Saturday, May 5, 2012

Invocavit Sermon 3 Tuesday-March 12, 1522

Today, Freyda was helping a friend and couldn’t make it; so Sarah went along with Heinrich. The series was becoming predictable; people were sitting in the same pews and there were at least several scribes who endeavored to take down every word that was said. The church bells rang and Luther came front and center. He said, “Over the last year I spent many months within the confines of Wartburg castle. This gave me a great deal of protected time to write, pray, read, and sing. As I was safe behind the walls of this fortress, the thought came to me that God is like a Fortress for us. He keeps out the devil and our enemies. He surrounds us with his angels who protect us from every type of evil. This caused me to write a hymn, and I would like to teach it to you. Listen to this first verse and then we’ll sing it together.” Martin had a strong voice and he sang the first verse of his song that he called “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Someone on piano played the music as well and Martin encouraged everyone to join in. He did the same for the other verses. This time, everyone couldn’t help but clap when they were done, but Luther insisted that they direct their applause to God by saying, “It is He who deserves the credit.”  As everyone settled down, Luther gathered his notes and began to preach. “We have heard the things which are “musts,” which are necessary and must be done, things which must be so and not otherwise: the private masses must be abolished. For all works and things, which are either commanded or forbidden by God and thus have been instituted by the supreme Majesty, are “musts.” Now follow the things which are not necessary, but are left to our free choice by God and which we may keep or not, such as whether a person should marry or not, or whether monks and nuns should leave the cloisters. These things are matters of choice and must not be forbidden by any one, and if they are forbidden, the forbidding is wrong, since it is contrary to God’s ordinance. In the things that are free, such as being married or remaining single, you should take this attitude: if you can keep to it without burdensomeness, then keep it; but it must not be made a general law; everyone must rather be free. So if there is a priest, monk, or nun, who cannot abstain, let him take a wife and be a husband, in order that your conscience may be relieved; and see to it that you can stand before God and the world when you are assailed, especially when the devil attacks you in the hour of death. Therefore the priests who have taken wives and the nuns who have taken husbands in order to save their consciences must stand squarely upon a clear text of Scripture, such as this one by St. Paul in I Timothy 4 ‘Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God [is] good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.’ Heinrich knew he had just witnessed history in the making. Martin was reading from his own German New Testament that he had just translated. This was a milestone for the people since many had never heard the Bible read in their own language. You could see it in their faces; as they listened Heinrich could see many smiles and approvals. 
Luther continued: 
“Would to God all monks and nuns could hear this sermon and properly understand this matter and would all forsake the cloisters, and thus all the cloisters in the world would cease to exist; this is what I would wish. But now they have no understanding of the matter (for no one preaches it to them); they hear about others who are leaving the cloisters in other places, who, however, are well prepared for such a step, and then they want to follow their example, but have not yet fortified their consciences and do not know that it is a matter of liberty. This is bad, and yet it is better that the evil should be outside than inside. Therefore I say, what God has made free shall remain free. If anybody forbids it, as the pope, the Antichrist, has done, you should not obey. Thus, dear friends, I have said it clearly enough, and I believe you ought to understand it and not make liberty a law, saying: This priest has taken a wife, therefore all priests must take wives. Not at all. Or this monk or that nun has left the cloister, therefore they must all come out. Not at all. Or this man has broken the images and burnt them, therefore all images must be burned—not at all, dear brother! And again, this priest has no wife, therefore no priest dare marry. Not at all! For they who cannot retain their chastity should take wives, and for others who can be chaste, it is good that they restrain themselves, as those who live in the Spirit and not in the flesh. Neither should they be troubled about the vows they have made, such as the monks’ vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty (though they are rich enough withal). For we cannot vow anything that is contrary to God’s commands. God has made it a matter of liberty to marry or not to marry, and you, you fool, undertake to turn this liberty into a vow contrary to the ordinance of God! Therefore you must let it remain a liberty and not make a compulsion out of it; for your vow is contrary to God’s liberty.
