Commemoration of Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor
The Lord be with you
On the LC-MS Church Calendar, today is recognized as the Commemoration of Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor. This day has been selected because Luther died February 18, 1546, and the day a saint is “born” into heaven is typically the day selected to commemorate them.
Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Germany. He was baptized the next day, November 11, which is St. Martin’s feast day. As was the custom of the day, Martin was named after the saint who was honored on the day of his baptism.
More has been written about Luther than any other human that has ever lived, except our Lord Jesus. For me to do justice to him here is impossible. Anyone who knows his story well will know I’ve skipped over much.
As a youth Luther showed remarkable promise and his father, a miner, had high hopes for him to become a successful lawyer. To that end he sent Luther to the best schools he could, and Luther excelled. However, after a near death experience in 1505, he changed his career path and joined an Augustinian friary. He was ordained a priest April 3, 1507. He received his doctorate in theology in October 1512. Shortly thereafter he was assigned to be the professor of biblical studies at the newly formed University of Wittenberg. Luther was a popular professor and was one of the key reasons why Wittenberg was the largest University in Germany when he died.
Luther’s scriptural studies led him to question many of the Medieval Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences (the remission of the punishment believed Christians had to endure in purgatory before being allowed into heaven). His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wartburg castle (where he translated the New Testament into German), Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, writing hymns and numerous theological treatises, and much more.
He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous (justifies us) by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Luther died while visiting the town of his birth.
In honor of the day, I thought I’d include a quote from Luther.
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8
[It is as if God were saying:] This is where I want you to be. You ask that I deliver you. Then do not be uneasy about it, do not teach Me, and do not teach yourself; surrender yourself to Me. I am competent to be your Master. I will lead you in a way that is pleasing to Me. You think it wrong if things do not go as you feel they should. But your thinking harms you and hinders Me. Things must go, not according to your understanding but above your understanding. Submerge yourself in a lack of understanding, and I will give you My understanding. Lack of understanding is real understanding; not knowing where you are going is really knowing where you are going. My understanding makes you without understanding.
Thus Abraham went out from his homeland and did not know where he was going. He yielded to My knowledge and abandoned his own knowledge. By the right way he reached the right goal.
Behold, that is the way of the cross. You cannot find it, but I must lead you like a blind person. Therefore not you, not a human being, not a creature, but I, through My Spirit and the Word, will teach you the way you must go. You must not follow the work which you choose, not the suffering which you devise, but that which comes to you against your choice, thoughts, and desires. There I call; there you must be a pupil; there it is the time; there your Master has come: there you must not be a horse or an irrational animal. If you follow Me and forsake yourself, behold, then “I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”
Commentary on “The Seven Penitential Psalms” (1525)
Luther’s Works 14, 152
Prayer: O God, our refuge and our strength, You raised up Your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Defend and purify the Church in our own day, and grant that we may boldly proclaim Christ’s faithfulness unto death and His vindicating resurrection, which You made known to Your servant Martin through Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Blessings in Christ,
Tidbit: The commemoration of Martin Luther is included on the calendar in the Methodist For All the Saints (1995) and was added to the Episcopal calendar in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 1997. He is remembered on the 1997 calendar of the Church of England, the Christian Year, on October 31 (the anniversary of the posting of the 95 Theses).