If you want to read ONE thing, I recommend Lutheran Pastor, illustrator, and theologian Daniel Erlander's It's All About Love. It's essentially a synthesis/summary of Lutheran theology and the catechisms, but it's written as a fold-out illustrated path - "journey" - so it is easiest to read if you print it out and lay the pages out - or just make sure you follow the path and read the boxes in order... Don't let the cartoon illustrations fool you - this is good, heavy theology!
Two scriptures to consider that are at the heart of Lutheran theology:
Romans 3:21-24: [Paul writes:]"But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
Ephesians 2:8-9: [Paul writes:] "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast."
Two videos, which in the past I've sometimes shown in new member classes, that succinctly convey what it means to be Lutheran - watch again even if you've seen before! The most central thing in the Lutheran faith is belief in God's grace - that it's all God's doing, not ours, and God's rich forgiveness, love, and relationship is completely unearned on our part! So here are two Lutheran pastors below, sharing central pieces of what it means and looks like to be Lutheran: former Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson on the question, "Why Lutheran," and Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber (whose books Accidental Saints, Shameless: a Sexual Reformation, and Pastrix, I recommend - in that order) from the 2013 youth gathering on how she became a Lutheran.
There's also this central text to start with:
Martin Luther's Small Catechism.Luther wrote this (almost 500 years ago) to be foundational set of questions and answers of the building blocks of faith, for home conversation and family reading. Also includes topics of the sacraments of baptism and communion, and some simple prayers for home. Here's a simple pdf version to read, and Pastor would also be happy to get you a copy. We read this together in small group study once every year or two - speak up if interested! OR - here's the free app version, which includes a couple extras (and I like because it's always handy)!
Here are some questions to consider and may guide a conversation:
When you hear the word "Lutheran" what comes to mind? Is it:
a word/concept? Is it theological/a belief?
a (specific) congregation/community/building?
a cultural practice or behavior?
To you - what is central about "being Lutheran?" What belief(s) do you feel are central?
What questions do you have about being Lutheran?
What makes you proud to be Lutheran? What makes you hesitant to identify with it?
What does "being a Lutheran" look like in living it out?
For further thought (I doubt we'll get to it in discussion) - what are the marks of "being a Lutheran" that are separate from a specific cultural practice? (E.g.: Lutheranism is bigger and can't just be associated with a singular cultural group or practice, right? Where's the line?)
As always, you're invited to join the group discussion - we love welcoming new folks and always have lively conversation! If you can't make it or just have individual questions, you're always invited toemail me, Pastor Brett- and I'd be happy to find a time to talk one-on-one!