Are there any more wonderful words in this life than, “for you?” Martin Luther writes in his Small Catechism, “That person is truly worthy and well prepared (for the Lord’s Supper) who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
It’s all about the conscience. Once we understand that, so much of what Martin Luther wrote, taught, preached, and acted on makes more sense, especially when it comes to the spiritual counsel he provided to others. For Luther the Gospel was not given as advice for religious seekers but as balm to troubled consciences, including those of people facing sickness and death.
In many churches, the pastor wears clothing referred to as “clerical vestments.” This may seem odd, particularly if you’ve never attended a church where this is practiced. Clerical vestments are the adaptation of ordinary clothing to set clergy apart from regular church members.
We are rebel children and children of God the Father. For the Baptized, this is how it goes. We're baptized into Christ. We're forgiven, but we're still sinners. We are sinners in the flesh, but at peace with God through faith in Christ. That's how it goes for us.
The place was Promontory, Utah. The date was May 10, 1869, or at the time of this writing, 150 years ago. The scene looked like this: Two locomotives facing each other, cow-catcher to cow-catcher, as if in a silent standoff. But the mood was one of celebration as crowds stood around watching, and dignitaries worked together to drive in the golden spike.
Luther’s letters of spiritual counsel have long been a favorite resource of mine. I often use them before turning in at night as a devotion. Luther’s letters and table talk comments, most of which were written in his later years, are full of down-to-earth advice and Gospel insights that are often surprisingly still relevant to the troubles of our day.
In Douglas Adams’ classic novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams describes the back cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide as barren except for the words “Don’t Panic” prominently written in large, friendly letters to imbue the galactic traveler with a sense of confidence and calm as he braves the vast unknown.
You’ve likely seen some of these stories on your social media feed: “Union Seminary President Denies Resurrection!”, or “Ex-Evangelicals reaching new audiences with edgy podcast,” or “Mega Church Pastor claims Old Testament is true ‘like Star Wars’ is true.”
What if everyone adored us no matter how selfish we were? What if, no matter what we said, people didn't hold it against us? What if everybody forgave us no matter what we did, but God judged us? What if God kept a record of everything we said and did, and judged it all?
For more stories like this check out the newest podcast from 1517, the Christian History Almanac with Dr. Dan van Voorhis, a daily five-minute podcast with stories, readings and poetry at www.1517.org/almanac and wherever you download your favorite podcasts.
In the sixteenth century, society experienced upheaval as a result of the theology of Martin Luther and his Heidelberg Disputation being proclaimed and embraced by the Protestant reformers. Five hundred years later, the West is once again in upheaval as the truths of the Heidelberg Disputation are being rejected.
We like systems, or at least I do. They help me rationalize complexity and understand the world around me. We also like to think and talk about ourselves. Ask me about my personal ambitions and life plans and you’ll be sorry you opened pandora’s box.
Jesus died with a Psalm on his lips, Psalm 22 specifically. “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1, Spoken by Jesus in Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34). And on many occasions before His death, Jesus lived with a number of other Psalms upon His lips.