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Archive for February 18th, 2020

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Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly established University of Wittenberg, Luther’s scriptural studies led him to question many of the Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wart­burg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. Luther died on February 18, 1546, while visiting the town of his birth. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Lessons:

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

In Martin Luther’s Commentary on The Sermon on the Mount (Luther’s Works, Volume 21, CPH), on St. Matthew 5:8, the 6th Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”, he asks, what does it mean to be “pure in heart”.  How does one become pure in heart?  He cites our Lord in St. Matthew 23: 27 speaking to the Pharisees that they are “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and al uncleanness” and compared them to the monks of his day. You can change the outside and everyone thinks you are pure but inside, in the heart, that is, the will, is where we are made pure.  Still, how does that occur?

Then Luther, cites that,

“…this is the way it is with our clergy today. Outwardly they lead a decent life, and in the churches everything is conducted with such excellent taste and formality that it is beautiful to behold. But He does not ask for such purity. He wants to have the heart pure, though outwardly the person may be a drudge in the kitchen, black, sooty, and grimy, doing all sorts of dirty work.”

We look around and can say that as well as false doctrine is taught and sexual and societal immorality abounds and is extolled in our idolatrous and adulterous generation and in churches, and outwardly beautiful people and churches are inwardly filled with real filth.

Luther:

“But He does not ask for such (outward) purity. He wants to have the heart pure, though outwardly the person may be a drudge in the kitchen, black, sooty, and grimy, doing all sorts of dirty work.”

As a hospice chaplain, I visited many very poor, dirty homes.  One such home, in early spring and in the first room had pens with baby ducks in it.  The yard was thoroughly full of junk with more than one Confederate flag flying.  The house was dirty and ramshackle.  The granddaughter guided me through the maze of dark rooms to the patient’s room, her Grandfather’s. His room was done in Nascar memorabilia galore. In the corner was the gun safe.  He had lived here for most of his life and raised a family in this house…home. His home was grimy, with barnyard animals, aesthetically tacky and so politically incorrect, i.e. ‘racist’. After introductions,  the granddaughter left the room, and I asked this typical, clinical question to a new patient: How would you describe your spirituality? Without a hesitation, he said, “Jesus”.  He knew where his purity, and his faith and hope and love lay and came to life.

Luther:

Then what is a pure heart? In what does it consist? The answer can be given quickly, and you do not have to climb up to heaven or run to a monastery for it and establish it with your own ideas. You should be on your guard against any ideas that you call your own, as if they were just so much mud and filth. And you should realize that when in the monastery is sitting in deepest contemplation, excluding the world from his heart altogether, and thinking about the Lord God the way he himself paints and imagines Him, he is actually sitting — if you will pardon the expression — in the dung, not up to his knees but up to his ears. For he is proceeding on his own ideas without the Word of God; and that is sheer deception and delusion, as Scripture testifies everywhere.

What is meant by “pure heart” is this: one that is watching and pondering what God says and replacing its own ideas with the Word of God. This alone is pure before God, yes, purity itself, which purifies everything that it includes and touches. Therefore, though a common laborer, a shoemaker, or a blacksmith may be dirty and sooty or may smell because he is covered with dirt and pitch, still he may sit at home and think: “My God has made me a man. He has given me my house, wife, and child and has commanded me to love them and to support them with my work.” Note that he is pondering the Word of Cod in his heart; and though he stinks outwardly, inwardly he is pure incense before God. But if he attains the highest purity so that he also takes hold of the Gospel and believes in Christ — without this, that purity is impossible — then he is pure completely, inwardly in his heart toward God and outwardly toward everything under him on earth. Then everything he is and does, his walking, standing, eating, and drinking, is pure for him; and nothing can make him impure.

So it is when he looks at his own wife or fondles her, as the patriarch Isaac did (Gen. 26:8), which a monk regards as disgusting and defiling. For here he has the Word of God, and he knows that God has given her to him. But if he were to desert his wife and take up another, or neglect his job or duty to harm or bother other people, he would no longer be pure; for that would be contrary to Cod’s commandment. But so long as he sticks to these two — namely, the Word of faith toward God, which purifies the heart, and the Word of understanding, which teaches him what he is to do toward his neighbor in his station everything is pure for him, even if with his hands and the rest of his body he handles nothing but dirt.

Therefore be on guard against all your own ideas if you want to be pure before God. See to it that your heart is founded and fastened on the Word of God.

What was the joy of Martin Luther’s discovery, actually rediscovery of the pearl of great price, in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in creation, redemption and sanctification? Answer: the Word of God and the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, our very Holy Spirit-uality. A hospice patient knew where his spirituality was found. This is our joy as well.

Let us pray: 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.

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