Hi; I am Brother Martin Luther. I am credited with starting the Lutheran Church. Nothing could be further from the truth. After much prayer and study; especially of the Psalms of David; and the book of Romans; it was like the gates of heaven opened to me; “the just shall live by faith.” I had been spending years trying to make God love me and I discovered God already loved me; the key to living is the trust that it is so.
Over the years I discovered five things that I believed the church had forgotten and needed to rediscover to truly be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This first is that Scripture is the norm of our faith. All doctrines and teachings of the church need always to be measured by scripture. The words of the Bible are truly inspired by God. They are the true message of all reality.
The second is grace alone. Salvation is the act of God alone, without us doing anything to deserve it.
The third is, by faith alone. We are made into a right relationship with God by simply trusting in his son Jesus the Christ.
The fourth is This person and work of Christ alone serves as the basis for our relationship with God.
The last is that all this is given to the glory of God. Like children of good parents, we are loved by God because God is our divine parent.
These rediscoveries were the seeds of the Protestant Reformation.
Let me tell you a bit about myself. I am the son of the operator of several cooper mines. His name is Hans and my mother is Margarette. The sent me to college so I could earn enough to take care of them when they retired.
At the age of 17 I started in college. Four years later I entered law school. I was not particularly interested in the study of law or becoming a lawyer, but I so wanted to earn my father’s favor, who did not particularly like me. I would do anything in the hopes of making him love me.
The fall of my first year in law school I was almost hit by lightning while riding my horse back to school. In prayer I pleaded with St. Ann the patron saint of miners to protect me. In my fear I bargained with God. If you save me, I will become a priest.
I went back to school gave all my earthly possessions away to my friends. We had a farewell party in my honor, and they walked me to the entrance of the Augustinian Monastery. I truly believed I would never see them again. Little did I know what my future might be.
My father was furious; even suggested my entering the priesthood was a call from the devil. I suspect many who would later disagree with me and want to kill me as a heretic possibly believed the same thing.
I dove into my studies seeking God but only finding an angry God. But one day while reading a passage from Romans 3, I had a revelation.
Romans 3: 19ff “But now, apart from law the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteous of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. There is no distinction…”
God through Christ has done all that is necessary for our salvation on the Cross. He absorbed the powers of sin and death and destroyed them. Three days later he rose from the dead to open to Kingdom of God to all believers.
This understanding gave peace to my soul. My relationship with God is one of a beloved child, not by any act on my part, but the action of God through his son, Jesus, the Christ.
In the meantime, I was promoted to the faculty of Wittenberg University and appointed the priest of the church. The leader of the province, John the Wise, was a member of that church.
Pope Leo 10 believed St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome needed to be restored. A great idea surfaced as to how funds could be raised to pay for the restoration.
We Catholics believed that every person who died went through a time of cleansing in a place called purgatory before being allowed to go completely to Heaven. The scheme was to sell a special jubilee indulgence. If you purchased an indulgence any person you named would be prayed for at every Mass at St. Peters. So, once you purchased an indulgence a soul was set free to go to Heaven. A priest, Father Tetzel would end his appeal for funds by saying; “As soon as the money clinks in the chest; a soul flies up to heavenly rest.”
I could not allow such heresy to go unchallenged. Through every means possible I proclaimed the same message; even wrote a protest of 95 theses I am told was the document that inspired the Protestant Reformation. God, through Christ gives us salvation, not an indulgence sold by the church. In sarcasm I once wrote. “If purgatory really existed the pope out of pure Christian Charity should empty it.”
You do not mess with the money. The next thing I knew I was summoned to be judged by the Holy Roman Emperor; Philip the Fair of France at a meeting at Worms, called a Diet. I was granted safe passage to and from the meeting.
Once I was there, there was an attempt to keep me from making any speeches. There were several Roman Catholic theologians who believed I was a heretic, and my writings proved their contention. So, before the Diet I was presented with a table of my writings and was asked two questions. Did you write these documents. I looked them over and said, I did. The next question was in light of what has happened did I recant what I had written. I knew how I answered would be terribly important. So, I begged for some time to reflect on the question. I was given the time.
When I reappeared, I spoke. Unless I can be disproven by the scripture what I have written I cannot recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.
The session ended and I was whisked off by elector John to be hidden in an abandoned castle, Wartburg. While there I translated the New Testament into German using Greek grammar rules. In the process I made it possible for the everyday German to read a translation of the New Testament. I also created the language rules of the German Language.
While I was there the protest became a revolution. I went back to Wittenberg to calm things down.
It became obvious that a split was about to happen in the Western Church, so I was involved in the forming of what became new denomination.
That was the height of my good effect on the church’s life. I got married to Katherine and we had a great marriage.
But I got old and had terrible stomach, and intestine problems. It was during this period as a senile old man, I an earlier defender of Judaism became an anti-Semite. My writings were used centuries later by Adolph Hitler to support his sending Jews to Concentration Camps and ultimately to their deaths in the gas chambers. I am horrified at what happened. I am so pleased the Lutheran Church officially apologized to Jewish Leaders and their people.
I am also pleased that Roman Catholics and Lutherans called each other as separated brethren and agreed in the doctrine of justification. I look forward to the day when my excommunication is removed.
Since I believe the church should always be reviewing what it teaches and what it practices, I wonder who are the Martin Luthers of today who could lead such an effort.
Let me end my remarks with a phrase that can guide the lives of faith of us all. I hope you will find it meaningful as well.
“This life is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness; is not health, but healing; not being but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not finished, but it is going on; this is not the end, but it is the road; all does not gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” Amen