How about a few words from Martin Luther:
“And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more he befriends us, the more he cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them on his own back. Whenever the devil declares: ‘You are a sinner!’ Christ interposes: ‘I will reverse the order; I will be the sinner, and you are to go scotfree.’ Who can thank our God enough for this mercy?”
“Hope in God, for he will not let you down. Others laugh, comfort, and make promises, but do not pin your hopes on them. Do not depend on them, for both their strength and their courage are uncertain. Strength fades, courage fails; God remains firm. In times of adversity and in times of prosperity, therefore, you may depend on God.”
“Therefore Christ is not Moses, not a taskmaster or a lawgiver. He is the dispenser of grace, the Savior, the Pitier. In other words, he is nothing but sheer, infinite mercy, which gives and is given. For Christ is the joy and sweetness to a trembling and troubled heart. He is the One who ‘loved me and gave himself for me.’ Christ did not love only Peter and Paul, but the same grace belongs and comes to us. We are included in this ‘me’. For just as we cannot deny that we are sinners, so we cannot deny that Christ died for our sins.”
“Christ is God’s grace, mercy, righteousness, truth, wisdom, power, comfort, and salvation, given to us by God without any merit on our part.”
All these quotes are taken from a devotional book I have called, simply, Daily Readings from Luther’s Writings. Luther was a man of deep faith, intense devotion, powerful thinking, quick wit, and strong passions. He loved and served Jesus with unwavering intensity and faith, he preached the gospel of grace and mercy, given freely to us by God through Christ, consistently. He became a devoted husband and father, he was a pastor and teacher, a loyal friend and a fearsome enemy. He was strong in his convictions, confident in his understanding of the gospel, and willing to take on the whole of the Christian church of his day when he felt it to be in error.
He was a man of deep contradictions, capable of intense love and vicious anger. He was strong, yet troubled, faithful, yet filled with doubt. He was a man of his times, yet he embraced modern innovations. He espoused public education for all, including girls (unheard of in his time). He believed the church was for the people, not the people for the church. He wanted only to call his church back to what he believed was the truth of the gospel, yet in the end he split the church apart. He had no intention of founding a new church, yet today we call ourselves by his name – we are Lutheran Christians.
2017 is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of Luther’s public acts of reformation. He had no intention of upending the world, all he wanted was a debate among scholars. But he changed the world. He opened the eyes of many, opened the hearts of many, and became one of the most important people in history.
We are his heirs and his descendants. We are the church that came out of his passion for the Word, his passion for the gospel, and his passion for the truth. He had many flaws, as we all do, but he was a visionary, a prophet, and a true saint of God.
We would do well to listen to his wisdom, and learn from his life and witness. As he preached grace, so may we live grace. As he taught forgiveness and mercy, may we live forgiveness and mercy. As he was led by the Spirit, may we also follow that same Spirit.
May we live in the shadow of the cross and the grace of Easter, may we proclaim God’s mercy and love for all, and may we be faithful heirs of the Reformation. Ever faithful, ever reforming, may we always be God’s church in this place. See you in church!