Questions for Luther

By Mike Poole


If Martin Luther could be transported from the 16th Century to today, how would he answer the questions of a modern-day enquirer?


Martin Luther


LUTHER: Good morning, I am Martin Luther, and Iíd like to thank you for inviting me to be here on this Reformation Sunday. Even though we use the term Reformation, the period of the churchís history during which I lived and worked was more than a reforming of the church. It was much more a time of renewal.

PERSON: Dr. Luther. I heard you were going to be here this morning, so I thought I might ask you a few questions. I am a typical Christian. I attend worship fairly regularly, but frankly, I find the whole Christian faith less and less relevant and meaningful for me in the world in which I live. Church is just something I do, not necessarily who I am. And I find more and more reasons, not only to NOT get involved, but to not even come for worship.

LUTHER: What kind of answers are you looking for?

PERSON: You know, like what is God really like. And does God have anything to say to the people in a todayís world?

LUTHER: Todayís world! How is todayís world different from the world of the 16th Century, in which I lived? Oh, I know youíve made technological advances. You can fly around the world in the time it took me to travel to the next village. Youíve developed television and the internet. And youíve been to the moon. Itís true that the circumstances of your life and the environment in which you live have changed quite a bit. But the essential problems of living are the same. And human nature surely hasnít changed. Iím not convinced that todayís world is really all that different from mine.

PERSON: You say that the problems of living are the same as in your own day. Come on, that was a much simpler time. People in your day couldnít have had the stress level I have to live with! My boss is always on my back. I have to work 50-60 hours a week. My paycheck never seems to cover the expenses of living. Iím trying to cope with high blood pressure, and it seems like my kids are always needing to be somewhere.

LUTHER: Sounds like you may have your priorities in life all out of balance.

PERSON: My priorities? What do you mean by that?

LUTHER: Well, as I look around todayís world, it seems like everything is so focused on material possessions. There are some pretty nice cars out there in the parking lot. And most of you have your closet stuffed with clothes you donít need and never wear. You provide your children with all of the latest gadgets, but seem to have little time to spend with them and nurture their spiritual growth. All those hours at work I guess.

PERSON: Spiritual growth! Thatís another thing. With everything else stressing me out, the church has to add its demands. You should hear our pastor!! Love you neighborÖ give everything to the poor Ö. Give up everything Ö.. get involved with the needs of the world Ö.. care for other peopleÖ.! Most of the time, Iím just too busy, or too tired to respond to all these demands.

LUTHER: Maybe thatís your problem.

PERSON: Maybe whatís my problem?

LUTHER: Seeing your church and your faith as something that places demands on you. Thatís not what the Gospel is all about.

PERSON: It isnít?

LUTHER: Youíre not the first person, not the first generation of people to struggle with that issue. I had to learn it myself, the hard way.

PERSON: What do you mean?

LUTHER: In my early years, I believed that God was angry and demanding, and that I couldnít do enough to please God. Believe me, I tried. When I lived in the monastery Iíd spend hours alone in my cell, kneeling on the hard stone floor praying. I tried to whip my sinful self into spiritual submission. I tried to be perfect in everything I did. I though God demanded all of that from me. Talk about a demanding religion. My faith was a terrible burden to me in those days.

PERSON: And something changed that for you?

LUTHER: Iíll say! Iíd probably read the passage in Romans a hundred times. But one day it jumped out at me with a whole new meaning.

PERSON: What passage?

LUTHER: Iím talking about St. Paulís words, where he said in Romans: ďThe just shall live by faithĒ. And that verse in Ephesians 2: ďFor by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God.Ē

PERSON: Ok, so what does that mean?

LUTHER: It suddenly became clear to me that God doesnít demand all those things of us. Instead, God gives us everything. Thatís what Godís grace is all about. It means you and I donít have to ďdoĒ anything to make ourselves acceptable to God. God has done it all for us in Christ. And God offers it all to us as a free gift.

PERSON: So thatís what grace is. I thought it was something you say before meals.

LUTHER: Funny! Godís grace is what Christianity is all about. But for some reason, people today, just like people in my day, canít understand Godís grace. They want a ďdo it myselfĒ faith to go with their ďdo it myselfĒ life. They make a burden out of something God intended as a wonderful free gift.

PERSON: So the Bible did that for you? You know, Iíve never really spent much time reading the Bible. Honestly, it seems outdated to me. It is difficult to read. I mean, I know some of the stories. But when people start saying ďthe Bible says this and the Bible says thatĒ, I am totally lost.

