Luther the Preacher
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8
On March 6, Martin Luther returned to Wittenberg from his exile at the Wartburg Castle on account of the unrest that had grown during his absence. Fellow university professor Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt pushed for a series of sweeping changes in January known as the Wittenberg Ordinance and adopted by the city council. This led to conflict among the clergy and laity alike and entreaties for Luther to return. Three days after returning, Luther preached for eight days straight what have been known as the Invocavit Sermons (preached on the first Sunday in Lent, Invocavit Sunday).
Every Lutheran should take time to read these brief eight sermons from Luther (Luther’s Works vol. 51 or The Annotated Luther: Pastoral Writings vo. 4). These sermons demonstrate Luther’s great concern for the faith in the Gospel, as opposed to the legalism that he has so strenuously combatted. In the first sermon, Luther proclaims, “And here, dear friends, believers must not insist upon their own rights, but must see what may useful and helpful to their brothers and sisters, as Paul says…’All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.’ (1 Cor. 6:12). For we are not all equally strong in faith and some of you have even stronger faith than I. Therefore we must not look upon ourselves, or our strength, or our prestige, but upon our neighbor.” (vol. 4, p. 16) Luther shows great pastoral sensitivity to his flock and demonstrates great charity and patience in his preaching and teaching, but also how we will not yield when it comes to the clear proclamation of the Gospel.
In his second sermon, he says, “Dear friends, you heard yesterday the chief characteristic of Christians, that their whole lives and beings are grounded in faith and love. Faith is directed toward God, while love is directed toward people and consists in sharing with neighbors the love and service that we have received from God without our having worked for it or deserved it.” (p. 20) Once again, Luther does not seek to bring about change by force, but that it would follow faithful teaching. This is captured in Luther’s infamous statement, “Take an example from me. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I taught, preached and wrote God’s word alone; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26-29] or drank Wittenberg beer with friends Philip and Amsdorf, the word did so much that the papacy weakened in such a way that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such damage upon it. I did nothing; the word did everything.” (p. 22)
Take time to read these five-hundred-year-old sermons. You will be blessed by the Word and another example of Luther’s testimony that he did nothing and the Word did everything!
Prayer – O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people, keep them steadfast in your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptation, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ’s Church Militant, Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan