Luther and Lutheranism
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Martin Luther was eight years old when Christopher Columbus set sail from Europe and landed in the Western Hemisphere. Luther was a young monk and priest when Michaelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel in Rome. A few years later, he was a junior faculty member at a new university in small-town Germany, intently studying the Scriptures, “captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans.”
In these days Luther was tormented by the demand for righteousness before God. “I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God.” Then, in the midst of that struggle with God, the message of the Scriptures became clear, like a long-shut door opening wide. When he realized that a “merciful God justifies us by faith … I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”
What Luther discovered is the freedom of Christians trusting God’s mercy in Christ. As he later wrote, “Faith is God’s work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God. This faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that believers would stake their lives on it a thousand times.”
This discovery set Luther’s life on a new course —both his own life and his public service as a preacher and teacher. When a church-endorsed sales team came to the Wittenberg area in October, 1517, Luther was concerned that the promotion and sale of indulgences undermined the promise of God’s unreserved mercy in Jesus and the faith that trusts that promise. His 95 Thesesor Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences became the first of a life-long stream of books, sermons, letters, essays, even hymns in which he expressed his confidence in this life-giving promise from God, the Gospel, and its liberating implications for all of life in church and society.
Bethel Lutheran Church History
PALM SUNDAY 1924:
Bethel Ev. Lutheran Church, now of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), formed its Constitution and Articles of Incorporation with 103 charter members.
AUGUST 16, 1925:
The church was at 8th and Wilton Place.
FEBRUARY 27, 1949:
Bethel’s new church building at 5750 W. Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90036. was dedicated in time for its 25th Anniversary.
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Beverly Hills gave up its charter and many members from there joined Bethel’s family.
JANUARY 1, 1988:
Bethel became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the now called SouthWest California Synod.
SEPTEMBER 24, 1988:
Bethel hosted the First Annual Synod-wide Evangelism Outreach Festival.
OCTOBER 9, 1988:
Bethel hosted the First Annual Synod-wide Peace With Justice Week
JUNE 13, 1992:
“Hands Across L.A.” Participation as part of a coalition of churches and temples, sponsoring a 10-mile human chain as a symbol of peace and unity.
MARCH 14, 1995 to Present:
Bethel was affirmed as a Reconciling in Christ congregation, which welcomes the full participation of LGBTQ people.
NOVEMBER 19, 1995:
Participation in “A Service of Baptism: Renewing the 1993 Trilateral Covenant Among the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Southern California West Synod; and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”
2009 to Present:
Bethel created the Sanctuary Yoga program, with weekly classes open to church members and members of the community. Creation of Emergency Food Pantry. Participation in Habitat For Humanity in Los Angeles County.