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Christianity Basics

We Are Church

We are what God has made us-people whom God has created by grace to live in union with Jesus Christ and has prepared to live faithful, fruitful lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In Jesus Christ, God has reconciled us to God and to each other.  As we gather around word and sacraments, this life in Christ is what defines, shapes and guides us as a community of faith, the church.

By God’s grace we can and do live confidently and generously in this community of faith and in service of others, amid the mysteries and paradoxes of life in Christ-including our human limitations and failings, and the ambiguities, uncertainties, and suffering that we experience.


We are a church that walks by faith, trusting God’s promise in the gospel knowing that we exist by and for the proclamation of this gospel.  We proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead for the life  of the world.  God’s word, specifically God’s promise in Jesus Christ, creates this liberated, confident, and generous faith. God gives the Holy Spirit who uses Gospel proclamation-in preaching and sacraments, in forgiveness and in healing conversations- to create and sustain this faith.  As a Lutheran church, we give central place to this Gospel message in our ministry.  

The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3 million members in about 9.000 worshipping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region.  The ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and services in the world.  The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther. Learn more at ELCA.org.



What is Baptism? What is Holy Communion?

Christians believe that God accompanies each and every person every moment throughout life and that there is nowhere one can go to escape from God. So, God is everywhere. But if God is everywhere, why can we see or feel God right here, right now? For Lutheran Christians, Baptism and Holy Communion are two events where we know we will encounter God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Baptism is a ritual in which the person being baptized either has water poured on his/her head or is partially or fully submerged in water while the minister or his/her agent says the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Lutherans believe that in that moment of water and word, several things happen. The person being baptized is adopted into the family of God. The person’s sin is washed away. The person becomes united with Jesus in his death and resurrection, “3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:3-5 New Revised Standard Version) And, in baptism the Holy Spirit enters the person and grants to him/her the gifts of “wisdom and understand, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of the Lord, and joy in God’s presence.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Lutherans believe that it is impossible to fully comprehend or be ready for what God does through baptism so there is not state of mind or spiritual awareness required to be baptized. For this reason, and because parents and guardians desire the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of their children, Lutherans happily baptize people of all ages, including newborns and infants.

Being baptized, having one’s sin washed away, does not mean that one never sins. Rather, it means that when God looks at that one, God does regard that one’s sin, but rather the perfection of Jesus into which that one was baptized.

All Christians practice baptism, but various denominations of Christians practice it in various ways. Some Christians recognize any baptism done in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Others only recognize baptisms done in certain ways at certain ages by certain people. When one joins the congregations of certain Christian denominations, that person’s baptism may not be recognized and may be done over. Lutherans recognize any baptism done by any denomination done in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Lutherans do not rebaptize.

Holy Communion

Many books in the New Testament tell that Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Jewish holiday of Passover the night that Jesus was arrested, the arrest which led to his crucifixion. The Passover meal is a family time, using prayer, actions, and a sumptuous feast, to tell and reenact the story of God freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. God brought the Israelites out of slavery to freedom in accordance with the covenant God made with Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, and all his descendants.

While eating this Passover Meal, “Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 NIV) Christians understand these words of Jesus to mean that Jesus has made a new covenant with all who believe him which fulfills the whole covenant which God made with Abraham and his descendants, the whole Jewish people. By taking bread and wine or grape juice, blessing them with Jesus’ words “This is my body broken for you” and “This is the new covenant in my blood”, and eating and drinking the bread and wine/grape juice, Christians believe that they are keeping Jesus command to “Do this in remembrance of me,” and somehow communing with Jesus.

Lutherans believe that, during the worship service, when a minister says “This is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me,” and “This is the new covenant in my blood shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this in remembrance of me,” over the bread and wine/grape juice, that God is somehow fully present in the bread and wine, now somehow the body and blood of Jesus. When people in the church receive this bread and wine-grape juice/body and blood of Jesus, Lutherans believe that they somehow actually receive Jesus in, with, and under the appearance of the bread and wine. Lutherans do not believe that there is an actual, molecular change in the bread and wine-grape juice, but that somehow God comes to us in this little meal and gives us a taste of real love, acceptance, forgiveness, and life.

Lutherans believe that the presence of Jesus in the bread and the wine-grape juice is a mystery and not something that can be logically explained or that makes much sense. Since there is no age at which children will be mature enough to fully understand this mystery, the people at St. Martin of Tours Lutheran Church are happy to distribute Holy Communion to all people who are baptized and wish to participate in this meal.

From the very first years of the Church, worshipers were not given Holy Communion before they were baptized. While we can never fully comprehend how it is that Jesus is in the bread and wine-grape juice and that by blessing them with Jesus’ words they become somehow Jesus’ body and blood even though they are bread and wine-grape juice, nevertheless, there is much to learn about God: Father, Son-Jesus, and Holy Spirit, before one is baptized or receives Holy Communion. For infants and small children, parents and sponsors must learn about Baptism and Holy Communion before their child(ren) participate so that they may teach their child(ren) about these special times with God as each child is able to learn.

What are Good Works and are they necessary to get into Heaven?

The various denominations of Christians vary widely beliefs of why Christians do good things. Lutherans believe that we do good things in response and gratitude of what God has done for humanity.

“Salvation by grace, through faith, apart from works of law” is our mantra, although pretty well only the pastors know it. (ha ha!) What this means is that God saves humanity from the consequences of sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection which span the gap between the selfless perfection God made humans to be and the evil and selfish behavior that humans actually embody. Since Jesus is God, was born human, died without ever sinning, and returned to God for eternity, Lutherans believe that people who trust Jesus and seek God’s forgiveness and grace also go to God for eternity after death. This reunion with God is how Lutherans would describe heaven, and the activity that Jesus does to reunite us with God Lutherans call “Salvation”. So, salvation has everything to do with what God-Jesus does, and nothing to do with what people do.

The good things that people do, or “good works”, Lutherans understand to be acts of gratitude to God for salvation and love. Lutherans believe that God is present to us right here and now before death, but our selfish nature keeps us from fully relating to God. We do good things but it is impossible for us to act purely altruistically. Humans cannot fully relate to God save through salvation after death, when God somehow separates our sin from our real selves. Some Christians call this self minus sin the “soul”.