Sunday, May 13, 2012

Invocavit Sermon 4 Wednesday March 13, 1522

Before I resume Luther’s Baggage, I want to explain a concept called anachronism, as in, a statement is anachronistic. This is when a present day belief/attitude/interpretation is imposed on a historical context. Christianity has done that a lot as it looks back on the New Testament world.  In a way, I’m doing that in this post. Freyda is going to say a few things that echo beliefs from today’s Messianic worldview. She is better able to do this (than a Gentile Christian of that time) because she is not hung up by the strictures of the Church. She can see things that others can’t. As the author, I have the freedom to do this as well; as the reader, you have to judge whether it is acceptable. Now, onto the story.
Today, Freyda accompanied Heinrich and Sarah. They joined the throngs of people who were making their way to the most popular place in town. They took their seats and waited expectantly. Luther did not waste time as he came out with his notes and began.
“Dear friends, we have now heard about the things which are “musts,” such as that the mass is not to be observed as a sacrifice. Then we considered the things which are not necessary but free, such as marriage, the monastic life, and the abolishing of images. We have treated these four subjects, and have said that in all these matters love is the captain. On the subject of images, in particular, we saw that they ought to be abolished when they are worshipped; otherwise not,—although because of the abuses they give rise to, I wish they were everywhere abolished. This cannot be denied. For whoever places an image in a church imagines he has performed a service to God and done a good work, which is downright idolatry. But this, the greatest, foremost, and highest reason for abolishing images, you have passed by, and fastened on the least important reason of all. For I suppose there is nobody, or certainly very few, who do not understand that yonder crucifix is not my God, for my God is in heaven, but that this is simply a sign.
Let us proceed and speak of the eating of meats and what our attitude should be in this matter. It is true that we are free to eat any kind of food, meats, fish, eggs, or butter. This no one can deny. God has given us this liberty; this is true. Nevertheless, we must know how to use our liberty, and in this matter treat the weak brother quite differently from the stubborn. Observe, then, how you ought to use this liberty.
First, if you cannot abstain from meat without harm to yourself, or if you are sick, you may eat whatever you like, and if anyone takes offense, let him be offended. Even if the whole world took offense, you are not committing a sin, for God can approve it in view of the liberty he has so graciously bestowed upon you and of the necessities of your health, which would be endangered by your abstinence.
Secondly, if you should be pressed to eat fish instead of meat on Friday, and to eat fish and abstain from eggs and butter during Lent, etc., as the pope has done with his fool’s laws, then you must in no wise allow yourself to be drawn away from the liberty in which God has placed you, but do just the contrary to spite him, and say: Because you forbid me to eat meat and presume to turn my liberty into law, I will eat meat in spite of you. And thus you must do in all other things which are matters of liberty. To give you an example: if the pope, or anyone else were to force me to wear a cowl, just as he prescribes it, I would take off the cowl just to spite him. But since it is left to my own free choice, I wear it or take it off, according to my pleasure.
Thus St. Paul circumcised Timothy [Acts 16:3] because simpleminded Jews had taken offense; he thought: What harm can it do, since they are offended because of their ignorance? But when, in Antioch, they insisted that he ought and must circumcise Titus, Paul withstood them all and to spite them refused to have Titus circumcised. And he stood his ground. He did the same when St. Peter by the exercise of his liberty caused a wrong conception in the minds of the unlearned. It happened in this way: when Peter was with the Gentiles, he ate pork and sausages with them, but when the Jews came in, he abstained from this food and did not eat as he did before. Then the Gentiles who had become Christians thought: Alas! we, too, must be like the Jews, eat no pork, and live according to the law of Moses. But when Paul learned that they were acting to the injury of evangelical freedom, he reproved Peter publicly and read him an apostolic lecture, saying: “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Thus we, too, should order our lives and use our liberty at the proper time, so that Christian liberty may suffer no injury, and no offense be given to our weak brothers and sisters who are still without the knowledge of this liberty.”
Heinrich noticed that this last section disturbed his mother. She grimaced a bit, shook her head, and clenched her hands. When it was over, they did not get in line to shake Martin’s hand and quietly slipped out the door.
