And I heard them murmur…
“… he didn’t really say that did he?
It’s no big secret Martin Luther had an edgy side to his words. Beer drinking monks who become college professors find the task easy. In fact, when the Duke Elector hands over the local monastery to you for your family to live in, it’s quite easy to see how a person can take privilege to speak one’s own mind amongst friends. It is said that when Luther had people at his table for dinner, students would write down his responses to questions about life and death, God and the Pope and the work of priests, etc. Quite often some of Luther’s colleagues attempted to confiscate the notebooks of those students to keep what positive image Luther had intact. However, because we have his edgy words, obviously Luther’s colleagues were not totally successful!
As we get ready to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Christian Reformation, it might be fun as well as in good order to reflect on some of Luther’s edgy remarks. So, let the celebration begin for this unique man… perhaps you want to add some quotes in the comments below…
In our culture most people pray when they need something. It’s usually not a good scenario. There are far more people who get on with their day with no thought of God whatsoever. Luther could not think of beginning any task without spending time in prayer…
“I have so much to do today, I’ll need to spend another hour on my knees.”
When I first heard this I gasped. What a joke I thought. I was young. It fits better in my life now. But, I also think that Luther started his day out way different than our own. For in my life, I get up then walk slowly to the commode. Luther’s morning relief was outside or in a chamber pot. I make the coffee. He never had a cup of coffee. The water I use to brush my teeth and shower comes from indoor spigots. Luther needed to draw water in a bucket! He would walk the house and light the candles from the taper lit from the embers of last nights fire. I have AC and light switches. Different routines but we all get a morning to pray. So, I have this idea that Luther began his day in prayer as he went around the house and opened up windows, lighting candles, drawing water from the well out back, etc. He said it himself by saying he began his day saying the 10 commandments, praying the Lord’s Prayer and reciting the Creed. It’s a clue and I’ve been wrong before…
ON THE PRIMACY OF THE GOSPEL
We live in a world of ‘know-it-alls”. Got a Facebook page? A Twitter account? A blog? Good. There’s a new rule in town. It’s your blog. It’s your tweet. It’s your fb post. You are the expert and you get to tell people off. Respond if you want. Delete as needed. I groan to ponder still what Luther would have written or posted had he access to a laptop and a twitter account. Yet, he was such a realist. As smart as he was and despite his good intentions, he knew is own shortcomings. He knew his need for grace and perhaps this is one really good reason why the Roman church continues to hold daily mass…
“We need to hear the Gospel every day, because we forget it every day. “
Just once I’d like to look in the mirror and see not my face, but God’s. A quick glance over the sink. Was that Jesus? Nah. It’s me. Again. Just like always. I’m so important and without a time to pray and without making a short list of who I need to help today I remain the center of the world. It’s bad news. I’m bad news. Until the Gospel creeps in. You probably have a mirror just like mine. It doesn’t talk. I wish it did. To remind me of the gospel.
ON GOOD WORKS
Luther’s understanding of God changed the more he read his Bible and the more open he was to his father confessor at the Augustinian monetary, Johann von Staupitz. Luther desired a God who loved him yet thought the love God had for him was determined by the good works Luther did. What a freeing moment when he discovered this…
“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.”
And just for the record, I’m one of those guys who thinks that von Staupitz was really the heart and soul of the Reformation. Sure, God called Luther to be a monk. Lighting bolt in the arse stuff. But, it was Luther’s confessor who pushed him to seek Christ. It was Fr. von Staupitz who sent Luther to Rome and got him the job at Wittenberg. In fact, I think that if it weren’t for him, there would be no Luther at all and he very well may have died a frustrated monk in Erfurt never to discover the grace of Christ. Old ones see where the holes are better than most think. Fr. von Staupitz did a good work. He loved Luther.
