Reformation Sunday: What Would Luther Say?
By Interim Pastor Michael Brecke
Reformation Sunday is a special day in the life of the Lutheran Church, it is a day when can and perhaps should acknowledge our history, tradition, and the heritage we receive from the German Monk who started the Protestant Reformation by asking some difficult questions.
There are so many times that I wish I could sit down with Dr. Luther and ask him what he thinks about the modern church and the modern world. I would like to ask him how he would theologically work the modern scene of Christians leaving churches and struggling with faith.
I culled some of Luther quotes to help me understand Luther’s perspective on some of the questions that I would like to ask.
“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”
So it seems that Luther would find the word of God and the Gospel in all of creation. He would see in the wonderful diversity of creation the hand of God writing the Gospel in the hearts of the world. Luther would not separate life into categories but merge everything into creation.
“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”
There seems to me to be so much hopelessness in the world around us. There is widespread devastation in humankind’s inhumanity to itself. There are many people asking questions about where is God. But in the midst of our inhumanity there are glimmers – small rays of hope – where people practice caring for each other in those moments when would join with Luther and say everything we do is done in the world because of hope.
“Nothing good ever comes of violence.”
There is violence all around us and Martin Luther would like us to realize that no good comes from that behavior. A random act of violence creates tragedy and turmoil in families and communities. A six-year old girl is shot and killed because of random violence. Terrorists practice inhuman acts. But no good ever comes from those acts of violence. Luther, I think, would look at the world through his eyes and say, stop the madness of violence.
“Pray, and let God worry.”
Luther also had an enormous trust in the need for prayer. Pray, and let God worry. Letting go of the things over which we have no control is the essence of prayer and trust in God. These words may sound slightly humorous, but they express the essence of the life of faith, letting go and letting God.
“If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.”
What an incredible insight into the possibility of humor changing who we are. Can we laugh at ourselves? Can we turn, even in the face of great stress, to the ability to laugh? Can we genuinely laugh at ourselves? Can we ask the question, are we taking ourselves too seriously? Luther thought that laughter was essential to life, even life everlasting.
“Music is the art of the prophets and the gift of God.”
Luther was always deeply involved in music. Whether it was singing songs in the beer halls, or writing hymns to the tunes that he heard there, or reveling in the classical music of his day, Luther was always willing to break into song, seeing music as a gift of God.
“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.”
If Martin Luther walked the streets of our cities and countryside today I think he would carefully ask us about our priorities. He would ask us to think about the things in our lives that are the most important and ask us if, in our list of priorities, do you have room for God? I often think about this quote from Luther when I look at my own sometimes-misguided priorities. When I do that and when I have the courage to stop and pray God leads me into my own heart and not the hearts of others.
“Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.”
This is a very human side to Luther’s faith. A side that many of us search for when we lose a pet or struggle with the animals in our life, having to make decisions about whether or not they have a place in God’s eternal kingdom. This is Luther at his softest, his heart, open to even a little dog, both acknowledging and celebrating expression of life as being a part of God’s creation.
And finally, Luther said:
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
In the midst of all of the doomsayers in our lives who stand and predict that the world is coming to an end, Luther would, I believe with a wry smile, armed with the grace of God, affirm life, and affirm the love of God, and affirm the everlasting nature of God’s presence in our lives with the simple words: “I would still plant my apple tree.”
So what would Luther say if he were here today? He would say we’ve been given the grace of God so that we might know how to love God and our neighbor.
Happy Reformation Day!