The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Reformation Sunday

WHEN MY SON WAS ABOUT SIX YEARS OLD, I INSTALLED A NEW SOAP HOLDER IN THE UPSTAIRS BATH ROOM. I FIXED IT WITH SCREWS, BUT IT ALSO CAME WITH A LITTLE PLASTIC TEARDROP OF GLUE. WHEN I CLEANED UP, I MISSED THE LITTLE PACKET OF GLUE. LATER, WHEN I SENT MY SON UP TO WASH BEFORE DINNER, I REALIZED THAT IT WAS TAKING HIM A LONG TIME. ONE OF THE LAWS IN OUR HOUSE WAS THAT THOU SHALT NOT TOUCH DADDY’S STUFF. I CALLED HIS NAME, AND, IN REPLY, I HEARD THIS TERRIFIED SCREAM OF “I’M COMING!” WELL, THAT SENT ME UPSTAIRS, AND, AS HE HEARD MY TREAD ON THE STEPS, HE KEPT SHOUTING, “I’M COMING! I’M COMING!” AS I OPENED THE DOOR TO THE BATHROOM, I FOUND HIM IN TEARS AT THE SINK. HE HAD POKED THAT LITTLE TEARDROP OF GLUE UNTIL IT BURST ALL OVER HIS HANDS, AND THEN TRIED TO WASH OFF THE GLUE WITH SOAP AND WATER. THERE HE WAS, CRYING WITH HIS HANDS LOCKED TOGETHER, AND NOTHING HE COULD DO WOULD SET HIM FREE. “I’M SORRY,” HE CRIED, “I DIDN’T MEAN IT! HELP ME, DADDY!”

TOMORROW IS THE 499TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE START OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION, AND BEGINS THE YEAR OF OBSERVANCES WHICH WILL LEAD TO THE CELEBRATION OF THE 500TH YEAR COMMEMORATION. SINCE I AM YOUR RESIDENT LUTHER SCHOLAR, I HAVE BEEN INVITED TO TELL YOU A BIT ABOUT THE REFORMATION, BUT HAVE BEEN WARNED AGAINST POSTING ANYTHING ON THE DOORS OF THE CHURCH.

MARTIN WAS BORN TO HANS AND MARGARET LUDER IN EISLEBEN, ABOUT 120 MILES SOUTH WEST OF BERLIN. DEVOUT CATHOLICS, THEY WERE WELL OFF BUT NOT RICH (WE’D CALL THEM MIDDLE CLASS TODAY), AND HANS HAD AN INTEREST IN THE COPPER MINES. HANS WANTED MARTIN TO BECOME A LAWYER, SO HE SENT HIM TO LATIN SCHOOL, AND THEN TO THE UNIVERSITY AT ERFURT AT AGE 13. MARTIN EARNED HIS BACHELOR AND MASTER DEGREES IN THE SHORTEST TIME ALLOWED BY THE UNIVERSITY REGULATIONS. HE WAS A STAR IN DEBATE, TO THE POINT THAT HIS FELLOW STUDENTS CALLED HIM “THE PHILOSOPHER.”

AT AGE 21, HIS LIFE TOOK A DRAMATIC TURN, WHEN HE WAS CAUGHT IN THE OPEN DURING ONE OF THOSE TERRIBLE GERMAN LIGHTNING STORMS. HE CRIED OUT, “SAINT ANN, SAVE ME, AND I WILL BECOME A MONK!” HE SURVIVED, AND, TRUE TO HIS WORD, SOLD ALL HIS POSSESSIONS AND ENTERED THE CLOISTER OF THE AUGUSTINIAN HERMITS. HE “OUT MONKED” THE OTHER MONKS IN PRAYER, FASTING, GOING WITHOUT SLEEP, ENDURING BONE – CHILLING COLD WITHOUT A BLANKET, AND EVEN FLAGELLATING HIMSELF. HE LATER COMMENTED, “IF ANYONE COULD HAVE EARNED HEAVEN BY THE LIFE OF A MONK, IT WAS I.” YET, EVEN WHILE DOING EVERYTHING HE COULD TO LOVE GOD THROUGH HIS STERN DISCIPLINE, HE WAS TERRIFIED THAT HE WAS NOT RIGHTEOUS ENOUGH, AND SO FEARED THE WRATH OF GOD THAT HE WORE OUT THREE CONFESSORS. BECAUSE OF HIS INTELLECT, AND PROBABLY TO SPARE THE OTHER MONKS, HE WAS ORDERED TO OBTAIN A DOCTORATE IN BIBLICAL THEOLOGY AND TEACH AT THE UNIVERSITY AT WITTENBURG. THERE IS WHERE IT ALL BEGAN.