But now we must come to the images, and concerning them also it is true that they are unnecessary, and we are free to have them or not, although it would be much better if we did not have them at all. I am not partial to them. A great controversy arose on the subject of images between the Roman emperor and the pope; the emperor held that he had the authority to banish the images, but the pope insisted that they should remain, and both were wrong. Much blood was shed, but the pope emerged as victor and the emperor lost. What was it all about? They wished to make a “must” out of that which is free. This God cannot tolerate. Do you presume to do things differently from the way the supreme Majesty has decreed? Surely not; let it alone. You read in the Law (Exodus 20 :4), “you shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” There you take your stand; that is your ground. Now let us see! When our adversaries say: The meaning of the first commandment is that we should worship only one God and not any image, even as it is said immediately following, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exodus. 20:5), and when they say that it is the worship of images which is forbidden and not the making of them, they are shaking our foundation and making it uncertain. And if you reply: The text says, “You shall not make any images,” then they say: It also says, “You shall not worship them.” In the face of such uncertainty who would be so bold as to destroy the images? Not I. But let us go further. They say: Did not Noah, Abraham, Jacob build altars? And who will deny that? We must admit it. Again, did not Moses erect a bronze serpent, as we read in his fourth book? How then can you say that Moses forbade the making of images when he himself made one? It seems to me that such a serpent is an image, too. How shall we answer that? Again, do we not read also that two birds were erected on the mercy seat, the very place where God willed that he should be worshipped? Here we must admit that we may have images and make images, but we must not worship them, and if they are worshipped, they should be put away and destroyed, just as King Hezekiah broke in pieces the bronze serpent erected by Moses. And who will be so bold as to say, when he is challenged to give an answer: They worship the images. They will say: Are you the man who dares to accuse us of worshipping them? Do not believe that they will acknowledge it. To be sure, it is true, but we cannot make them admit it. Just look how they acted when I condemned works without faith. They said: Do you believe that we have no faith, or that our works are performed without faith? Then I cannot press them any further, but must put my flute back in my pocket; for if they gain a hair’s breadth, they make a hundred miles out of it.
Therefore it should have been preached that images were nothing and that no service is done to God by erecting them; then they would have fallen of themselves. That is what I did; that is what Paul did in Athens, when he went into their churches and saw all their idols. He did not strike at any of them, but stood in the market place and said, “You men of Athens, you are all idolatrous”  He preached against their idols, but he overthrew none by force. And you rush, create an uproar, break down altars, and overthrow images! Do you really believe you can abolish the altars in this way? No, you will only set them up more firmly. Even if you overthrew the images in this place, do you think you have overthrown those in Nürnberg and the rest of the world? Not at all. St. Paul, as we read in the Book of Acts 28 verse 11, sat in a ship on whose prow were painted or carved the Twin Brothers. He went on board and did not bother about them at all, neither did he break them off. Why must Luke describe the Twins at this point? Without doubt he wanted to show that outward things could do no harm to faith, if only the heart does not cleave to them or put its trust in them. This is what we must preach and teach, and let the Word alone do the work, as I said before. The Word must first capture the hearts of men and enlighten them; we will not be the ones who will do it...Let this be enough for today.”
Heinrich discussed the service with Sarah as they walked back home. Heinrich began, “Wasn’t that a good song that Martin wrote? I predict that it will become the theme for this movement. How would you summarize today’s message? We’re going to have to explain it to Mother.” Sarah replied, “Yesterday was about the errors in the Mass and today was an extension of that: How the Church has encouraged people to take their eyes off God. I think Martin is saying that there is no special magic in worship; we don’t need priests to intercede for us; we can go straight to God and He accepts us as we are. I see too though that as these church doctrines are falling away, there is a great deal of chaos that results, since people don’t know what to do instead. Remember what happened when the Augustinian monastery broke up a few months ago? The priests and nuns were free but were very confused. What should they do and where should they go? They had at least been fed and had things to do; now they were on the street.”

Heinrich added, “Yes, I’m afraid that some of the things Luther has written have been taken the wrong way by many people. A mob went through the church in town a few months ago and began removing pictures and statues. These were like symbols of the Roman Church and they wanted to show their defiance of practices that they were overthrowing. So, I was glad to hear Martin talk about non-violence and letting God’s Word do the work. But human nature doesn’t often have the opportunity to read the Word, let alone to follow it. Didn’t you get a special feeling come over you as you heard Martin read the Bible in German? I know I did.” Sarah responded, “Imagine what it would be like if everyone could read the Bible! And how amazing it could be if people could even have their own!” Heinrich replied, “I’ve talked to Gutenberg, and he thinks it could get to that. But it won’t come cheap and most can’t afford it; not to mention that a lot of people can’t read. Such wonders are possible; we’ll have to make it a matter of prayer.” By this time, they were approaching their street, and were anxious to see their Mom. She was glad when they arrived, for the house was beginning to feel quite empty.

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