As they walked down the street Heinrich asked his Mother about her reaction. Freyda, with a little bit of hesitation began, “Peter and all the apostles were Jewish and they remained Jewish even after Jesus was gone. They would never have eaten “sausages and pork!” It’s no wonder that Jews haven’t accepted Jesus! The church portrays him as breaking Torah and that would never happen with the Messiah!” Though Heinrich followed his Mother’s logic, he was more amazed at her intensity. As they walked along, Sarah interjected what was on Heinrich’s mind, “Mother, how do you know all of this?” Freyda’s spirit was checked that she had revealed more than she intended, but was now seeing it as an inevitable thing. She responded, “I’ll wait until we’re at home.” By this time they were almost there. 
Once they were inside and settled, she began, “Your father and I have been reluctant to tell you very much about our past because we were afraid for your future.” With that said, Freyda chose her words carefully. “Your father was an admirer of the early reformers such as Jan Hus, may he rest in peace, and Zwingli. But, he knew that questioning the Catholic church was dangerous, as Jan Hus found out very tragically; so he studied in secret. He also wanted to know more about the Jewish side of things, so he began to meet with the rabbi in our town, which is south of here by several days journey. They studied the Torah and the New Testament together in secret and that is how I learned of him, for you see - I am Jewish. It just so happened that I had questions too and was intrigued by this Gentile who appreciated the Torah. I was a bit of a “free spirit”, you might say, and was interested in the truth. We began spending time together, though that caused quite a stir in my family when they found out. He would tell me about the New Testament and I would tell him about Torah. In the process we discovered a common point around which we both rethought our positions: we both concluded that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah.
Jesus and the disciples were Jewish and their world stayed that way until the Gentiles came in. The Catholic Church has held the New Testament faith hostage while keeping the peasants in ignorance. They have built a monstrosity that has no resemblance to the world that John or Paul knew. Luther has helped to tear that down, but he has a lot to learn as well; today’s sermon is a good illustration.”
To make a long story short, your father asked for my hand in marriage, and this caused trouble in our home and community. It was made very clear to both of us that this was impossible. So we left town and found a priest along the way who agreed to marry us, though he didn’t know us at all. We headed north, eventually making it to Wittenberg. It was very hard for me and in retrospect was a very foolish thing to do, but we were young and in love.  My family disowned me and to them it’s like I died. I went back to see them a few times, especially when you both were born, but it was painful. My mother was glad to see you both, though she had to do so in secret, since my father remained adamantly opposed to the idea. 
Though your father and I enjoyed our married life, we missed having family nearby. It didn’t help that the Church was opposed to our ideas as well; we found little acceptance there. That’s why any news of reformation interested us. But these lone voices brought down the wrath of the Church and it was hard not to get caught up in it. I think I’ll stop at that point.”
Both Heinrich and Sarah were amazed; they had no idea about this. Heinrich wondered how he had missed these details of their parent’s lives. It’s not like they had lied to them. But in retrospect, Heinrich and Sarah hadn’t asked a lot of questions either. So that’s why they didn’t have an extended family like all of their friends did. So that’s why they didn’t eat pork like everyone else did. “Your father doesn’t like it,” was the usual reply. Sarah then asked because of her mother’s last comment, “So how did father die?” She wondered if that were also part of this tale; perhaps he “got caught up” in something dangerous. Freyda replied, though by now it was obvious that this was making her emotional. Tears were starting to form and her gaze was peering into a recollection of that time; but she began, “Though he was under great stress at the time, he died of natural causes. One doesn’t always have a name to give these things, but it had to do with his heart. He collapsed one day at the shop and lasted a few more days at home, but the doctors could not do anything to help his decline. It was a sudden thing and affected all of us; Heinrich was kind enough to stop his classes at the University and take over the shop; we all had to cut back and do more things. And of course, I miss him deeply; having both of you home has been a great comfort to me, though I don’t want to keep you back from your own lives and hopefully, families. We’ll have to leave it in the hands of the Lord.”

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