Sermons

Summary: Dramatic monologue as if Martin Luther were the preacher, telling his own story. Time period is the Wartburg stay; focus is on hope and trust in a changing world, "amid the flood" of change.

[Backstage] Walled up here in this fortress, kept practically as a prisoner, prevented from teaching, prohibited from preaching, what good am I? What can I accomplish in such a place? I was not born for idleness, nor for solitude. I was born for action. I was destined by Him who holds in His hand the life of every living thing for vigorous fights, fights for the truth against those who would pervert it, fights for my people against those who would pollute them, fights for my Christ against those who would cheapen Him. I am a fighter, not a fortress-dweller!

[Entering] How it pains me to have been shut up in this place, this Wartburg fortress!

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ … knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts ... Hope does not disappoint us. To that I must hold! In that I must trust!

These are such turbulent times! The poor, held down so long, are demanding their rights. The people, divided into scores of petty princedoms, are claiming their nationhood. And the church is roiling with controversy and division. It is like a flood that will overwhelm us all, and I must be amid the flood. I must be involved in it. I cannot let it pass me by. But here I sit, in this dismal fortress.

But, let me see this word again: “… suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” Hope does not disappoint us. It must be so. It is here in the Word of God, on which I stand. I can do nothing else.

For at least one thing has come from my stay at the Wartburg – this. My translation of the Bible into the language of the German people. Never before has the common man been able to read for himself what God has said. Always this book has been the province of the church, read in Latin and interpreted by the priests and the priests only. But now – no thanks to them – it will be in the hands and in the hearts of the German nation. For the time to do that work I am grateful, though I must tell you that nearly every night the devil himself has come to tempt me. I wrestle with him, not as with flesh and blood and earthly powers, but with the rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places. So real and so powerful is this world with devils filled that one night I picked up my inkwell and threw it against the wall of my cell, so as to blot him out! Mine is a world of powers and temptations, shame and guilt, and my whole life has been one of doing combat with inner demons. So this fortress, this palace turned prison, provided by Elector Friedrich, but nay, provided by God Himself as a refuge to regain my strength. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gifts – though I confess I would rather not be here. Much more would I rather be in Wittenberg in my university classroom; or in Torgau in my pulpit; or in the arms of my Katy, whom I expect to marry soon. Ah, that it be true, that hope does not disappoint us.

I have come a long way as I stand before you here in this year of our Lord 1522. I was born almost forty years ago in the city of Eisleben to Hans and Margarethe Luther, their firstborn son. As I was born on the feast day of St. Martin, I was thus named Martin. My father had ambitions for me; he had worked hard in the copper mines so that he might send me to the University in Erfurt and thence to study law. I did as my father wanted, believing that I should respect his authority. We were taught to respect all authority – the father, the prince, the Emperor. In an unstable time, where so much was changing, it was comforting to hold on to authority. And not the least of it the authority of the church, the priest, the pope – all appointed by God Himself for us and for our salvation. So to law school I went.

But there my soul was troubled. I was worried about my spiritual condition. The church had not only told me of the fires of hell; she had portrayed them vividly. Our churches contained paintings of souls tormented by eternal fires, never to be put out. Shrines on the roadsides showed us Christ the righteous judge. Priests in their sermons warned us that even the slightest disobedience, the most trivial of sins, a lack of respect for the Holy Father in Rome, would add interminable years to our time in purgatory and might even condemn us to everlasting torture with the devil and all his rebellious angels. I was afraid! I did not know whether something I had done or had failed to do would put me at odds with Him who is the judge of all mankind. I could not settle, in my own heart, whether there was mercy for one such as I. There seemed to be no hope at all for a quiet heart or a peaceful mind.

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