This week is kinda like two weeks ago when I got to blog about Joan of Arc but I didn't really like the questions I was supposed to answer...except that this week I get to blog about The Big Man. That's right, Mr. "Here I Stand" himself, the one, the only, Martin Luther!!! *crowd roars*
So I'm pretty sure most people know the basics of Luther's story. Wanted to be a lawyer, got scared of a little thunder storm, promised his life to God if St. Anne would spare his life, yada yada yada, Luther becomes the monk who nails 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg and starts this little thing called the Protestant Reformation. This history stuff is a no brainer. I mean, we've all seen the old black and white Luther movie every year around Reformation day in addition to the awesome newer version that came out about six years ago or so. But did you know that he was an awesome gardener, and did woodworking on the side to help support his family? Or that he possibly suffered from Meniere's Disease, along with high blood pressure? How about that his wife Katy was an ex-nun smuggled out of the nunnery in a fish barrel? Or that the pair were later engaged and married on the same day? Interesting guy, Luther was.
Anyway, on to the writings for the week: The Gospel for the Early Christmas Service and Trade and Usury.
As exemplified by the above photo, Luther was a pretty radical dude for his day. Basically, a lot of people at this time thought that in order to really be a "good Christian" they had to become a monk or something. Luther didn't think this was the case. In the Christmas Service, he describes Christians as following (I'm going to insert this entire quote, because Luther says it so beautifully, and I could never adequately paraphrase the master):
"All works are the same to a Christian, no matter what they are. For these shepherds do not run away into the desert, they do not don monk's garb, they do not shave their heads, neither do they change their clothing, schedule, food, drink, nor any external work. They return to their place in the fields to serve God there! For being a Christian does not consist in external conduct, neither does it change anyone according to his external position; rather it changes him according to the inner disposition, that is to say, it provides a different heart, a different disposition, will, and mind which do the works which another person does without such a disposition and will. For a Christian knows that it all depends upon faith; for this reason he walks, stands, eats, drinks, dresses, works, and lives as any ordinary person in his calling, so that one does not become aware of his Christianity."
Wow. Just wow. Awesome stuff, Luther.
Basically, he's saying that people are called by God to do any
sort of job, not just being a monk or the Pope or whatever. Any job can be a calling, provided it's where God wants you. (Side note: This reminds me of a really funny camp story involving a misunderstanding and corn...but it's a long story, and I don't have time to recollect it here...moving on...) According to Luther, a Christian is someone who believes with all their heart that they are saved through faith in the grace and blood of Jesus. That's it. No other nonsense about purgatory and indulgences and rosaries and the like. Granted, being a Christian can impact how you live your vocation, as Luther recounts in Trade and Usary. Basically, the whole point of that piece is: "Treat your neighbor fair and right as far as your business will allow, and in some cases, where it will not allow." While that is all meet, right, and salutary, the fact remains that a Christian is not determined by how we act, but by how we believe. It is by our love that everyone else knows we are Christians.
In this world, it is often hard to act in Christian love. American society is so wrapped up with the importance of the individual. From birth, we are taught to watch out for ourselves and to trust no one, because everyone else will only use you to get ahead. We can't wrap our heads around this concept of love without thought of reciprocation. I don't do the dishes when I'm at my house (or in my apartment, for that matter) because I'm going to get a pat on the back for it; I wash them because it will give my mom a rest or make the kitchen cleaner for my roommates to use. I have a really hard time excepting that; for example, I'm having a little get together thing for my birthday, and would have been quite content to do all of the preparations for myself...except for the fact that my friends insisted on baking my cake, and getting the food, and helping prepare everything. They're not getting anything out of the deal except for seeing me be happy on my birthday. What if everyone acted this way? What if we just all let down our barriers and started serving others all of the time instead of ourselves? Amazing things would happen, I could promise you that. I mean, even at EAG I've seen a little bit of that. No one is paid a salary; everything is done at the individual's expense or the gracious gifts of others. It's astonishing and wonderful to see. What would life be like if we let Jesus' love live through us?
One final thought: this reminds me of one of my current favorite songs - "What Life Would be Like" by Big Daddy Weave. I'll leave the link here. But I want to leave you guys with the chorus to the song...like Luther, it's pretty powerful stuff.
"He made the lame walk, and the dumb talk,
He opened blinded eyes to see
that the sun rises on His time
yet He knows our deepest, desperate need.
And the world waits while His heart aches to realize the dream.
I wonder what life would be like if we let Jesus live through you and me."
(Side note: Title explanation! yaay! These are always fun. WELL. Last weekend I made a road trip with Philanda and Anna to Fargo, and we saw a production of "Cats, the Musical." Which meant that I had to read the original trippy poems by T.S. Eliot. Which meant the phrase "Jellicles can and Jellicles do" has been running through my head randomly. So I changed it slightly and made it the title of my blog. Yaaaay story!)