DURING LECTURES ON THE PSALMS, AND AN IN DEPTH STUDY OF THE BOOK OF ROMANS, HE BEGAN TO SEE THE TRUTH THAT WOULD SET HIM FREE. “AT LAST, MEDITATING DAY AND NIGHT, BY THE MERCY OF GOD, I …BEGAN TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IS THAT THROUGH WHICH THE RIGHTEOUS LIVE BY A GIFT OF GOD, NAMELY BY FAITH . . .HERE I FELT AS IF I WERE ENTIRELY BORN AGAIN AND HAD ENTERED PARADISE ITSELF THOUGH THE GATES THAT HAD BEEN FLUNG OPEN.” FOR MARTIN, HUMILITY WAS NO LONGER A VIRTUE THAT EARNED GRACE BUT A NECESSARY RESPONSE TO THE GIFT OF GRACE. FAITH NO LONGER CONSISTED OF ASSENTING TO THE CHURCH’S TEACHINGS BUT OF TRUSTING THE PROMISES OF GOD AND THE MERITS OF CHRIST. THIS CHANGED EVERYTHING. MARTIN EVEN CHANGED HIS NAME FROM LUDER, TO LUTHER, AFTER THE GREEK WORD “ELUTHERIA,” WHICH MEANS “FREE.”

ON ALL SAINTS EVE IN 1517, LUTHER, OBJECTING TO THE WAY IN WHICH THE PAPAL REPRESENTATIVE, JOHANN TETZEL, WAS SELLING AND PREACHING ABOUT INDULGENCES, THE PRACTICE OF BUYING FORGIVENESS OF SINS FOR YOURSELF AND DEAD RELATIVES IN PURGATORY, LUTHER POSTED 95 THESES FOR DISCUSSION ON THE INTERNET OF THE TIME; THE DOORS OF THE CASTLE CHURCH AT WITTENBURG. THESE WERE POINTS TO GENDER AN INTELLECTUAL DISCUSSION ON THE PRACTICE AND MERITS OF SELLING INDULGENCES. LUTHER ALSO SENT A COPY TO HIS BISHOP, AS WELL AS TO HIS SECULAR LEADER, THE ELECTOR OF SAXONY. THE WHOLE TENOR OF HIS ARGUMENT CAN BE GLEANED FROM THESIS I, “WHEN OUR LORD AND MASTER JESUS CHRIST SAID, ‘REPENT,’ HE WILLED THE ENTIRE LIFE OF BELIEVERS TO BE ONE OF REPENTANCE.” IN HIS 95 THESES, LUTHER ACTUALLY DEFENDED THE POPE, BECAUSE HE COULDN’T BELIEVE THE POPE KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON.

WHEN THE POPE TOLD LUTHER’S SUPERIOR TO SHUT HIM UP, AND OTHER CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS WROTE RESPONSES CHARGING HIM WITH HERESY, LUTHER FIRED BACK IN WHAT CAN ONLY BE CALLED A PAMPHLET WAR. LUTHER INSTINCTIVELY GRASPED THE NEW MEDIUM OF MASS PUBLICATION, AND HE FLOODED GERMANY AND BEYOND WITH HIS NEW UNDERSTANDING OF THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL. SOME OF HIS WRITINGS WERE REPRINTED OVER TWENTY TIMES. HIS ADVERSARIES COULDN’T KEEP UP WITH HIM, AND HE BECAME A HOUSEHOLD NAME – THE FIRST CELEBRITY.

