No saint lived without errors
This week Derek Akker may surprise you with some words from Martin Luther and smile when you think of his contribution to our faith.
Born November 10 1483
Died February 8 1546
‘No great saint lived without errors.’
Martin Luther was a composer, professor of moral theology, monk and a priest, being ordained in 1507. Through his studies it became clear to Luther that you could not be saved by your own efforts, and you could not buy forgiveness, forgiveness came through the grace of God. For Luther it was the Bible not the Church that was the starting point for the interpretation of the Word of the Lord.
He became increasingly disillusioned with the Roman Catholic Church especially over the practice of indulgencies and the role of priests in this practice. He published the 95 theses or the Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences in October 1517. He wanted academic discussions of his of his theses in order to bring a drastic change. What he did not want was to set in motion a reform movement that would change the face of Western Christianity. Martin Luther’s writings and influence on the church are still important today.
I wish us to take time and to reflect not on those deep theological and academic treaties found on dusty bookshelves in centres of learning but rather in those throw away lines that nonetheless give us insights into Martin Luther. We would call then soundbites today but first a prayer and some sentences of scripture. Then we will pause and ponder those words, smile, laugh, look puzzled and perhaps question but above all give thanks for all that Martin Luther contributed to the faith.
O God, our refuge and our strength: You raised up your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew your Church in the light of your word. Strengthen the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of your grace which you have made known in Jesus Christ our Saviour, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Words from the prophet Isaiah, the Psalms and John’s Gospel:
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near . . .. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
“Be still, then, and know that I am God; *
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
I have sometimes suggested that you sit comfortably and sometimes have a drink as we reflect. I had not realised I was walking, so to speak, in the footsteps of Martin Luther. Here are a few quotations from Martin Luther around the subject of sitting and drinking.
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!
Beer is made by men, wine by God.
He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long.
It is better to think of church in the ale-house than to think of the ale-house in church.
I had never thought I would start a reflection with words about drinking beer and the divine nature of wine. Well why not? If it was a subject worthy of the Father of the Reformation why us not today? Has there not been that occasion where the taste of a cool refreshing beer, the crispness of a white wine, the full body of a red wine or the flavours of a fresh fruit drink given you pleasure? Are not those occasions worthy occasions, worthy of giving thanks to the Lord for? Do we not find God in the ordinary, can we not find God in those moments of pleasure?
. . . have as much laughter as you have faith.
On the Bible Luther said:
God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.
The gospel cannot be truly preached without offence and tumult.
and on prayer he said:
Pray, and let God worry.
The fewer the words, the better the prayer.
I’ve got so much work to do today, I’d better spend two hours in prayer instead of one.
Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.
On walking with God:
I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide.
I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.
If you feel a radical moment coming on Luther has words for you:
If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.
I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.
You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say
Or on people trying to define you, put you in a mould:
They are trying to make me into a fixed star. I am an irregular planet.
The joy of music:
My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.
Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.
And finally, on dogs:
The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest.
Luther based this hymn, In Peace and Joy I Now Depart, on the words of Simeon recorded in Luke 2:29-30 when he saw the baby Jesus in the temple. It was written in 1524.
Read or join in the words using the YouTube link below:
In peace and joy I now depart
At God’s disposing;
For full of comfort is my heart,
So the Lord hath promised me,
And death is but a slumber.
’Tis Christ that wrought this work for me,
My faithful Savior,
Whom Thou hast made mine eyes to see
By Thy favour.
Now I know He is my Life,
My Help in need and dying.
Him Thou hast unto all set forth
Their great Salvation
And to His kingdom called the earth,
By Thy dear and wholesome Word,
In every place resounding.
He is the Hope and saving Light
Of lands benighted;
By Him are they who dwelt in night
Fed and lighted.
He is Israel’s Praise and Bliss,
Their Joy, Reward, and Glory.
Pause, reflect, give thanks remembering the words of Luther:
The fewer the words, the better the prayer.
True humility does not know that it is humble. If it did, it would be proud from the contemplation of so fine a virtue.