Lessons from Luther’s life & legacy

During October (as part of the #Write31Days online challenge), we’re unpacking what the Reformation means for our faith community here on our blog. Click here to catch up on the rest of the series

We continue our look at the Reformation today with a deeper study of Martin Luther, one of the key figures of the period.

Here’s a fun video look at his life, as told through Playmobil animation:

Here’s a longer (documentary) look for those among us with more time and interest:

We can learn a lot from Martin Luther’s life and legacy. Academics and researchers have been fascinated by Luther for oh, about 500 years… literally! At the end of this post, we’ll share some of our favorite resources with you, in case you’d like to study further

In the meantime, these lessons stand out:

Martin Luther was a renegade monk … who teaches us to rightly rebel.

Martin Luther was a scholar and academic. He dedicated his life to study of Scripture and became a Roman Catholic monk. When he nailed the 95 theses to the door and kicked off the Reformation, he rebelled against the institutions of higher learning that helped “raise” him as a scholar. There might be times in our own lives when the Word of God shows we’re meant to take a cue from Luther and rebel. That’s as hard for us in 2017 as it was for Luther in 1517. We can draw courage from Luther’s life and legacy.

Martin Luther was a dedicated scholar … who teaches us to rightly read.

Martin Luther studied the Word of God … religiously. Pun intended! Before he wrote his theses, he spent years studying exactly what the Word of God said. He didn’t rely on others to read and interpret the text for him – he dedicated much time and attention to studying the Bible himself. We do well to follow his example.

Martin Luther was a depressed individual … who teaches us to rightly remember.

While hailed as a champion of the faith in 2017, in 1517, Martin Luther was often filled with doubt and struggled throughout his life with depression. He didn’t have his life together before he answered God’s call to the work set before him. He also didn’t pretend otherwise. His friends, colleagues and family members write about his surliness and bouts with dark depression. Their accounts point to the fact that Luther lived honestly and authentically with his mental health issues. We can learn from Luther to do the same, as we strive to rightly remember that our modern churches aren’t museums for perfect saintly people. They’re hospitals for the sinliest sickest among us. Our communities of faith transform our sin and our sickness into vocational calls that glorify God and bring a bit of his kingdom to a hurting world. If we’ll allow that process to take place in our lives.

Martin Luther was a passionate musician … who teaches us to raise praise.

One of Martin Luther’s most widely circulated quotes has to do with music: “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Luther believed music has a unique capability to lift souls, turn thoughts to God and soften hearts. He was so passionate about music that he transformed congregational singing in the church and wrote hymns. From him, we remember (or perhaps learn for the first time) that raising praise to God our creator is an essential part of living a faith-filled life.

Perhaps his most famous hymn is “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” and we offer it here to get you into the praising mood!

Martin Luther was a hospitable practitioner … who teaches us to warmly welcome.

Luther and his wife Katherina (a runaway nun!) lived for most of their lives on the edge of poverty. Martin’s work resulted in excommunication from the church, a big spiritual deal, but also economic as well. When he started the Reformation, Martin virtually cut himself off from his source of financial livelihood (the church). When he traveled and spoke, he was sometimes only paid in beer. Some of us would argue that’s not a bad way to make a living, but it made family life financially insecure in 1517! The Luthers didn’t let that stop them from opening their home. Traveling students and scholars, would-be preachers, even plague-ridden neighbors … all were welcome in the Luther home. Katherina taught herself to garden and Martin taught himself how to extend hospitality to all, no matter how much or how little he had to share with his guests. From the Luthers’ example in this area, we can learn how to extend Christian hospitality. There is no need for perfect Pinterest-worthy spaces. All we need to entertain the folks God sends our way is a spirit of warmth, generosity and a willingness to share whatever we have at the moment.

If you’d like to take a further look at Martin Luther’s life and legacy, we recommend these resources:
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H Bainton
Luther by Gerhard Ebeling
Heroes of the Faith: Martin Luther by Edwin P. Booth
Protestants by Alec Ryrie
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and Selected Sermons

Save the date: October 29! We’ll celebrate the Reformation and the confirmation of 7 young people in our community with one service at 10:00 a.m. Our synod bishop will preach, and we’ll follow the service with an Oktoberfest celebration. Come for the service, stay for the German food, beer and wine (for a donation), a hymn sing and lots of fun!

Christa Cordova serves the Beautiful Savior community as ministry apprentice and occasional blogger (June 2017-March 2018). She anticipates completing her master of divinity degree at Fuller Seminary in 2018.

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