Table of Contents
Signs of Belonging: Luther's Marks of the Church and the Christian Life explores Luther's teaching on the seven marks of the church: possession of the Word, Baptism, Sacrament of the Altar, Office of the Keys, Office of Ministry, Discipleship, and the cross (suffering on account of one's faith). How do these "marks" define the corporate body of Christ and connect with the lives of individual Christians?
"So you want to belong to a church. Are you good enough? Professor Mary Hinkle challenges that question with a lively and down-to-earth study on the true 'marks' of the church. She reminds us that the church is neither a country club nor a political action group. It is a body of imperfect people who will not stop practicing God's forgiveness in the church until they get it right for the sake of the world. Hinkle reminded me why I am a member of a church!"
— Richard Lischer, Author of Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery
"Mary Hinkle uses Luther's seven marks of the church to clearly illustrate points of connectedness between the individual and the larger church community. The reader is immediately and effortlessly drawn into a personal, spiritual exploration. The questions at the end of each chapter easily lend this material for use in small groups as well. Hinkle offers thought-provoking and honest conversation for every believer. Signs is a must-read for anyone who desires to be thoughtful in their spiritual development and faith life."
— Nancy Goldberger, Women of the ELCA, Editor, Lutheran Woman Today
"An easy read by an eminent scholar who brings practical biblical wisdom to our yearning to be liberated by God's grace for faithful living."
— Jack Fortin, Executive Director of Lifelong Learning, Luther Seminary
1. Where Is the Church? Signs of Belonging
In a treastise from 1539, Martin Luther names seven public practices of the church as marks or signs to help "a poor confused person" see where in the world Christians are.
2. The Word: The Story Where We Belong
An unnamed woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfune, risking ridicule and the judgment that she doesn't belong. Jesus says she does, and joins her story to his forever (Mark 14:3-9).
3. Baptism: The Bath Where We Belong
It looks like Philemon, a slave master, will "take a bath" as Paul asks that he receive his newly baptized slave, Onesimus, back home, not as a slave, but as a beloved brother in Christ (Philemon).
4. Holy Communion: The Table Where We Belong
Jesus invites himself home for dinner with the tax collector. At table with the Lord, surprising things happen for Zacchaeus and his neighbors (Luke 10:1-10)
5. Forgiveness and Reproof of Sin: The Truth Where We Belong
Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on the disciples and gives them the power to tell the truth about sin and forgiveness (John 20:19-23).
6. The Office of Ministry: The Care Where We Belong
"You give them something to eat," Jesus tells his disciples when they want him to send a crowd away hungry. The disciples gather astonishingly limited resources which Jesus blesses. There is enough, with leftovers (Mark 6:30-44).
7. Worship: The Song Where We Belong
Multitudes from every nation, tribe, people, and language gather around the heavenly throne and sing praise to God (Rev. 7:9-17).
8. The Cross: The Shadow Where We Belong
James and John want places at the right and left of Jesus when he comes into his kingdom. Do they know what they are asking? (Mark 10:35-45)
9. Belonging Together: Community, Risk, and the Presence of Christ
In the contested arenas of our daily lives and our congregational life together, the signs of the church give the world a glimpse of God's reign.
Resources for Further Study