IN 1521 HE WAS CALLED TO AN ASSEMBLY AT WORMS, KNOWN AS A DIET, TO APPEAR BEFORE THE EMPEROR CHARLES V. LUTHER CAME EXPECTING A DEBATE, SO HE CAME WITH COPIES OF ALL HIS WRITINGS. HE SOON DISCOVERED THAT THERE WAS TO BE NO DEBATE BUT A TRIAL AT WHICH HE WAS ORDERED TO RECANT HIS POSITION. HE REFUSED SAYING, “UNLESS I CAN BE INSTRUCTED AND CONVINCED BY EVIDENCE FROM THE HOLY SCRIPTURES OR WITH OPEN, CLEAR, AND DISTINCT GROUNDS OF REASONING … THEN I CANNOT AND WILL NOT RECANT, BECAUSE IT IS NEITHER SAFE NOR WISE TO ACT AGAINST CONSCIENCE. HERE I STAND. I CAN DO NO OTHER. GOD HELP ME! AMEN.”

FROM WORMS HE ESCAPED TO THE WARTBURG, WHERE HE WAS HIDDEN FOR A YEAR BY HIS FOLLOWERS. THERE HE TRANSLATED THE NEW TESTAMENT INTO GERMAN, SO THAT THE LAITY MIGHT KNOW THE WORD OF GOD FOR THEIR SELVES. RETURNING TO WITTENBURG, HE MARRIED AN ESCAPED NUN, KATHERINA VON BORA, WHICH SCANDALIZED QUITE A FEW PEOPLE. HE BECAME A DEVOTED HUSBAND AND FATHER, AND SAID THAT THE GREATEST SHOCK OF BEING MARRIED WAS TO WAKE UP IN THE MORNING WITH “PIGTAILS ON THE PILLOW NEXT TO ME.”

HE MANAGED TO SURVIVE ALL THE ATTEMPTS TO KILL OR SILENCE HIM, BUT THE OLDER HE GOT, THE GRUMPIER HE BECAME, AND SOME OF HIS LATER WRITINGS ARE AN ADMITTED EMBARRASSMENT; YET HE NEVER STOPPED WORKING. IN 1531, WHILE SICK FOR SIX MONTHS AND SUFFERING FROM EXHAUSTION, HE PREACHED 180 SERMONS, WROTE 15 TRACTS, WORKED ON HIS OLD TESTAMENT TRANSLATION, AND TOOK A NUMBER OF TRIPS. IN 1546, RETURNING TO EISLEBEN TO SETTLE A DISPUTE, HE DIED IN THE TOWN WHERE HE WAS BORN.

LUTHER’S MESSAGE CHANGED THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, EVENTUALLY EVEN THE ROMAN CATHOLICS. FOR HIM, ALL OF LIFE IS A RETURN TO BAPTISM, IN WHICH ONE CLINGS TO GOD’S PROMISE OF SALVATION BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST ALONE; WHO BY HIS LIFE, DEATH, AND RESURRECTION FREED MANKIND FROM ALL PUNISHMENT FOR SIN. ONE LIVES BY TRUSTING IN CHRIST ALONE, AND BY BECOMING A CHRIST FOR ONE’S NEIGHBOR. THAT IS THE RIGHTEOUS OF FAITH.

HELPLESS TO HELP HIMSELF, MY SON HELD UP HIS LOCKED TOGETHER HANDS TO ME FOR HELP. A GOOD SCRUBBING WITH ACETONE FREED HIM FROM HIS BONDAGE, A LOVING KISS ON HIS HEAD CLEARED HIS TEARY EYES, AND HE WENT DOWN TO SUPPER AS CHEERFUL AS IF NOTHING HAPPENED. SO TOO DOES GOD’S GRACE IN CHRIST JESUS FREE US FROM OUR BONDAGE TO SIN, AND MAKES US FREE INDEED TO LIVE A LIFE TRUSTING IN OUR LOVING FATHER BY WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR US IN JESUS.

WE CAN THANK MARTIN LUTHER FOR REMINDING US OF THE TRUTH THAT SETS US FREE.
AMEN

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