A dialogue sermon featuring the (translated) words of Martin Luther Luther…and a bit of poetic license
Martin Luther: Whew. That’s a lot of stairs for an old man like me. Say.. what year is it now?
Pastor Pam: It’s 2015
Martin Luther: 2015? You mean it’s the Year of Our Lord two thousand and fifteen? That’s almost 500 years since I nailed the 500 theses on the door in Wittenburg. That makes this the 21st century!
Pastor Pam: Yes. It’s true.
Martin Luther: Why…. One would think that someone would have invented something by now to help an old man like me up the stairs.
Pastor Pam: Like an elevator?
Martin Luther: Luther: Elevate… OR… what?
Pastor Pam: An elevator – it’s like a very small room that you can walk into or push a wheelchair or a cart into, push a button and it goes up and down. It’s really helpful for people who have a hard time with stairs – even if they aren’t as old as you.
Martin Luther: Hmm. Wheeled chairs. Magic rooms that travel up and down. People have been busy in the last 500 years. But tell me, how does an elevator, as you call it, help you preach God’s Word? We never went into the bowels of the church, unless we were preaching to the mice!"
Pastor Pam: Personally, I try to avoid the mice – even if they are church mice. But seriously, we use our basement for lots of events. Our kitchen and large fellowship hall are downstairs and so we use it for everything from church dinners, to community breakfasts, to large meetings of church and community groups. Plus, with our main level being a few steps above our entrance, we need an elevator for some people to even get to worship!
Martin Luther: That IS a problem. As I wrote to my people: “To gather with God’s people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.”
Pastor Pam: So you see our problem. That’s why TODAY we are beginning our pledge drive both for next year’s budget and for the elevator. Say… would you be willing to help? Our goal is 100% participation.
Martin Luther: Who… me?
Pastor Pam: Sure, why not?
Martin Luther: But how can I help? My currency isn’t much good here. But shall I warn them about the dangers of hoarding their money? After all, “the more a miser accumulates riches, the more his mind or his greed is stimulated. A miser is always in need and is poor in the midst of his riches (from the “Lecture on Ecclesiastes,” 1526)
Pastor Pam: That’s a good teaching too. But I was actually wondering if you could remind us about your teachings about freedom. We are asking everyone to participate – but we don’t want people to feel forced to give. Instead we want people to want to contribute because of a desire to serve their neighbor.
Martin Luther: Yes. Yes. I wrote about that in my treatise, Freedom of a Christian. “The Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.”
Pastor Pam (almost interrupting): That means that no one can tell Christians what to do. Right? But won’t that just encourage people to use their money and time and resources frivolously?
Martin Luther: It could if that’s all I wrote about Freedom. But that’s just half of the story, just one side of the coin. Christ sets us free from all of the things of this world that would bind us and tell us what to do. That’s why I said, “The Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.” However – the other side of the coin, the other half of the story is this: “The Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”
Pastor Pam: Servant of all. Subject to all? But how can you both tell people that they are free to do whatever they want and at the same time tell them to act like a servant to everyone? Isn’t that contradictory?
Martin Luther: Not for Jesus. Jesus came as a servant and He is our Lord.
Pastor Pam: So true. But how can ordinary people like us live like Jesus?
Martin Luther: That reminds me of a verse I wrote for a hymn:
“Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God–
Naught else is worth believing.
So I’ll ask YOU. What does the Word of God say?
Pastor Pam: Well, today’s Gospel is a hard one for people to hear.
Martin Luther: Why is that?
Pastor Pam: Jesus points out rich people giving tons of money to the church coffers – and then to a widow who puts in 2 copper coins – which were worth about a penny. Jesus told his disciples that those two coins were more than all that the rich had put into the treasury because they contributed out of their abundance – but she put in everything she had, all that she had to live on.”
Martin Luther: Why is this a difficult word to hear? As I said in the catechism “God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock and all property – along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil…. For this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him.”
Pastor Pam: This is most certainly true. The question is how do we rightly thank and praise, serve and obey God? The widow gives it all away. Jesus even said, “all that she had to live on.” Yet, people have obligations to feed and care for their family, and pay their bills.
Martin Luther: In my day, there was a group of priests who were bullying the poor to buy indulgences and pardons that they could not afford. So as one of my 95 Theses, I wrote that good Christians “are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.”
Pastor Pam: The priests of your day sound like the scribes of Jesus’ day. Jesus said that they were devouring the houses of the widows. What they were supposed to be doing, according to Jewish law, was to care for the widow.
Martin Luther: Absolutely. That was a problem in my day too. In a letter against the fanatics of my day I wrote God has created us in order that we should be our neighbor’s steward”… (from the “Against Fanatics,” 1526)
Pastor Pam: The scribes were not doing their job of caring for the widows and vulnerable. They were not being their neighbor’s steward. In putting all she had to live in into the offering it was as if she stepped into the offering plate and gave herself. And Jesus noticed…
Martin Luther: Jesus calls us to care for the neighbor. Indeed, “We are to give heed to do everything in behalf of our neighbor, ever mindful, that since Christ has done this and that for me; why should I not also for his sake freely do all for my neighbor?”
Pastor Pam: So, in other words, we are freed by Christ to become like Christ! And, just as Christ loves us and provides for our every need, so we can love and serve the neighbor.
Martin Luther: That’s right. In fact, one of my 95 theses stated that: “Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons. “
Pastor Pam: But here we are – back to works again. How does this focus on “works” for the sake of the neighbor relate to God’s gift of faith and grace? I thought God’s grace was free?
Martin Luther: “Faith is God’s work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God. This faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that believers would stake their lives on it a thousand times.”
Pastor Pam: That’s a great word. Thanks for visiting us Dr. Luther. Any parting thoughts?
Pastor Pam: We’ve got it ordered. And as I mentioned, we are kicking off the pledge drive to pay for it and the upcoming year of ministry.
Martin Luther: Do not let lack of money get in the way of ministry. As I wrote in my lesson on 1st Timothy: “Where there is Christian faith, gold is not one’s god. Gold is the god of the world. Scripture and experience both tell us this….God supplies it so abundantly that we cannot use it up. We see Him place these things in our hands, and we are surrounded by an abundance of all good things. ( “Lecture on 1 Timothy,” 1528)
Pastor Pam: Thanks for the reminder Dr. Luther. God entrusts us with an abundance of good things and the Holy Spirit to guide us.
Martin Luther: This is most certainly true!