Thursday, April 26, 2012

Invocavit Sermon 1 Sunday March 10, 1522

I just finished the Bonhoeffer book and consider it one of the best books I’ve ever read. It will take 2-3 posts to condense its last half into meaningful portions, so I’ll hold off for now on that. But I won’t be leaving Germany too far behind. I have several installments of Luther’s Baggage (rewrite) to offer. The next few weeks promise to be pretty busy for me, so I’m glad I planned ahead. Once again, if you’re new to what I’ve been doing, you can read the first five posts here, followed by the rewrite of part 6.
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:
Part 6:
Invocavit Sermon 1 Sunday March 10, 1522
Anticipating that the church would be full, Heinrich, Sarah, and Freyda went early on Sunday, though they still had to settle for seats half way back from the front. As they waited for the service to start; Heinrich looked around to see if there were any changes in the place but then the church bells rang, setting the service in motion. A man dressed in a robe went up to a lectern and the choir sang a hymn in German as an organ played along. The service had a liturgy of sorts but was generally more casual and fresh. For the Bible reading, a man came to the lectern and spoke in German, “Since this is the first Sunday in Lent, we will read from Psalm 91:15 “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” Everyone knew that this was a huge milestone, for the Bible was being read in the language of the people. They knew who was the source of the action and the words, and they anxiously awaited his appearance.
It was then but a few minutes and Luther finally appeared from a side door. The congregation stood to their feet, wanting to yell or clap, but they felt that neither was appropriate. A few individuals did make some noise, but it finally settled to an overall rustling of approval. Luther stopped, smiled, and walked to the front of the pews where he nodded to the crowd, and then ascended the pulpit. He had a full head of hair that had long filled in his tonsure; his look was a mixture of relief and fatherly leadership as he sought to bring his fold back in order.
Luther began, “The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Every one must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone. We can shout into one another’s ears, but every one must be prepared finally to meet death alone. I will not be with you then, nor you with me. Therefore every one must know for himself the chief things in Christianity, and be armed therewith. They are the same which you, my beloved, have long ago heard from me...”
And so Luther recounted the basics of faith in four parts; first, that we are the children of wrath; secondly that God has sent us His only-begotten Son that we may believe in Him, and whoever will put his trust in Him, will be free from sin and a child of God, as John declares in the first chapter, He gave them power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name. We should all be thoroughly at home in the Bible and be ready with many passages to confront the devil. Thirdly, There must also be love, and through love we must do unto one another as God has done unto us through faith...” Then, Luther made the sermon personal. “And here, dear friends, have you not grievously failed? I see no signs of love among you, and I observe that you have not been grateful to God for His rich gifts and treasures.”
This caught everyone’s attention; as the last year flashed before everyone’s mind each took an inventory of their lives, motives, and emotions. Luther continued: “ Let us beware lest Wittenberg becomes Capernaum. I notice that you have a great deal to say of the doctrine which is preached to you, of faith and of love. This is not surprising; an ass can almost intone the lessons, and why should you not be able to repeat the doctrines and formulas?... Then, “fourthly, we likewise need patience. For whoever has faith, trusts in God and shows love to his neighbor, practicing it day by day, must needs suffer persecution. For the devil never sleeps, and continually molests. But patience works and produces hope, which freely yields itself to God and finds solace in Him. Thus faith, by much affliction and persecution, ever increases, and is strengthened day by day. And the heart which by Gods grace has received such virtues must ever be active and freely expend itself for the benefit and service of the brethren, even as it has received from God.”
Luther continued with a couple of illustrations; the first was of a mother nourishing her child and the second was on how the sun warms us with its light and heat. He ended with a preview of what he would talk about tomorrow, which was going to be on icons. There was a closing benediction and a rousing organ recital as the service ended; Luther descended onto the center aisle and made his way to the foyer. The pews emptied in an orderly fashion and Heinrich got in line to shake Martin’s hand. When they were finally next, Luther greeted Heinrich by name and his mother and sister as well. Sarah asked, “Doctor Luther, may I ask why you came back to Wittenberg now?” To this, Martin replied: “I heard of the damage that was being done to my sheepfold and I wanted to put a stop to it. The wolves have been attacking it from all sides and I wanted to restore the primacy of Christian values.” Sarah nodded her understanding and said, “Thank you for your thought provoking sermon.” It was their turn to move on and so they walked out into the sunshine.
“Eight sermons in eight days;” said Heinrich. As they walked back to their home, Heinrich added, “That’s a lot of sermons; how are we going to fit them all in?” “I can’t think of anything more important than this; we’ll just have to make time,” said Sarah. Freyda was a bit more pragmatic, “If we can’t all make it, we’ll have to take turns and then share our notes. We’ll take it one day at a time. I’m in for tomorrow.” Everyone else replied in a positive way; this was too important to miss. 
Each meeting was to take place at 4:30; it was early enough to take advantage of the sunlight, but not so early as to cut into the productive part of the day. This was the season of Lent, so people were giving up some of their day to take care of the neglected job of their spiritual lives. The church bells would ring on the hour and half hour signaling when to congregate.

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