Thursday, November 10, 2011

Has anybody here seen Martin?


Lord God of hosts, You clothed Your servant Martin the reformer with the steadfast zeal of Your Gospel, Martin the theologian with the wisdom of Your Word, and Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice.  We give You thanks for these Martins whom You raised up as defenders of the catholic faith. Grant us faith to walk in their steps that we may at last be found clothed with the righteousness of Christ in the eternal dwelling place You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


Isaiah 58:8-12
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.  12And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.

Luke 11:33-36
"No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.  34Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.  35Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.  36If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light."

Sermon for the Winkel Eucharist Commemorating the Three Martins of this Week

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

I do not need to tell you what today is, do I?  Or, maybe I do.  Today is the birthday of Martin Luther.  Born Nov. 10, 1483, in Eisleben, we are here today bearing his name in testament to the Martin whom God raised up to restore the Light of the Gospel, obscured by a confusion of works and distraction.  But he is not the only Martin this week.  Indeed, he was named Martin because he was baptized on Nov. 11, the saints day of St. Martin of Tours.

This Martin was born in 316 to a pagan family in an area now claimed as part of Hungary.  His father was a Roman soldier.  In Lombardy he came under Christian influence and at age 10 became a catechumen.  At 15 he entered the Roman legion.  He was a good soldier.  A dream in which he shared his cloak with a poor beggar illustrated the tension between his faith and his military life.  Eventually he was baptized and asked to leave military service.  At age 20 he left to follow Hilary of Poitiers and there founded a monastery. He refused honor but was tricked into accepting the bishopric of Tours in 371 but lived in a cave.  He is remembered for extending Christianity to the country, for kindness to poor and needy, and he died Nov. 11, 397.

And that leads us to the next Martin, whose commemoration was yesterday.  This is the Martin known as the second Martin, Martin Chemnitz.  This Martin was born in 1522 and served as Lutheran Pastor and theologian in Brunswick until his death on Nov. 9, 1586.  It was this Martin who was largely responsible for preserving faithful Lutheran doctrine and practice in the tumultuous years after Luther’s death in 1546.  He led in the writing and publishing of the Formula of Concord in 1577 and the Book of Concord in 1580.  The Roman opponents of Lutherans described the importance of Martin Chemnitz by saying, “If the second Martin had not come, the first Martin would not have stood.”

On the day of these three Martins, I refer you to the first lesson: And the Lord will guide you continually.... and your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt and you shall raise up the foundation for many generations and you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which we dwell...

No one has found the Church to be without fault or need.  No one has come to a completed work that could only be enjoyed.  No one gets the finished product in the Church.  Whether Pastor, people or parish, all of us are given a work in progress, a a ruin in need of rebuilding, a loss in need of recovery, a breach in need of repair, a community in need of healing.

It is our nature since the fall to resist and rebel against the voice of God leading, against the grace of God redeeming, and against the mercy of God saving.  We are still sinners.  The Church is made up of sinners, redeemed sinners to be sure, but sinners still. 

We bring into the House of God our weakness and our wounds.  We resist instinctively the need to be corrected and the call to repentance.  We are content with a relative righteousness in which we are better than somebody instead of seeking the pure righteousness that is only ours in Christ. 

We stand before each other hoping our faults are hidden, our sins are buried, and our fears are masked.  Yet the only way we are rebuilt as individuals in Christ or the Church as a community of faith is by speaking what is hidden, admitting what lies buried, and taking off the masks.  This we do each time we come before the Lord through confession and absolution.  This we do when we go privately to pastor or confessor or to brother or sister and seek not only their forgiveness but the Lord’s.

If God is kind these are not the only Martins out there.  If God is merciful and loves His Church, there will be Martins like the one of Tours whose love and charity for the poor flowed from his own humble realization that he was the poor one whom the rich God emptied Himself in poverty to serve, even to death on the cross.

If God is merciful and loves His Church, there will be Martins like the Reformer who will not shut up until the Gospel is preached and grace is given is place and primacy for the sake of the sinner in need of comfort.  One like the Martin who risked everything and all that justification by grace through faith would be spoken without fear or compromise.

If God is merciful and loves His Church, the will be Martins like the second one, Chemnitz, who passes on to those who follow him the pure wisdom of God’s Word and teaching that gives unmistakable clarity to all who claim the legacy of the great reformation.

Yet we dare not forget.  We are not developers who build something from nothing.  Each us have build upon the ruins and foundations of the faithful who have gone before us.  Faithful parents and grandparents and Sunday school teachers and Pastors who taught us the faith with love and clarity.  We come not to tear down what was before us but to rebuild it up in the truth of the Gospel, for the sake of the world.  We are given our charge in our own age and in our own places.  The Word of the Lord will shine not only for us but, God willing, through us, the light that shatters the darkness of sin and death, that gathers the scattered, that binds together the diverse and strangers, that feeds the hungry, that calls the proud to repentance, and that takes on the burdens of the needy.

I am no Savior... neither are you... but we learn from these Martins that we have been given the tools of the Savior in the Word and the Sacraments.  In these means of grace, the Lord will guide us to what is needful for us to do – whether or not any of us sees the fruits of our labors.  In these means of grace, the Lord will rebuild the ruins of lives, of families, and of His Church -- where sinners have laid waste to them.  In these means of grace, the Lord will set a foundation on which others will build until the day when the good work is done. In these means of grace, the Lord will repair the breach between people and their heavenly Father and among those who call themselves His children.  In these means of grace, the Lord will restore the way, that many may walk upon it, the narrow way of Christ that leads to salvation.

Remembering the three Martins of this week, can we not but pray for more of them... maybe in each of us... the soldier who fights for love, the reformer who raises up the Gospel, and the theologian who speak with the wisdom of the Spirit... This is who I want to be... is this not who you want to be also?  Amen.

1 comment:

Chris said...

If the quote of Chemnitz is correct, then it really underscores just why Lutheranism needs to get away from this obsessed notion that the Word always refers to a book. The Word is a He. The Word is Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity become incarnate and revealed to us. The Scriptures bear witness to that revelation, but the Scriptures are not the revelation itself, or rather Himself.