Martin Luther was born in 1483 at Eisleben in Saxony and educated at the cathedral school in Magdeburg and the university in Erfurt. He joined an order of Augustinian hermits there and was ordained priest in 1507, becoming a lecturer in the university at Wittenberg. He became vicar of his Order in 1515, having charge of a dozen monasteries. His Christian faith began to take on a new shape, with his increasing dissatisfaction with the worship and order of the Church. He became convinced that the gospels taught that humanity is saved by faith and not by works, finding support in the writings of St Augustine of Hippo. He refuted the teaching of the Letter of James, calling it ‘an epistle of straw’. Martin sought to debate the whole matter by posting ninety-five theses or propositions on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg on this day in the year 1517. The hierarchy chose to see it as a direct attack on the Church, which forced Martin into open rebellion. The Protestant Reformation spread throughout Germany and then Europe, many seeing it as liberation from a Church that held them in fear rather than love. Martin Luther died in 1546, having effected a renaissance in the Church, both Protestant and Catholic.
Jeremiah 1. 4–10
The Lord said to me,
“I chose you before I gave you life, and before you were born I selected you to be a prophet to the nations.”
“Sovereign Lord, I don’t know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say that you are too young, but go to the people I send you to, and tell them everything I command you to say. Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Then the Lord reached out, touched my lips, and said to me,
“Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak. Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
You probably do not need reminding that today is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, if you did, consider yourself reminded! I am sure we do not need to think too hard about the impact that Martin Luther made when he nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on this day five hundred years ago. Like Jeremiah he wouldn’t have then known the impact of his ministry.
In the passage the part that stood out for me was “Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak”. In isolation this sounds authoritarian, but Jeremiah is panicking because he does not have the words to speak. Instead of authoritarianism, is it not provision? God’s provision for Jeremiah’s journey.
Can we not see that through Jeremiah and Martin Luther’s lives, the impact just one individual can make?
To understand our gifts and the impact that God wants us to make, it needs to be fuelled by listening…unless we can listen to God, how do we know what God has in store for us?
God will have different paths for each of us, because the thing is, there is only you, that can be you. There is no-one else in the world that can do that, and I don’t think if you were not here, that God would fill the you shaped hole, because no-one else could travel along your path.
So, let us then embrace ourselves, with humble and confident gratitude and prayerfully discern our future, knowing that with God, all things are possible!
I have often been comforted by the prayer of St Teresa of Avila, when she so powerfully helps us to understand that whatever limitations we see – God does not. I pray therefore that we look above our own barriers and see the horizon God has given us.
Christ Has No Body Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world, Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, Yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
Lee Battle is an ordinand at Northern College and member of Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC in Chorlton, South Manchester.