ON IDOLATRY AND WEALTH
The world Luther lived in was vastly different from the daily life we encounter. Luther had no cell phone or wi-fi nor a laptop or running water or instant light at the flip of a switch. While the printing press made him a European rock star in the church, he most like never heard of Christopher Columbus who was pretty much a contemporary. Yet, a person’s heart in Luther’s Wittenberg is no different 500 years later from the hearts of those like me who live in SE Texas or anywhere else in North America. We all have a God and we all believe in something. What Brother Martin felt important was where a person places their life’s priority… and was caught saying…
“Show me where a person spends their time and money and I’ll show you that person’s God.”
Ask any 13-year-old in the US of A what they want to be when they grow up … you will hear the #1 answer from most of them. “Rich and famous.” The trouble though is that those who become rich and famous seem to enjoy the wealth but dislike the fame. Gee. Who would have thunk that selfishness and idolatry were related?
ON SIN AND BEER DRINKING.
Looking back on Luther’s life, it is easy to see that he was one who “worked hard” and “played hard”. Well, in those days, everybody did. People only played when the work was done. That is a different concept than our American way of life. For too many, play and leisure is life’s goal… rather than seeing it as a reward for the hard yet necessary work we tackle day-to-day. Luther was trained in logic. Take heed. I’m not sure this is a recipe we all want to hold on to at all cost…
“Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”
I’m not sure whether Martin actually said this… if not, I’d like to give credit to my fraternity advisor in college!
ON FLATULENCE AND THE DEVIL
Luther’s culture had such a mysterious and superstitious bend. Lightning, thunder and gargoyles just for starters. Science has taught us much about the world and God and in many instances tempered those superstitions… like God is angry when lightning strikes your house… we all know better… even though scientists cannot tell any of us when and exactly where lightning will strike! Good and evil ruled the day and when it came to Luther having any power over the devil he was heard saying this..
“But I resist the devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away.”
The older I get, the easier it is to chase away the devil this way. Plus, I think this saying rhymes in German! Regardless, every language has this sound! Our grandson is six. He thinks only boys do that. And he chases the devil away sometimes more than I!
ON LIFE AS GIFT
Luther wasn’t the scientist that our 6th graders are. I suppose his efforts within the church, however, added a push of energy to what we all have access to now. He did know the sanctity of life, however, as a pastor’s work pulls the high and low watermarks of life and death closer more often than those who experience births and deaths from time to time. Face it, I don’t have to be here. You don’t have to be here. But, I am here. You are, too! We are here. We belong to Christ and Christ gives new life. That’s the deal. Someone said back at the end of the 2oth century… (my paraphrase) “when the world gets done fighting, it will be the Lutherans who bring people together. They know Jesus well and they know how to stretch out their arms in both directions to bring the world to the table of Christ. That will be a good day!” Life is a gift indeed. Sacred for each generation. I look forward to that day and hope it lasts a week or more!
ON CALLING THE CHURCH ‘LUTHERAN’
Lastly, there is this to consider… near the end when those opposed to the ‘reforming’ efforts of the Church Catholic the followers of Brother Martin got tagged by his last name.
“The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone… How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?”
I graduated from Texas Lutheran College in 1976, the year of America’s Bicentennial. It was a grand day and a grand year. I do not recall any of us saying… “Gee, I wonder if we’ll be around celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation… but here we are… 2017 and we can say… we were there… how good for the world that Martin Luther’s name is still recalled… because he pointed the church to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Sunday, October 29 will be the official celebration day for the ‘reformation’ for Lutheran Christians around the globe. I hope you will find your way to a church that day to hear the gospel’s good news in a fresh way! Let your Lutheran Christian leaning bring you to the Word and the Table as we make our way into another season of faithful living! And if I were a mathematician, I might advertise it this way…
1 monk + 95 theses + 500 years = 80 million Lutherans around the globe!
May you carry on some edginess of your own for the sake of the world…
And I heard them murmur…
“… he didn’t really say that did he?
murmuring as best I can in times like this…