One of the great additions to the ELCA Youth Gathering in recent years, was the development of the Practice Discipleship Initiative which ran from 2012-16. The PD Initiative invited leaders of youth and young adult ministries to share valuable lessons and introduce tools for daily discipleship. I was invited to write a curriculum in 2014 around the theme of “Framing Community.” I got positive feedback on this introduction to rhetorical listening and community organizing, but many people were also interested in a fun fact I shared about our church.

Martin Luther’s given name was actually Martin Ludder. After becoming a professor and studying the Greek New Testament, he experienced the gospel’s power to free him from the sense of guilt and sin that held him captive. Martin began to sign his name Luther. He wanted to connect his name to the Greek word for free—Eluthero. Luther’s name became one more way he showed that Christ’s love had transformed him. Every time he signed his name he was reminded of that change and shared the good news of God’s transformative love.

It’s been 500 years since Martin Luther wrote his treatise called “The Freedom of a Christian” or “On Christian Liberty”. In Abundant Life Together I studied this short piece of writing with Lutheran young adults. It shares the ways Luther put the concept of “Freedom” at the center of Christian identity. The theme Luther explores is that a Christian is simultaneously saint and sinner and simultaneously a “free lord of all, subject to none” and a “perfectly dutiful, servant of all, subject to all”. We work out that relationship of freedom and service within the grace we know in Jesus Christ, which allows us to trust God rather than fear him.

Sometimes people think we shouldn’t call our churches “Lutheran.” As we are reminded of the freedom we have in America and celebrate our nation’s birthday on July 4th, I hope we also can remember that freedom is also at the center to Lutheran identity. It’s even our name! And to remember that as Luther said, “to preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it.” May we all proclaim the freedom we know in Christ as we celebrate the freedom we continue to cultivate and share here in America.

*Practice Discipleship Archives can be found HERE