18 February 2009

Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor

On this day Lutheran Service Book commemorates Dr. Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor. Treasury of Daily Prayer gives a brief synopsis of Luther's life and work, which you can read at Pr. Weedon's blog.

I also notice that Pr. Weedon posted the very same quote that I intended to post. It is one of my favorites from Dr. Luther, as it nicely describes the Christian life in this world:

“This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is road; at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified.” (“A Defense and Explanation of All Articles,” AE 32:24).

Since there are so many good pearls from Dr. Luther, I'll post a few more quotes that have impressed me, sustained me, and taught me much. Here's one on faith:

“Faith is a lively and mighty thing. It is not a sleepy and lazy thought held suspended over the heart yet never swimming in it like a goose hovering over the water. It is rather like water that is heated and warmed by a fire so that if it still remains water, yet it is no longer cold but warm and a completely different kind of water. So faith, which is the work of the Holy Ghost, makes a different heart, mind and soul. It makes the whole person new.” ("Lectures on Genesis," AE, 2:265-267).

Here's a gem that we certainly need to hear in our time, as the Reformer extols holding to the faith and teaching of the whole Church of all times:

“For it is dangerous and atrocious to hear and believe anything against the unanimous testimony, belief, and teaching of the whole holy Christian church that from its beginning now for more than fifteen hundred years has been taught with one accord all over the world.” (“Letter Against Some Factious Spirits to Margrave Albrecht of Brandenberg,” 1523, St. Louis Edition, 20:1686; cited in C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry, 141)

And speaking of the Church, who can forget Luther's lovely and simple way of describing the Church as that which even a child can know:

"Thank God, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd. So children pray, 'I believe in one holy Christian church.'" (Smalcald Articles, III, XII, 2)

Luther certainly knew how to preach the Gospel of God saving us and enlivening us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Here Luther proclaims that precious message as he speaks of Jesus' Baptism:

“For we see how God in heaven pours out his grace through his Son’s baptism. Heaven which before was closed, is opened by Christ’s baptism and a window and door now stand open for us to see through. No longer is there a barrier between God and us, since God himself descends at the Jordan. The Father lets his voice be heard, the Son sanctifies baptism with his body, and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. Is this not a great manifestation, a truly great sign of how very precious baptism is to God, that he does not abstain from it?” (House Postils, I:218)

And finally, this quote on the Virgin Mary really opened my eyes to just how much Luther wanted to remain with "the unanimous testimony, belief, and teaching of the whole holy Christian church." Notice it comes from "mature Luther."

“She was without doubt, a pure, chaste virgin before the birth, in the birth, and after the birth.” (Sermon from 1541 on Holy Innocents)

Luther was certainly a complex and colorful character, but most of all we thank God that His Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ brought great comfort to the Reformer and that our gracious God used Luther's humble lips and pen (okay, not always so humble, we must admit) to confess the Truth who is Jesus Christ. If nothing else of Luther's writings were to remain, his Small Catechism would be plenty for us to feast on the Bread of Life whom he confessed. After all, the Small Catechism gives a great summation of the Christian faith as a whole, and especially in the Second Article of the Apostles' Creed:

"I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true." (Small Catechism, Creed, The Second Article)

1 comment:

  1. I was none too thrilled to see that LSB "declassified" Luther from a minor festival to a commemoration. I was equally dismayed to see LSB do the same thing to Laurence {on my Wittenberg Trail blog is my sermon for St. Laurence' Day last year--yes, I preached on it!).