Luther was a scholar, a priest, a teacher and a leader. He was also an agent of change. I said in my last blog that Luther did not act alone. This is true - and sometimes we don't give the "others" enough credit. But Luther still played a very significant part in activating the change.
The famous quote from Luther "Here I stand! I can do no other!" inspires us to be bold in our witness. It makes for a great movie. The only problem is that there's no evidence that Luther actually said it. But what we have recorded is no less inspiring. After being questioned about his writings and being asked to recant (recant basically means "take back" his writings). But in doing so, Luther would have to admit they were heretical and submit them to be burned and promise to not write again. He asked for a night to think about it. The next day, Luther replied that by God and his conscience, he could not recant. Maybe his voice quivered as he said this. He knew that this would make him an outlaw. One did not easily go against Pope AND Emperor, church and state. So maybe his voice wasn't as bold as it is in the movie. But maybe this is even more inspiring because because it makes Luther much more like us. Change is hard - even for someone like Luther.
But, having made that statement, Luther was committed. The new printing press made Luther into a kind of "rock star" of his day. Everyone was reading him. And it wasn't just the academics. One of the things I found fascinating in the museum in Wittenberg was the role of cartoonists -- very accessible to a wider public and VERY opinionated both pro and con the reformers. I thought that politics had become more personal now - but the editorial cartoons of Luther's day were pretty pointed - and not in the least kind. (To put it nicely). But the groundswell of support - and the support of the German Princes - encouraged him to continue.
Luther was also a faithful pray-er. The Holy Spirit worked through him, led him and guided him. He knew the Bible (which made it easier to translate as quickly as he did). But he also listened for the Word of God. I think I know what he was doing the night that he pondered whether to recant - or whether to move forward. It was the Holy Spirit.
May the Holy Spirit lead and guide us as we seek to continue to RE-form the church and our world to reflect God's love!