LUTHER: Well, many times people say ďthe Bible says thisĒ, and the Bible really doesnít say that. Or they take the statement out of context, to prove their own point, not Godís point. That is one reason I felt the need to translate the Bible from Latin to German. That way, anybody could read what it actually says, and what it doesnít say. The Bible doesnít have to be hard to read. You just need to find a translation that speaks to you.

PERSON: So thatís why weíre called Lutheran. Because you wrote the Bible!

LUTHER: I really never liked the term Lutheran. I didnít want my name being the one lifted up. You donít worship me. We worship the Triune God. It was a term people used to describe the reformers. Just like Protestant. They called us Protestants Ė people who are protesting. But how could we protest against God? Both of these were used as negative terms to describe us. But now todayís world lifts these terms up. I just felt we were all Christians, members of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. It isnít about me, itís about God. There is a hymn, ďGodís Word is our Great HeritageĒ. Do you know it?

PERSON: I think itís one of those hymns that pastor makes us sing every once in a while.

LUTHER: Listen to how is describes Godís Word: ďThrough life it guides our way; in death it is our stay.Ē What a reminder that is that Godís Word has real power Ė power to change our attitudes and even our lives; power to help us meet every kind of stress and anxiety.

PERSON: Thatís hard for me to understand. To me, power is what people have who are over me. Power is how fast my computer works. Power is that I feel when I press down on the accelerator of my car. Whatís this power that Godís Word is supposed to have?

LUTHER: Itís a power that helps us meet and deal with those stressors you were talking about. Itís a power that helps us cope with our fears and anxieties in life.

PERSON: I still donít understand how a book, or some words can do that.

LUTHER: Godís word can help us deal with pain, overcome temptation, or just cope with the problems of everyday life. Godís word also speaks to us when we canít deal with the pain, when we fall into temptation, and when we canít cope with what life has brought us.

PERSON: Iíve never really experienced that power. Maybe itís because I havenít taken Godís word seriously. Oh, I listen sometimes when the lessons are read in church. And I marvel at the power Jesus seemed to exercise back when he walked this earth. But frankly, I just sort of turn all that off when I walked out the church doors. Iíve rarely thought about the Bible as having any real power out there in the difficult world where I live.

LUTHER: You have experienced this power. You just may not have known where it came from. You see, todayís world of commerce and business and politics is Godís world too. And God has given us the power to do all that we have done in todayís world. All that you have accomplished has some of this power behind it. God has given us a real tool to us in tough decisions and hard problems that we face. We should be using it the other 6 and a half days that we arenít sitting here. But this power is so huge, it is there for us even when we arenít looking for it.

PERSON: So youíre saying that trusting God and taking Godís Word seriously can help in some real ways? Even when Iím afraid or frustrated, and even when I donít even try?

LUTHER: Where do you think the strength came from when my life was on the line? PERSON: Yeah, but you are the great Martin Luther!

LUTHER: Iím not any better than you. That is what we meant by Priesthood of all believers. We are all priests in Christís church. We are all equals. Our whole lives are dedicated to God. Everything we do is in Godís service. And none of us are any higher in status than anyone else. So there is no need to call me great.

PERSON: I hear what youíre saying. God really does take care of us. Godís word must really have the power that you claim it has. How can I experience that power?

LUTHER: You already do! Itís not really complicated or difficult. It was promised to you from God in your baptism. Itís Godís free gift to you.

PERSON: Promise. What promise did God make to me?

LUTHER: The promise to save you from the power of sin and death. The promise to walk with you in every dark valley of life. The promise never to leave you nor forsake you. The promise that you live in eternal life. The promise that you will spend all eternity in the very presence of God.

PERSON: And all that is Godís free gift to me? Thatís a wonderful message. Godís word really does have power that can help me in my life. And I donít have to do it myself. What a freeing and life-giving gift that is.

LUTHER: That is the Gospel. Christ lived, died and rose again to guarantee the promises to us.

PERSON: Dr. Luther, thank you! Thank you for sharing your story with me and with all of us today. Thank you for reminding us that Godís Word is indeed our great heritage. And that its power is just as potent today as it has always been.

LUTHER: Godís Word never changes. Remember that. Godís promise is as strong and sure today as it ever was. In Jesus Christ God has given us the free gift of life. What a wonderful and powerful God we have. Let us each strive to serve him daily in faith and obedience.



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