April 18, 2021
Hopeful, and I believe courageous, words written by Martin Luther, the German theologian and religious reformer who was the catalyst of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. Luther taught that salvation was not earned by good deeds but was received as the free gift of God's grace through the believer's faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority and office of the pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, and that God alone has the power to bestow salvation.
Luther did not come to his belief that salvation was freely given through God's good grace easily. He began life as a Catholic and spent many years in a monastery where he struggled, continually, with the painful thought that his tendency to sin was far greater than any repentance he could offer God. Despite regular confession and acts of repentance, he despaired that he would never be worthy of God's heavenly Kingdom.
My question to all of us today is are we among the doubters or are we among those who trust in the Lord. Do we lie down in peace, or are we simply too numbed by our Covid 19 trauma to recognize God at work in our midst? Are we too numbed to experience the peace that God's continual outpouring of grace in our everyday lives should bring us? In our numbness, are we, like the disciples in Luke's gospel, unable to recognize the risen Christ's presence among us? Are we too numbed to experience the power and the peace of Martin Luther's revelation, "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing?"
And importantly, we must understand that the gift of God as our fortress, our bulwark is not just ours. It is a gift that belongs to all – the needy, the suffering, the imprisoned, the isolated – all of God's beloved children should experience him as their fortress, their bulwark. All should be able to say, "You have put gladness in my heart…I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; for only you Lord, make me dwell in safety."
At the close of Luke's gospel reading today, Jesus says to his disciples, "…repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in [my]) name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." To all nations.