The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A place called Lutheran

Reformation themes need to be claimed in all we do

A first-call candidate as-signed to the Northeastern Ohio Synod came to me about an interesting encounter she had with a waitress. The waitress admired our candidate’s Luther Rose pendant and asked what it was. “It’s Lutheran,” replied the candidate. “Where’s Lutheran?” asked the waitress.

We chuckled that the waitress imagined a place of beauty and mystery calledLutheran and were a little rueful that she had never heard of Lutheran before. Her question “Where’s Lutheran?” has stayed with me ever since.

Lutheran does not coincide with Lake Wobegon. It’s not found only in Philadelphia or Minneapolis or South Dakota, but everywhere from Maine to Hawaii, from Alaska to Puerto Rico. The cuisine of Lutheran is not limited to green bean casserole and Jell-O, but also tortillas, greens, fried rice and goat. It’s not populated exclusively by the descendants of Central and Northern Europe, though there are a lot of those folks. It is not a place of rigid conformity or where anything goes. 

Lutheran would never be confused with utopia. Its citizens have too realistic a view of disobedience, sin and brokenness to believe that any human habitation can claim goodness and righteousness for itself. But Lutheran is also a place of great hope.Lutheran is a place where the incessant human struggle for self-righteousness and self-justification is left at the border and, free of the burden of making themselves holy and acceptable to God, its people cling to the cross of Christ as the true assurance of life. It’s a place where people can spend their lives in service to God and neighbor.

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