500 years ago, on October 30, 1516, Martin Luther, a German Augustinian monk teaching at the University in Wittenberg, Germany did……absolutely nothing remarkable.
In 1516, Luther was just a guy, a monk, a Bible teacher and preacher, doing his work in deep obscurity. Pretty much nobody outside of his family, colleagues, and students knew who he was. He was fine with that, too. He just wanted to live his life doing the work he felt God has called him to do. Was he troubled at times in his faith? Sure. Did he wrestle with what he needed to do to please God? Absolutely. But in 1516, he was just a guy. An ordinary person, with gifts and talents, and with doubts and uncertainties. In his own way, for his own time, he was just like you and I. A person trying his best to live a life of faith, trying his best to love God and love his neighbor.
One year later, October 30, 1517, and now Luther is starting down a path he couldn’t have foreseen one year earlier. The obscure monk is now throwing down a challenge to the church, his church, the only church in Europe. He’s wrestled with his doubts, confronted the very Bible he teaches, and seen a different way to live in faith. Now he sees that salvation is the work of God, the result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and not the result of what we do, or try to do. We don’t appease God, God instead saves us out of unmerited, undeserved divine love.
And so he challenges the prevailing wisdom, the prevailing system, at first in a seemingly simple request for a debate (The 95 Theses), but soon after, in fiery, inspired preaching, brilliant and controversial writings, and endless hard work and dedication, at great risk to his very life, Luther has changed the world. Changed the church. He is the beginning of a movement soon called The Reformation, and we here at St. Luke’s are a part of his heritage, his work, and his faithful following of God.
But in 1516, 500 years ago this year, he was none of this. Just a guy. And somehow the Holy Spirit found him, and touched him, and empowered him to ask questions, and demand answers. The Spirit gifted him to speak boldly, preach faithfully, and teach brilliantly. The Spirit opened his eyes to the words of scripture, the grace of God, the power of the cross, and the blessing of the empty tomb. The Spirit enabled him to rediscover what Paul wrote so long ago, that we are justified, made right with God, by the grace of God though faith in Jesus Christ.
Luther came to see that God speaks to all of us, not just a select few. Luther came to see that we all have a part to play in God’s mission to redeem the world. He called it “the priesthood of all believers”, the idea that we are all, in our own unique ways, priests serving God, priests proclaiming the Word of God, priests loving the world with the love of God shown most powerfully in Jesus Christ. We’re all part of God’s plan, we’re all agents of God’s grace and messengers of God’s love.
So he puts the Bible in everyone’s hands by translating from a dead language into everyday language. He teaches people how to pray for themselves. He gives the people a central role in worship, through liturgy and song. He teaches people to take their faith out of church and into their daily lives.
But before all that, he was just a guy. And God used him, chose him, just like God can, and does, choose, use, and call each one of us today. God doesn’t just use the celebrity, God uses the ordinary person. God loves the unknown one, the un-famous one, the ordinary one, like you, and like me.
God isn’t limited by who we are today, because tomorrow God could call us to do amazing things. Or God could call us to do simple things, but in a new way, or in a new place. Or God could call us to do something new in an old familiar place. But God has a use and a purpose for each and every one of us, no matter is we are famous, or just a girl or a guy. We are all part of God’s plan to redeem the world.
I love a slogan popular a few years ago (I have it on a bracelet, of all things): God has a plan. We’re it. God had a plan for Martin Luther 500 years ago. God has a plan for each of us today. Be ready. God has a plan – you’re it. And I’m it. We’re all it. See you in church (where God is helping us be ready to be called, to be part of the plan)!!!
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