Luther taught that the Christian life is “hidden,” that one can’t judge Christians by their lifestyles, and that sometimes non-Christians will do more external good deeds than the faithful (LW, Vol. 26, 376). God himself acts in hidden and surprising ways, as he did with Jesus on the cross (LW, Vol. 31, page 39).


God is so in control that the good we do is really God’s work (LW, Vol. 34, page 111). We’re nothing but the hands of Christ, Luther asserted (LW, Vol. 24, page 226). In the good we do, we are just “little Christs” to each other (LW, Vol. 31, pages 367-368).


Living as “little Christs” entails life having afree, easy quality, filled with happiness (even when plagued with the suffering that comes from being Christian) (LW, Vol. 24, page 230; Complete Sermons, Vol. 3/2, page 257). That’s why Luther wants us to look at our jobs as good things—a chance (or “mask”) to serve God and other people (LW, Vol. 35, pages 40-41).


Luther knows that sometimes we can be  our own worst enemy. That’s why he said Christ takes us away from ourselves, making us dependent on what is outside ourselves (LW, Vol. 26, page 387). The righteousness of God given to us is external or alien, not something that is in us or belongs to us (LW, Vol. 31, page 297).


The reformer didn’t teach universal salvation, insisting that we must have faith. But he expressed an openness to hoping for the salvation of all, that God might give the gift of salvation to all, even in death (LW, Vol. 43, page 54).  


We sin in everything we do because everything we do is inspired by selfishness (Luther calls this “concupiscence”). The best we can do is sin bravely—confess we are sinning in all we do and yet seek to do God’s will anyway (LW, Vol. 48, pages 281-282).


Even when we do good, we act in selfish ways (LW, Vol. 33, pages 263-264). We are free: The law and failure to do works can’t condemn us (LW, Vol. 31, page 356). But we are also free from the law in the sense that we may break the law to do good (Complete Sermons, Vol. 3/1, page 166). 


While the reformer read the Bible critically (LW, Vol. 34, page 317), at times he referred to Scripture as “inerrant” (Weimar Ausgabe, Vol. 40 III, pages 254, 618). He suggested there are two kinds of word of God in Scripture—the word that has to do with us and our context and the word that does not (LW, Vol. 35, page 170).


The reformer spoke of the three persons of the Trinity as speaker, sermon and hearer (LW, Vol. 24, pages 364-365), or as the mind, intellect and will of God (LW, Vol. 1, page 50).    


Church and state weren’t separate for Luther in the sense that he didn’t see the state as secular, for it is still ruled by God. However, Christian values on Luther’s grounds aren’t imposed on the state. Political judgments are to be made on the basis of reason (LW, Vol. 45, pages 82-89).


Although the majority of the time Luther spoke of God as male, he did refer at times to God as “mother” (LW, Vol. 17, pages 139, 16).


He called the church “a hospital for sinners” (LW, Vol. 25, page 263)—the church is only for sick people like us.


The reformer focused on the authority of Scripture, but not without tradition. Tradition mandated for him the desirability of maintaining liturgical worsgip, and was the basis for the validity of infant baptism—do it because God has always had the church do it (LW, Vol. 40, pages 255-257).


The reformer preferred immersion in baptism (LW, Vol. 35, page 29). He also embraced the ancient African Christian practice of kissing infants before they are to be baptized to honor the hands of God that the baptized child will become (LW, Vol. 45, page 41).


Luther was open to maintaining a papacy if the pope would acknowledge that sinners have free forgiveness and submit to Scripture (LW, Vol. 26, page 224; LW, Vol. 39, pages 101-102).


Contrary to any notion that he may not have been strong on evangelism, Luther taught that the only reason God lets us live is so we can bring others to him (LW, Vol. 30, page 11).


Although different from Calvinist doctrine, Luther gave God so much credit for all that we have that he even sometimes arguably supported predestination (LW, Vol. 33, page 190).


Sometimes Luther taught that works did not cause salvation, but that they were necessary for salvation and outward righteousness (LW, Vol. 25, page 186).


Other times, he even said we become divine in faith (Complete Sermons, Vol. 2/1, page 216).


Luther believed that we are all religious to some extent. He taught that what you trust and believe with your whole heart is your god (Book of Concord, page 386). He urged us to be sure that we have the true God, not an idol.


Although he was referring to Europeans enslaved by feudalism, not the enslavement of Africans, Luther seemingly opposed slavery. He advocated that slaves run away and that a just government would guarantee the life and livelihood of the freedmen (LW, Vol. 9, page 232).


Luther defended the virtues of African culture (LW, Vol. 2, page 305) against detractors. In fact, he taught that the Greek philosophers got their ideas from Africa (LW, Vol. 1, page 4).


The reformer praised the ancient African churches—especially the Coptic church in Egypt. He said they were valid churches without acknowledging the pope’s authority, so the Reformation movement had much in common with them (LW, Vol. 31, page 281).


While Luther said some notoriously vicious things in anger against the Jewish community, earlier in his life he demanded equal rights for Jewish citizens (LW, Vol. 45, pages 199-229).


