Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Anniversary of Luther's Death

On February 18th, 1546, Martin Luther Died. Every year when this date comes around, I kick myself for not having prepared for it before hand - organized a special study, maybe even a service - do something. Once again, it came, and I saw the calendar and said, "Oh yea, Luther's day."

So, let's ponder Martin for a while. How shall we view him? He wanted to reform the Church, and yet after his work, the Church was left more fractured than ever. He wanted to restore Rome's focus upon the Gospel, and Rome went the opposite way, determined to chase off those within her wings who had most openly preserved and taught the Gospel. He wanted a focus on the Word, and Rome responds by establishing more and more dogmas with no weight in Scripture (or tradition). Even in his beloved Germany, Luther sees the rise of the fanatics and enthusiasts, and wars and rebellions which twisted his words for their purposes. What a frustrating life!

And yet, through it, Martin Luther endured in the faith. Today, I don't want to ponder the weight or results of the Reformation (just as we don't generally consider the weight of the era of Julian the Apostate when we think about Athanasius) - rather, what did Luther bring to the Church as a teacher?

All the great teachers of the Church have an area of the faith that they excel at. If you want to understand the pastoral nature of being a Bishop, go read Ignatius. If you want to understand the physicality of the Christian faith, read Ireneaus. If you want to understand the Trinity, go look to the Cappadocian Fathers. If you want to understand the struggles of a Christian living in the world - go look to Augustine. What, if you want to be a student, should you study of Luther.

I will argue that Luther understood two things (or at least taught them) better than any other in the Church's History. Luther understood the pervasive nature and impact of sin, and Luther understood the wonders we receive in Baptism.

And probably this is merely two-sides of the same coin. Because Luther understood the depths of sin (and trust me, Luther gets how human nature works), he also was constantly amazed at the depth of God's love shown in Baptism. He understood what a gift Baptism was for combating our sinful nature, for daily drowning the old Adam. And that's what he excels at.

So, what think you? If you had to give it, what would you say Luther's expertise was? I think I am on. . . that Trigg fellow probably would at least half agree with me. At any rate:

All praise to Thee for Martin
Who taught the Gospel pure,
who focused on salvation,
alone in Christ made sure.
May we who often struggle
Against the world and sin
Return to our baptism
and be renewed again.

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