The first reformer admired Islamic society. He may have criticized the Quran and feared Islamic invasions in Europe (LW, Vol. 46, page 177, 183), but he praised Islamic morality and Muslim culture (Weimar Ausgasbe, Vol. 30II, pages 189, 206).


The reformer advocated generous safety nets for the poor (LW, Vol. 45, pages 169-194). Luther believed that God has a bias toward the poor and weak, as he claimed that it is God’s nature to feed the hungry and comfort the miserable (LW, Vol. 26, page 314).


Critical as he was of the free market (Book of Concord, pages 416, 419), the reformer opted for government to set interest rates and manage the economy (LW, Vol. 45, page 249).


The reformer also said that God doesn’t tell time like we do—that from his perspective, all time is one (LW, Vol. 30, page 196). This affirmation, suggestive of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, entails that, in God’s sight, your mother is caring for you in your infancy at the same time that your great-grandchildren are being born. In God’s time you are never alone, bereft of your loved ones.


Although Luther predates the development of the theory of evolution, his view of God’s way of telling time entails that God’s six days of creation are not completed, for God is still creating (LW, Vol. 4, page 136).


Luther envisioned God in a way compatible with the Higgs boson particle (the idea that there is a field that holds all the subatomic particles together and makes matter possible)—as being in every single thing individually, present at the same time in many ways (LW, Vol. 37, page 60).


As a result, the reformer recognized that God is always “meddling” in our affairs—that everything that we have, even our homes, families and the food on our tables, is God’s work (Book of Concord, page 354).


Luther believed that the universe is a body never in one place, a bit like how the Big Bang theory posits that the universe is ever expanding (LW, Vol. 38, page 60).


Luther also said the church was our mother—“the mother of all Christians” (LW, Vol. 51, page 166). In fact, he said the church can get along fine without us (LW, Vol. 47, page 118)—but we need our mom.


Luther didn’t always teach only two sacraments. Sometimes he claimed that there were three—and once even said there are seven (LW, Vol. 41, page 166).


In communion, at least at one point, Luther believed we actually swallow Jesus—that he enters our bodies (LW, Vol. 37, page 100).


Since we all receive Christ’s body in the Lord’s Supper, Luther said we receive all the members of his body. You can lean on them and support all others who receive the sacrament, so their problems and joys are now yours too (LW, Vol. 35, pages 50ff). Luther seems to have been open to the communion of infants as well (LW, Vol. 35, page 110).


Luther taught that we should regard the possessions we have as a traveler does the items in a hotel room: they are yours for a while, but they are the owner’s. This makes it easy to leave behind to others what we think of as ours—they’re just on loan (LW, Vol. 21, page 13).


Luther called Mary “the Mother of God” (LW, Vol. 21, page 308) because he believed everything said of Christ’s divinity must be said of his humanity (LW, Vol. 22, page 346). The reformer even remained open to believing the perpetual virginity of Mary and her immaculate conception (LW, Vol. 45, page 205; LW, Vol. 21, 327.)


Inasmuch as all that happens to Christ’s humanity happens to his divinity, Luther said it follows that God himself suffered on the cross and still suffers with us (LW, Vol. 30, page 223).


The reformer believed that we are already in the “end-times”: the kingdom is already present when the Spirit works faith in us or compels us to do good (Book of Concord, page 356).


Luther believed that the dead “sleep in God’s bosom,” not that their souls go directly to heaven (LW, Vol. 4, page 313).

Living Lutheran: 'Thy kingdom come'

Living Lutheran: 'Thy kingdom come'

Martin Luther believed God is at work in the world in and through the created world and through the gospel. This has often been known as Luther’s “two kingdoms” doctrine, but Lutheran theologians today say the “kingdom” language can be confusing and misleading. The August Living Lutheran cover story explores the distinctions between the spiritual authority of the gospel and the earthly authority. It also covers the history of this doctrine and what it means for Lutherans today.Read the full article.

PBS to air 'Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World'

PBS to air 'Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World'

On Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m. EDT, PBS gives the Reformation television exposure when it airs “Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World.” This one-time, nationwide showing is a great reason for congregations and communities to gather together and explore Luther’s lasting impact on Christianity. The film is also available for private showings for those unable to watch that evening. Check your local PBS listings for specific air times. Learn more about the film at

Subscribe to ELCA newsletters

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Donate children's books and clothing for New Life in Christ Fellowship

Books and clothes needed for a new school in Tonga. 

New Life in Christ Fellowship worships at Grace on Sunday afternoons, and is also a church body in the South Pacific nation of Tonga. They are constructing a new parochial school in the village of Ha'ateiho, Tonga for approximately 300 students in grades 1-6. Mothers of the students are the primary construction workers.

In preparation for the opening of the school, they are looking for donations of used children's books in English and used children's clothing, including pants, tops, and shoes. If you have items you would like to donate, please bring them to the Grace church office.

Thank you for your support of our sisters and brothers in Christ!